brown university popular majors The vcf cosmac elf — a retrocomputer for the vcf-mw 11 vintage computer festival midwest 2016

The august 1976 issue of popular electronics magazine had a breakthrough project on the cover. "The COSMAC ELF: A microcomputer trainer that’s powerful, expandable, and costs as little as $80." (click on the magazine cover to read the original article.) to put this in perspective, the apple I was selling for $666.66 at the time; and the apple II didn’t even exist yet!

The ELF truly was a simple inexpensive computer. Thousands of people built it (including us!). In the process, we learned about computer hardware and software right from the ground up. Brown university famous alumni this experience is largely lost today, when everyone simply buys everything already built and programmed for them.

2016 was the 40th anniversary of the ELF. In honor of the occasion, we decided to recreate the original ELF at the vintage computer festival midwest in chicago IL on september 10-11, 2016.

To give people a "taste" of what it was like, visitors to our booth had all the parts and tools needed to build a real COSMAC ELF. This was a wire-wrap project — no soldering at all! We showed folks how to wire-wrap, so by the end of the show, participants had almost finished a complete vintage computer from scratch.

This computer was then raffled off. Everyone who added at least one wire got to put his name on a raffle ticket. Brown university concerts at the end of the show, we drew the winning ticket out of a hat. One lucky builder won a FREE genuine hand-crafted COSMAC ELF computer!

• josh’s wiring templates provide the black label for the switches and lights, and identify the pin numbers for wire-wrapping the BACK side of the board. Template with TI TIL311 hex displays. Brown university campus dorms template with HP 5082-7340 hex displays. To build your own VCF-ELF, be sure to print these templates ACTUAL SIZE.

By pooling our resources, we had enough parts to make four kits; so that was the "production run". It’s ONE for the money (auctioned off at the show with the proceeds donated to VCFMW-11); TWO for the show (the one built at the show and raffled off); THREE to get ready (chuck built one to test and demonstrate that it all works); and FOUR, I don’t know (we gave it to dave ruske, who sold it on ebay to provide funds to support the www.Cosmacelf.Com website). 🙂

Here’s the VCF-ELF parts list, in case you want to build one for yourself. We used premium vintage parts wherever possible to keep the "look and feel" of the original; but there are lots of cheaper alternatives if you’re on a budget. Brown university school colors VCF-ELF parts list QTY ID# description

The first illustration shows the parts placement on the front side of the board. The second is a paper template, to label the controls and provide pin numbers on the back to make wire-wrapping easier. The last picture is the finished prototype, all wire-wrapped and working. How’s it look? 🙂

It could have been built EXACTLY like the original. An exact copy would appeal to historians; but not to the average person today. Some parts are also rare and expensive, and no clear expansion path was provided. Therefore, a few changes were made to be cheaper, easier to build, and more useful in the modern world. Also, because lee has engineer disease and can’t resist "improving" things. 🙂

The VCF elf project would never have been possible without generous donations of time and materials by lee A. Hart, josh bensadon, ed keefe, dave ruske, walter miraglia, chuck yakym, bill rowe, and norm nelson; and to our many advisors and volunteer builders. Ranking of brown university in the world A hearty THANK YOU to everyone that helped to bring this delightful project to completion.