Sunday, October 2, 2022

Nintendo Copilas localized for Australia

The Copilas (コピラス) was an affordable photo copier, introduced by Nintendo in 1971. In the early 1970s, Nintendo released multiple products outside their core toys and games market, and the Copilas was one of these. Others included the Nintendo Candy Machine, Uni Rack, Twins and Mamaberica.

Japanse version of the Nintendo Copilas

It was believed that these products were all limited to Nintendo's Japanese home market. The only known version of Copilas was the one sold in Japan. This version is described in detail in this post.

Nintendo Copilas localized for the Australian market

I say "was believed", as recently the version shown here popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. It is a version that has been fully localized for the Australian market.

On this version, all Japanse text has been replaced by English translations. The company name used is also the international version: "Nintendo Co., Ltd.".

The box shows that the machine is made to work with 240 volt current and 50 cycles, the Australian standard, as opposed to the 100 volt which is used in Japan. The voltage / cycle indication is stamped on the box, rather than printed, allowing other configurations to use the same box.

The product code is the same for this version and the Japanse original: "NCM-D-B4", and the Japanse list price indication (the #9800 refers to ¥9,800) is still present. It is unknown what the going price was for the Australian version.

This Australian Copilas is an unused, complete specimen. It is not in the best shape, even considering its fifty years of age. It clearly has been stored in a damp, dusty environment.

All accessoires are present. Let's take a closer look at these, starting with the thick paper bag that holds the so-called "sensitized paper" that is used to copy on.

The bag mentions that the Copilas is a product of Nintendo's "Business Machinery" departement. It seems Nintendo was serious about starting new branches of business, or at least give the impression of an established player.

The operation manual that is included has been full translated. [A full scan of it can be found here.]

A sticker has been attached to the back of the manual, indicating that Copilas is distributed in Australia by "Unical Pty Ltd", a company from Huntingdale, a suburb of Melbourne.

Some internet searching revealed a listing of commercial vehicle permits in the 1968 Victoria Government Gazette (link), that indicates that Unical was an importer of agricultural equipment. This permit was renewed in 1972 (link).

A 1970 copy of the Weekly Times (link), an Australian agricultural newspaper, links Unical to Honda, the Japanse company that manufactures a wide range of products, including agricultural equipment. So, prior to their involvement with Nintendo, Unical already did business with (at least one) other Japanese company. Unfortunately, that is where the available information stops about this distributor stops, who are no longer in business today.

Back to the items included with the Australian Copilas.

A single page leaflet shows a wiring and structural diagram for the Copilas. This particular leaflet is not included in the Japanse version, although the information is also covered in the (Japanse and English) manual.

Perhaps it was an Australian legal requirement to include this information in this way? Or was it intended to support maintenance and trouble-shooting, far away from the Japanese headquarters and Nintendo's service reach?

Another leaflet was attached to the "developing roll", the part of the Copilas that guides the paper through the bath of developing liquid, to highlight that packaging material (a plastic film) should be removed from it before the first use.

Next is the bag with developing agent.

This contains the chemicals that, when dissolved in water, create a solution that makes the copy appear on the sensitized paper, after it has been exposed.

While the other parts of this Australian Copilas (the box, the manual, the bags with paper) are all produced specifically for this version, this bag of developing agent seems to be repurposing a batch of Japanese ones, with an English language sticker glued over it. The stickers are made of the same shiny silvery material as the bag, so you hardly notice this. [I did not check underneath the stickers, however it seems likely to find the original Japanese text there.]

This Copilas comes with a standard three-prong Australian plug.

The final parts of localization are the instruction / warning stickers placed on the body of the Copilas.

There is one at the top, next to the slot where you insert the sensitized paper.

Another one is attached to the side, with a summary of the maintenance steps.

And a third one is placed by the tank that holds the developing liquid.

All in all, the localization is very professional and well done. By the looks of it, Nintendo was intending to sell many Copilas in this new market. Unfortunately, we do not know how well they did.

Recently, two more showed up in Australia besides this one, but not much else is known about their history.

If you have any information about the distributor Unical Pty, or know of any more of these Australian version of Copilas, I would love to hear from you.

More information about the original Japanese version of the Copilas can be found here. A scan of the English language manual can be found here.


  1. I saw a second Australian copilas sell recently

    1. Indeed! And another one is for sale right now. This is one of those things, you don't hear about something for years, and suddenly multiple pop up. :-) I'll need to update the post.

  2. If I got it right, from your other Part 2 post, the machine uses your regular Joe A4 printing paper, no specific weight, size or anything special about it? Do you think the chemicals are still good?

    1. No, it requires special photo paper. See part 3 :-)

    2. I have no idea if the chemicals are still good. Haven't really researched that part yet.

    3. Ah, I missed part 3! :D So, special paper in special size that costed around $2 back then or $14.50 today... This blog is such a nugget of history :D