The Odd Story of Nintendo's Famicom Console and a Microwave

The Nintendo Famicom home game console turns 35 this month – it was first released on July 15, 1983, in Japan, around two years before it arrived in the US. During this time you probably spent a lot of your time in a multi game arcade. Nintendo, however, got itself into a mini trademark dispute.

You can see this when you look at those early 8-bit consoles – instead of the name Famicom (which they have become known by), they went by the name Family Computer.

The Sharp Microwave

Nintendo's console had to be called Family Computer instead of Famicom because of a microwave oven.

The original name, however, was, in fact, Family Computer – this is what the inventor of Famicom, Masayuki Uemura, called it as he wanted it to be viewed at the same level as the IBM Personal Computer.

It was Uemura's wife who explained to him the name was too long, suggesting he shorten it to Famicom. This was a great idea, and the console would go on to become known as this anyway, but Nintendo was forced to stick with Family Computer.

This was because electronics giant Sharp had released a microwave in 1979 which it called the Family Convection Oven. For simplicity, it shortened this name to Famicon.

In English, Famicon is not exactly the same as Nintendo's proposed Famicom, but when written or spoken in Japanese, the two names are identical, despite one ending in “n” and one in “m”. As Sharp had a trademark on the name, Nintendo couldn't use it, plus it couldn't take Sharp on in the courts either as, back then, it was a small organization. So, it had to use Family Computer instead.

Amicable End to the Story

While you could technically call this a trade dispute, it ended amicably. Nintendo licensed the Family Computer to Sharp which produced products using the Famicom brand name. Sharp then transferred the name to Nintendo in 1985.

The company continued using Family Computer on its 8-bit products, however, to maintain uniformity before moving to the Famicom brand name with the Super Famicom. Throughout the whole time, however, the general public used the easier name Famicom – just like the wife of the console’s creator thought they would.

If this trip down memory lane has you reminiscing about your early gaming days, you should check out our range of full-size arcade machines. They come packed with fantastic classic titles, and there isn’t a microwave in sight.