The original NES has a label printed onto it that the device would not "cause harmful interference". Why would they write that? Did people think the NES might be dangerous? Is this some kind of legal thing?

NES Warning Label

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    Much the same notice exists on the bottom of the keyboard I bought new a few months ago, and if live in the US you can probably find it either on any of the modern devices you own or in their accompanying documentation. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_mark
    – user722
    Oct 27 '19 at 17:12
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    That label is a standard disclaimer of manufacturers to state that their devices work within the boundaries set by FCC rules. You my find exactly the same wording on next to anything from toasters to TV sets. It's nothing related to (retro) consoles in particular. Check FCC Class 15 for more
    – Raffzahn
    Oct 27 '19 at 17:38
  • were these label relatively new at the time?
    – Badasahog
    Oct 27 '19 at 17:44
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    The FCC was founded in 1934, to replace an earlier organization, but the first US law regulating radio transmission (and interference) was passed in 1912. Part 15 of the FCC regulations dates from 1975, but before that computer equipment was covered by other parts of the regulations. It's not just about radiation harmful to humans, but unwanted interference to other users - anything from getting interference patterns on you own TV set, to interfering with emergency services using radio, etc.
    – alephzero
    Oct 27 '19 at 17:50
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    ah, that makes sense. Put that in an answer and I'll accept it.
    – Badasahog
    Oct 27 '19 at 17:52

Any electronic equipment using radio frequencies which is sold in the USA has to be tested to show that it doesn't cause interference to other equipment, and also that it doesn't fail in a dangerous manner if it is subjected to interference from other devices.

"Interference" could be anything from messing up the display on your own TV, through disrupting radio communications by the emergency services etc, up to the (very unlikely, for a games console) possibility of causing health risks.

The first USA legislation controlling use of radio equipment was passed in 1912. The FCC was founded in 1934, replacing an earlier enforcement organization, and with a name change from "radio" to "communications" reflecting the wider use of technology - i.e. the FCC also covers cable communications, not just radio transmissions.

The actual regulations have changed over time as new technology is developed. Part 15 of the regulations dates from 1975, but previously computer equipment would probably have been covered by a more general regulation.

Other countries have similar regulations and regulatory organizations, but most major countries accept each other's regulatory standards - i.e. FCC compliance is generally acceptable world wide, not just in the USA.

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    The last paragraph is not strictly true. While many of the EMC and safety rules are similar FCC is not accepted directly in the EU. Products placed on the market have to be certified to comply with the european regulations and are (CE) marked accordingly. The same is true for other jurisdictions, just look at the labels on the average laptop power supply and spend a fun hour or two decoding them all.
    – uɐɪ
    Oct 28 '19 at 10:37
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    @Bilkokuya I'm pretty sure it's any electronic device, as any current in any wire can produce radio waves.
    – Sam Dean
    Oct 28 '19 at 14:27
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    @Bilkokuya: It covers any device which emits radio frequencies, intentionally or unintentionally. There are different parts of the regulations that cover “intentional” radiators and “unintentional” radiators. The NES falls under unintentional because it is not designed to emit radio frequencies. Oct 28 '19 at 14:27
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    Does the FCC warning actually extend to 'health risks'? I've worked with some FCC approved gear that would cook you if you're standing in front of it, and easily fry electronics you pointed it at them, but "did not cause harmful interference" when used correctly. Oct 28 '19 at 18:21
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    @JPhi1618 that's still an "unintentional radiator" (namely a "TV interface device" covered by 15.115). Intentionally producing RF doesn't make you an intentional radiator, intentionally radiating it to free space does. Examples of Part 15 intentional radiators are WiFi, Bluetooth, and cordless phones.
    – hobbs
    Oct 28 '19 at 19:07

Pretty much every piece of electronics that's sold in the US, and may potentially be powered off the AC mains, has a label like that on it somewhere. It is basically a legal requirement... no certification, not legal to plug in and use outside of some very limited circumstances. And I think it's actually harder / more complicated to get certified for home equipment than for offices; there's some urban myth that off-white casings became de rigeur for PC-type computers and other items of office paraphenalia (vs woodgrain or other more interesting designs) in order to mark out those which weren't licensed for use outside of that setting (a bit like educational equipment being bright orange to deter theft), which obviously died a death as a useful visual cue once manufacturers just started using the same casings for all their models regardless of license.

Wasn't always a thing, I think it was an optional certification at first, but became more stringently required after home computers/consoles and VCRs started becoming popular and the more poorly made ones were found to emit ludicrous amounts of RF that actually could interfere with other devices, sometimes catastrophically (OK, it's annoying if it disrupts your TV program, worse if it smokes your TV, but think about how many other device it'd be far less amusing to have that happen to), as well as being vulnerable to outside interference (e.g. the ignition of an old and similarly poorly grounded/shielded car driving past), so they're probably more prominent on 80s machines when it was still a relatively novel thing.

Look around the other things you have scattered about and you'll likely start finding loads of them, in all manner of unexpected places.

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