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Developer Joseph Weisbecker
Manufacturer RCA
Type microcomputer
Release date 1977; 40 years ago (1977)
Introductory price US$275 (Kit)
Operating system 4-kilobit (512-byte) in ROM
CPU RCA 1802 processor
Memory 2 KB RAM (Expandable to 4 KB on board, and 32 KB via an expansion slot)
Storage cassette tape
Display CDP1861/CDP1864 video display chip
Sound speaker
Power 5V DC CDP18S023 power supply @ 600 mA

The COSMAC VIP (1977) was an early microcomputer that was aimed at video games. Essentially, it was a COSMAC ELF with a supplementary CDP1861/CDP1864 video display chip. For a price of US$275, it could be purchased from RCA by mail order. It came in kit form, and had to be assembled. Its dimensions were 22 x 28 cm, and it had a RCA 1802 processor; along with a crystal clock operating at 1.76 MHz (3.521280 MHz divided by 2). It had 2 KB (2048 bytes) of RAM, which could be expanded to 4 KB on board, and 32 KB via an expansion slot. Its 5V DC CDP18S023 power supply had an output of 600 mA. I/O ports could be added to connect to sensors, interface relays, an ASCII keyboard, or a printer.

The machine connected to either a video monitor or to a TV with video input or by means of an external RF modulator. The VIP used a CDP1861/CDP1864 video display chip to generate the video output, and sound could be played using its integrated speaker. It had a 100 bytes per second cassette tape interface as well. Programs could be loaded into RAM from tapes, and vice versa. It also had a hex keyboard for input, which had 16 keys spanning the hex digits 0 to F. LED indicators were used to display power status and tape input; a third LED along with an on-board beeper were activated by the CPU's 1-bit "Q" register. A run/reset switch was used to start user programs or the operating system, respectively.

A simple 4-kilobit (512-byte) operating system was built into its ROM. It allowed one to type in programs using its hex keyboard, show memory contents on its display (step through the bytes of RAM), and view the values of the processor registers. The ROM monitor was accessed by holding the "C" key while switching from Reset to Run. The COSMAC VIP was shipped with 20 video games, which were programmed in CHIP-8. CHIP-8 was an early interpreted programming language that was used on this machine and other early microcomputers, such as the Telmac 1800. The video games that were provided came as a list of instructions which had to be typed in by the user.

The COSMAC VIP was created by Joseph Weisbecker of the RCA Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey.

RCA sold a $39 version of BASIC on an expansion board.[1]


  1. ^ Dolce, Larry (1980-04). "RCA's VIP Tiny BASIC". Kilobaud. p. 111. Retrieved 23 June 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • The December 1978 BYTE magazine featured an article on CHIP-8 ("An Easy Programming System") as well as an advertisement for the VIP system.
  • The May 1977 Dr. Dobb's Journal reprinted an article by Joseph Weisbecker of RCA Laboratories ("A Practical, Low-cost, Home/School Microprocessor System") describing the design philosophies and economies that went into designing the VIP—which was at the time called FRED ("Flexible Recreational and Educational Device"). That article originally appeared in the August 1974 IEEE "Computer" magazine.

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