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[P]
The TI-99/4A

By Silent Chris in Technology
Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 07:49:39 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Waxing nostalgic on Bill Cosby's favorite PC.


Many of us, particularly the younger techie generations, didn't begin on MIT mainframes or monster machines from the book "Hackers". Many of us began with sub par PC look-alikes: Commodore 64, Tandy, even Whiz-Kid. My first machine was the TI-99/4A, which gained a huge following among home users. In fact many of us, my father included, bought into Bill Cosby's advertisements and helped start the American home computer revolution with these machines. Surprisingly, many are still in use today.

I won't bore the average reader with statistics - these can easily be found through Google searches. The only thing most people need to know is that the TI-99/4A, and it's ancestor, the TI-99/4, paled in comparison to today's hardware. There was no hard drive, they used solid-state media (cartridges), and TI didn't add mobile media support until a large 5- floppy disk drive came out. A considerably less expensive audiotape option, similar to the Commodore 64 was also available, but most programs were burnt into read-only memory cartridges. An "expansion box" the size of a small refrigerator added much needed random-access memory: around 256 kilobytes of RAM.

Still, with all these limitations, hundreds of software titles came out that pushed the machine to its limit. Not only games, of which there were many, but also terminal emulators that worked with 110/300-baud modems. Many of these were used to connect to bulletin board systems and CompuServe. The TI-99/4A also supported a relatively advanced speech synthesizer, similar to Texas Instruments devices "Speak & Spell" and "Speak & Math". TI-99/4A's speech, which could be created on the fly phonetically, rivals some computer speech heard today.

Ports of classic titles like Adventure and Logo quickly came to the system, and some game makers (like Scott Adams) used the TI-99/4A to create their first graphical titles. The system came pre-equipped with TI BASIC, an adequate language. Later, an Extended Basic cartridge came out that introduced sprites and complex mathematics. There was even an Assembler cartridge for programming to the processor directly. I remember many late evenings, poking into the TI system with my Compute! Programming books, learning various way to manipulate 16 colors at once.

Normally, older systems fade to dust or become parts for nostalgic tributes. Many TI-99/4 class machines, however, are still well in use with advocates. These people are adding high-powered modems and greater memory to the machines. TI-99/4A interest groups still meet, with users traveling across many states (many on the road) to share experiences. One story I read had a father taking his son to one, hours away, both of them traveling on a motorcycle. He seemed to want to share his childhood with his son directly.

While many would view this as zealot-like behavior, I think one can learn a lot by looking into these classic machines. There are reasons why people still use them, and their longevity could be used for future hardware.

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Poll
Are decade-old computers worth holding on to?
o Yes 81%
o No 18%

Votes: 118
Results | Other Polls

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The TI-99/4A | 56 comments (50 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Pushing computers to the limit (3.25 / 4) (#1)
by baronben on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 01:15:54 PM EST

I allway find it interesting how much old computers could do. I love the idea of a computer which has its 256k of ram in a very large box having text to speach capibitlitys. In these days were we have more proccessing power then we know what to do with, we've mainy lost the art of trimming code down to work within a few kilobytes of space.
Ben Spigel sic transit gloria
TI 9900 Architecture (4.75 / 4) (#3)
by Bad Harmony on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 01:20:46 PM EST

The TI 9900 microprocessor had a neat feature. It stored its general purpose registers in main memory. The microprocessor had a "workspace pointer" that pointed to the base address of the register block in main memory. You could save the all of the old registers and get a new set of registers by loading a new value into the workspace pointer.

TI had some minicomputers that used the same architecture.

I remember people complaining that TI had a Nintendo style control freak attitude towards TI 99/4 software. They wanted to control what was released for the platform, and get a cut of the revenue.

5440' or Fight!

Neat? (none / 0) (#32)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:36:33 PM EST

Doesn't storing your registers in memory kill many of the benefits of having general purpose registers? After all, you are going to be going out to memory every time you do a "register" operation. Why not just use memory operations like those on an HC11?

I know several modern processors let you memory map part of the register set (for instance, the MPC860 and its unholy bastard cousin, the MPC8260). However, this doesn't get different sets of registers, it just cuts down on the number of weird assembly instructions you need.

[ Parent ]
Memory Access Time (none / 0) (#33)
by Bad Harmony on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 09:14:32 PM EST

The speed penalty for keeping the general purpose registers in main memory was much lower in those days, zero wait-state memory was easy to provide at the low clock rate of the CPU. Plus, a large number of transistors (16 16-bit registers) were removed from the CPU die.

