Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Retroputing: Build A Classic RCA COSMAC ELF System


The original RCA COSMAC ELF appeared on the front cover of the August 1976 issue of Popular Electronics. It was a complete computer based on the RCA 1802 CPU and cost under $100 to build from a bare board. Another $20 would get you a B&W video display. Outstanding value, and these things lingered in the classified section of magazines like BYTE throughout the early 1980s. Spare Time Gizmos has recreated the machine, and even offers discrete logic replacements for some parts that might be hard to find. The price for a partial kit is around $100, but be warned that you'll have to key in programs using 12 switches on the front panel.

Elf video The secret to the ELF's success was its incredibly low price. It was sold through detailed display ads, catering to budget computing enthusiasts who wanted to try their hands at programming but couldn't afford something more advanced. The base unit featured a two digit 7-segment LED display and a mere 256 bytes of program memory.

By early 1979, Netronics Research and Development was offering an assembled ELF II with built-in B&W video and hexadecimal keypad for $99.95. Accessories included a $39.95 "Giant Board" with cassette I/O and various serial and parallel connectors. 4K of static RAM cost $89.95 and an ASCII keyboard was another $64.95. With a bit of forethought, it was possible to build a respectable system over the course of a few months without breaking the bank.

The 1802 processor is still manufactured by Intersil, leading Spare Time Gizmos to release an updated design as the Cosmac ELF 2000. The new machine includes 32K RAM and an optional 32K EPROM containing utilities and BASIC, FORTH and CHIP-8 languages. There's a six-digit LED display. It also supports the original video chip (no longer in production) and there are fully decoded I/O ports. A bare board costs a mere $20 and a partial kit full of the most important components can be yours for a very reasonable $100. Should you wish to add 80 column video, flash program storage or extended I/O, that's possible too.

Check out the Spare Time Gizmos COSMAC ELF 2000
The history of the COSMAC ELF


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