Monday, November 19, 2012

Nintendo Copilas (コピラス, 1971)

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Nintendo's explosion of ideas in the early 1970s. Besides an array of toys and games (like the Light Telephone and Ultra Scope), there were attempt to make it in the world of kitchen appliances (Candy Machine candy floss maker), baby products (Mamaberica stroller and Twins seesaw) and musical instruments (Ele-conga electronic bongo).

Yet another product category which Nintendo entered during this period (and soon would leave again) was that of office machines.

Like many of Nintendo's other endeavours from around this time, it only led to a single product. In this case it was a photo copier (複写機), called the Nintendo Copilas (コピラス), which was released in 1971.

Still, it seems that Nintendo had great plans for this market, or at least wanted to give the impression that they meant serious business, as the product was provided by the Nintendo Office Equipement Division (任天堂 事務機事業部).

So a toy this wasn't. The Copilas was aimed at offices, universities and schools. Organisations that up to this point had to shell out lots of money to own or lease a photo copier from companies like Xerox.

Nintendo's great innovation was to deliver a budget alternative to these big machines, for a staggering low price of ¥9,800. A truly unique price point for this kind of product.

Operating the machine turned out to be quite expensive though, when adding up the cost for the special photo sensitive paper, the developing liquid and service maintenance. Nintendo gave away the machine almost for free, hoping to make a good profit on selling the components to keep it running. A common practice for home printer companies these days (as well as for video console makers!), but unheard of in 1971.

The Copilas model shown here (with product code NCM-D-B4) is the most common version. It is capable of copying paper of size B4 and B5 in black and white. Other, more expensive (and much rarer) models could handle larger size paper and even color copies.

The Copilas is a delicate piece of equipement, and the message on the box urges to handle it with care (取り扱い注意).

As with all Japanse electrical equipement from around this time, it comes in two versions. Japan had two different electrical standards and, depending on the area of Japan it was meant to operate in, you needed either the 50 Hz or the 60 Hz version.

It's the 60 Hz version

When we open the box, we see the Copilas packed firmly between two pieces of polystyrene foam.

Interestingly, the polystyrene pieces have large NG (for 'Nintendo Game') logos stamped on them. Nintendo clearly was still a bit all over the place with its corporate identity.

The box contains all you need to get started: Copilas machine, special paper, development liquid tank, dust cover and manual. A sachet with formula to make developing liquid is missing in the picture below, but this would be included in the standard set as well.

Nintendo Copilas (1971)

So how does this machine actually work?

We will find out in a next blog post.

Also, check out this post about a localized version of the Copilas, aimed for the Australian market.

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