TI had produced a decent 16-bit microprocessor with lots of registers when the competition was limited to 8-bit CPUs like the 6502, 6800, 8080A and Z-80. The 6502 was from the "every transistor is precious" school of design. It forced programmers to use zero-page memory ($0000-$00FF) as scratch storage due to the paucity of on-chip registers.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Zero Page (none / 0) (#56)
by prometheus on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 11:58:48 AM EST

Of course, zero-page had it's own special opcodes which required one less byte of RAM for their data, and I think maybe one less cycle to execute, so it was almost like having 256 registers.
--
<omnifarad> We've got a guy killing people in DC without regard for his astro van's horrible fuel economy
[ Parent ]
I loved that processor. (none / 0) (#45)
by static on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 06:22:55 PM EST

It was very powerful (for its time) and very versatile. After learning 9900 assembly, I really hated trying to program the 6502 - especially as all the hooks in the C64 were not documented whereas TI documented most of the ROM hooks for assembly code! It was great.

Wade.

[ Parent ]

First computer for me... (4.00 / 4) (#4)
by thetasine on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 01:22:13 PM EST

This machine was by far one of the funnest learning tools that I could have grown up with. The manuals for the BASIC variant that came with it where top notch, they explained most of the functions it supported very well.

The manuals also came with TONS of sample code. I remember typing for what seemed like days to play a blackjack game that they included. In fact, I think I still have the cassette tape that it was saved on buried somewhere in my storage space.

The speech synthesizer was one of the coolest gizmos to play with on the TI-99/4A. I remember making it bad mouth my siblings and getting grounded for a week, hehe.

Thanks for the writeup, nothing like a good trip down memory lane.

T

"There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law." - Claude Debussy


Archive of TI99 stuff (4.60 / 5) (#5)
by seebs on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 01:25:47 PM EST

ftp://99er.plethora.net/ has an archive of stuff that a friend of mine maintains. Please don't hit us too hard all at once!

My first computer (none / 0) (#6)
by vambo rool on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 01:47:25 PM EST

My first computer was some kind of IBM. I just gave the stack of punch cards to the kid behind the counter and out came a stack of greenbar paper.

I wish I still had mine (4.00 / 3) (#7)
by pangmaster on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 02:09:41 PM EST

This was my first computer, too. I have fond memories of keying in BASIC code verbatim from the 99er magazine so I could play games like Taco Man. ;-) Before my Dad bought the tape drive, I had to leave it on overnight sometimes because bedtime would come halfway through the code. (My typing skills were poor at 7 years old). On one occasion, I woke up to find that the power went out overnight. No UPSs to save us in '83, heh.

Anyway, I left it behind when I moved out after high school. Unfortunately, my parents moved several times since then and it didn't make it. (Along with the Pong game and the Atari 2600). I'd love to play Parsec again with the speech synthesizer. Oh, and Hunt the Wumpus! ;-)
--
I don't do Windows...

Similar story (none / 0) (#14)
by Erbo on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 02:32:39 PM EST

I had a 99/4A myself when I was in high school...I had a pretty nice system, with the P-Box, the disk drive, and the 32K RAM card. Mostly I used it for playing--and writing--games. I had a subscription to 99er (later renamed Home Computer Magazine) as well.

But, like you, pangmaster, I left it behind when I went to college, and my parents must have got rid of it. And, while in college, I got myself an XT clone kit and started on the IBM-compatible road. But I loved that old box while I had it.

The architecture was kind of bizarre...the BASIC interpreter wasn't even written in machine language, it was written in what TI called "GPL" (Graphics Programming Language), which was interpreted at runtime. So your BASIC programs were interpreted by a program that was itself being interpreted...if it hadn't had a reasonably fast 16-bit processor, I think it would've been painfully slow. Most of the RAM in the console was video RAM; I think the processor only had 256 bytes to itself in the default configuration.

Ah, you never forget your first machine. Old friends long gone, and times that'll never come again...

Eric
--
Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

Hey (none / 0) (#22)
by MattOly on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:20:15 PM EST

I'd gladly sell you guys one of mine... I've collected them since about 92. All because of Parsec.

I wish someone would port that came to PalmOS.

