Many gamers and collectors know that Nintendo has not always been manufacturing video game consoles. Prior to making their first TV game in the late 1970s, they were a major player in the toy market, releasing innovative concepts and importing board games like Twister to Japan.
But there is one very much unpopular part of Nintendo’s history that I had always been dying to get my hands on: Their time in the office machine business.
Yes, that’s right. Nintendo, the company that would later be known for creating iconic brands such as Mario, Zelda and Kirby, hasn’t always been a video game console, playing card or even board game manufacturer, they also made copy machines for office use.
And they were successful!
The Copilas was first offered at a price of ¥9800 in 1971 (that was two years after the moon landing, the Vietnam war was still raging, and the US just started trading again with China). The Copilas was made to be a cheap way to create copies of regular sized documents. It was very cheap at the time and apparently the Japanese government supplied schools nationwide with Copilas machines.
According to an interview with Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s president at the time, they were also designed to break easily so Nintendo could make their profits from repairs. An early example of brilliantly executed, vicious planned obsolescence.
Being an avid collector of vintage video games, and not shy of spending hours and hours of regular searches online for obscure items, I had been dying to get my hands on a Copilas machine for a few years. Like many of my other obscure and rare collectibles, it started in the back of my head after I had first stumbled over the existence of this item.
“Wow, I’ve never seen that for sale anywhere… it would be so great to own this.”
And like the other items, I then kept searching Japanese auctions sites for the following months and, in this case, almost 3 years, to find the item.
A few days ago, I was finally lucky and found one that comes with the original box and manual. Luckily, the original vinyl dust cover is also included. The item is very clean, but of course the rubber parts inside (the roll and the belts) are completely molten into a black rubber brick over the past 44 years. Hell, even Famicom Disk System belts are all broken now, and that thing came out 15 years later!
But I digress. As if I would actually plan on using this thing… it will now simply become one of the holy grails of my Nintendo collection. It is certainly one of the rarest hardwares I own, and definitely one of the hardest to find complete in box. Remember that despite the large production numbers, it is quite unusual for a school or an office to keep this frequently breaking cheap copy machine in storage for… well, half a century!??
For more technical infos and pictures of a brand new unit, check out this excellent Nintendo-Blog: