To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

Once upon a time, Nintendo made its home consoles in Japan, and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was not a millionaire. Here is a look back on that time.

A then 37-year-old Shigeru Miyamoto and his yellow socks sit at desk, adorned with comic books, a remote-controlled car and a Princess Peach doll he purchased in the United States. Miyamoto, then a smoker and a gambler, is wearing a Mickey Mouse neck-tie and sitting on a Super Mario cushion. He and his staff are hard at work on the latest Mario game.

It's now 2010. Nintendo is the most profitable video game company in the industry. After outsourcing its manufacturing to China, Nintendo no longer produces consoles at its Uji factory, which it still owns. Those nice ladies must be doing something else. Something nice.

Click through the gallery to see how things used to be.

Stars of Famicom Games [Disgruntled Designer, Thanks Atari5200 for the tip!]

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

These images come from a children's book titled "The Stars of Famicom Games" published way back in 1989, but discovered recently by Chris Covell at website Disgruntled Designer.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

Takashi Tezuka, then 27-years-old, came up with many of the names of Mario characters during brainstorming sessions of the design team. For example, he got "Koopa" when he was hungry ("gukbap" is a Korean dish). In Japanese, the "Goomba" character is called "Kuribo", a name the team came up with when his drawing of a mushroom looked like a chestnut, which is "kuri" in Japanese. "Kuribo" is a cute way of say that.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

This is Koji Kondo, also 27 at the time. He has composed many of Nintendo's most memorable tunes. According to the text, Kondo began work on game scores early in the processing, joining the brainstorming sessions with the design team.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

Programmers like Toshihiko Nakago crunch code. He did more than that. So, if Nakago is told to make a character walk, he had think about how it will walk. And then program away. In a white shirt. But it wasn't simply game designers that built Nintendo. It was nice ladies. And robots.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

The home consoles all started with the Printed Circuit Board (PCB). And a nice lady with a magnifying glass.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

Robots! Here the outer casing is being created. The PCB is placed in the outer case. Then the game cases would hit the assembly line of Nintendo's main factory in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture. Known for its green tea, Uji is the location of the Byodo-in, something the text points out later.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

The text points out that even a spec of dust could cause a console malfunction, hence the need for a clean environment. Perhaps the workers should just blow out the dust? It worked for a generation of NES gamers...

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

The factory also made the game cartridges and game disks.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

The games were then inspected one-by-one by nice ladies, looking for defective games.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

There was also a factory dedicated to making the Nintendo Entertainment Systems and NES games to be shipped to America.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

Here are NES consoles making their way abroad. In 1985, one arrived at my house. The text points out that Nintendo tested the durability of its portable console, the Game Boy, by striking it with a hammer.

To Build A Nintendo, You Needed Cigarettes, Robots And Nice Japanese Ladies

Children at Hankyu Department store in Osaka play Nintendo's Famicom console. There's a handy flowchart, too.