====
A final note to...the Republican party. You do not want to get into a fight with David Letterman. ...He's simply more believable than you are.
[ Parent ]

About the poll question (4.50 / 4) (#10)
by b1t r0t on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 02:10:38 PM EST

The question shouldn't be "decade-old" computers, it should be "two-decade-old" computers. "Decade-old" computers (1992) are 386, 486, and Pentium I machines. The '90s were an era of boring, evolutionary computers.

Even Apple (the only significant non-Wintel computer of the '90s) created some of their least interesting (and annoying to get 5V DIMM memory for) machines during that era. They did come out with the "Twentieth Anniversary Mac" and "Mac TV", but those are only interesting because of their rarity. Newton was interesting, but it was too expensive, and Steve Jobs canned it when he came back.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.

Agreed (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by vrai on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 04:37:19 AM EST

Look at what the 1980s turned up:
  • C64 / Amiga (yay!)
  • BBC Micro / Archimedes
  • Atari ST
  • IBM Compatible PC
  • Apple Mac
  • Amstrad CPC 464
  • Sinclair QL
  • MSX
  • Dragon 32 (the world's only Welsh computer)
  • and the mighty Sinclair ZX Spectrum
While the 1990s produced nothing new except the Sam Coupe (a turbo-charged Speccy compatible machine that was made in the UK).

I still remember the arguments that we used to have at school: Speccy vs C64 vs CPC, later followed by Amiga vs ST. Made the Windows/Linux arguments look positively friendly.

What's amazing is that machines like the C64 and the Spectrum 48K (both release in 1983 if I remember correctly) were still having games released for them in the early 1990's. No need to spend hundreds of pounds a year on upgrades in those days (which is probably what killed the producers to be honest).

[ Parent ]

one of my mates... (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by nobby on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 07:54:55 AM EST

...had a dragon, I had a commodore 64. He's now a computer recruitment agent (after a stint in macdonalds)

BTW hows tim doing this week, still bitter and twisted?


Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
[ Parent ]
Well I had a Spectrum ... (none / 0) (#40)
by vrai on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 08:13:33 AM EST

... and it taught me to be the programming god that I am today.

Tim has been quite quiet this week. Though he has popped over a few times so he, Mat, and myself can argue about EU integration and the single currency.

[ Parent ]

I never had one when new, but . . . (2.00 / 1) (#13)
by hardburn on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 02:21:00 PM EST

I never had a C64 as a kid (my first computer was an Apple //c), but I did find one for five bucks at a shop a while back. It was sitting right on top of a 10 Mbps Ethernet managed hub (for only $15), which I also grabed. Unfortunatly, the C64 didn't have a power supply or anything else; just the box with the keyboard and the important electronics. I cleaned the crud that had built up on the connectors and the internal electronics. Now it's just being displayed on my shelf.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


C64 (none / 0) (#18)
by jmzero on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:23:11 PM EST

The power supply was always the first thing to go on the C64 - they overheated.

I actually built a little fan onto my power supply. This was an accomplishment for me, as I was about 9.

Great machines.

It's unfortunate that this particular article doesn't really give enough solid links, as I'd like the opportunity for a little old computer nostalgia.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
Same here. (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous American on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:24:40 PM EST

I finally bought my first computer in 1991, a C64. I was able to find dozens of pirated games and software, not to mention legit titles at thrift stores. It was a lot of fun, I remember spending hours creating wierd text adventure games - it took me a while to find a disk drive - so at first I would have to leave the power on constantly.

[ Parent ]
put it in a box and send it to me ... (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by pb on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:53:44 PM EST

I dearly miss my old C64. And if I had one now, it would probably end up doing the same thing all my computers have done for the past 8 years or so: dual-boot between Lunix for a usable system, and that MS-OS (in this case, ROM BASIC :) for the games...

.... and of course I'd have to network it so I could transfer disk images and whatnot, since all my old C64 software would be impossible to find these days (like Rags to Riches; what a cool game. Or Little Computer people... or Ultima V!)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
You kids had it easy! (none / 0) (#15)
by the scooter king on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 03:15:29 PM EST

Try coding on a TRS-80 Model I. With 16k. And a Tape Drive!
The secret is not to try and bend the .sig. The secret is that there is no .sig.
Oh yeah? (5.00 / 2) (#16)
by CokeBear on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 03:26:14 PM EST

We walked uphill in the snow *both ways* with our punch cards! And if there was a bug, we had to go back, fix the bug, and wait 6 months for another shot at the punch card reader.

[ Parent ]
But seriously (none / 0) (#23)
by salsaman on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:27:19 PM EST

My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. It had 1K of RAM. Still, there were some pretty good games for it (if you could get the cassette recorder to work and load them).

Ah, those were the days...

[ Parent ]

Oh, yeah? My Model I had only 4 KB! (none / 0) (#25)
by tmoertel on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:57:19 PM EST

And no cassette tape drive for the first several months. That really sucked, having to re-type programs every time the machine's power was cycled.

On the brighter side, it did help me develop my typing skills. ;-)

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


[ Parent ]
Real machos... (none / 0) (#28)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 06:45:58 PM EST

... used to input data with switches.

No, I am not joking (PDP-11, argh....).

Those were the times: counting the ferrites in your RAM, dropping your punched cards with your end of term program in the floor, visiting the data centres that were more like anti nuclear bunkers. And inputing your program into the damn PDP-11 with switches.
---
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
[ Parent ]
Lucky bastard... (none / 0) (#44)
by ucblockhead on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 04:45:15 PM EST

In my first computer class, we had TRS-80 Model Is with 4k and no tape drive. You had to retype your program every time you powered up.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
C128 (1.66 / 3) (#20)
by zephc on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:35:40 PM EST

I had a Commodore 128 (twice the RAM!), which it made me run in 64-mode so I could run all that C-64 software =P

load kwix,8,1

or something like that

Gaming Groove (3.50 / 2) (#24)
by dannygene on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:37:13 PM EST

Ironically, I happened to see if gaminggroove.com ever went live, and there's a giant post about their overclocked TI-99/4A! I'd never even heard of the blasted machine before seeing this article earlier today. I would have been thoroughly confused if I hadn't read this!

Life is too serious to be taken too seriously.

Contest of games (2.50 / 2) (#26)
by svampa on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 06:06:20 PM EST

Do you remember when games needn't 90Mb of HD and a CD?. I've played quite funny games with a Spectrum 8k. Creativity is the mother of all sciencie.

Long time ago I found a contest of games, the bases were quite simples, run in PC 8086 and less than 256 bytes!!.

Of course, you can't find 3D backgrounds, nor database of roles etc, but in 256 they were able to set graphic mode, a random function, control keyboard... and do something quite amusing and addictive.

Incredible!!



True story (4.64 / 17) (#27)
by tmoertel on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 06:25:55 PM EST

My childhood neighbor, Bob, owned a TI-99/4A, and sometimes we would play games on it. One day I went over to his house and found him hitting and kicking the little computer, really going bezerk on it. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that he was "punishing" it for beating him at the game he was playing. Apparently, it had cheated.

To get him to stop hitting the poor thing, I pointed out that as an electronic device the TI-99/4A probably didn't even notice his punishment, so why do it?

My comment seemed to have worked. He stopped. After a moment of thought, he agreed with me, saying "You're right, that won't work."

Bob sat on the floor for a few minutes, looking embarrassed over his earlier foolishness.

Just when I thought he had learned his lesson, he jumped up, grabbed the TI-99/4A, and hunt-and-pecked the following BASIC program into the computer:

10 FOR T = 1 TO 9999999999
20 NEXT T
He started the program running, pushed the computer into the corner, and yelled triumphantly, TAKE THAT!

When I pointed out that his program didn't really do anything, he said, "That's the point. The damn thing won't feel my kicks, so I've sentenced it to a few hours of menial labor!"

True.

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


Forget the hardware (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by PresJPolk on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:08:27 PM EST

The hardware I wouldn't find interesting. People should instead port the *software* that they used to modern systems. The advantage? This way it won't get lost when the hardware dies.

Learn from the modern Domesday project: if you value something, maintain it.

Well, seeing we're getting nostalgic (2.66 / 3) (#30)
by DoubleEdd on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:16:44 PM EST

My very first computer was an Acorn Electron. This was like a BBC Micro, but lobotomised. It claimed it had 32K memory, but it turned out half of that was read-only.
Had that for a few years, and friends at school slowly caught up. Not long after that machine packed in (it used to overheat and reset just as a program was finishing loading from the tape) my dad decided to get us a PC. And boy did we get a PC. A 16MHz 286 with 2Mb of RAM. This was some machine for its day, when most games were still hoping to find an 8MHz machine with 640K.
We got it around Christmas and I remember going back to school in the new year where about half the class were boasting about their new Spectrums with 128K of memory. I was not a popular fellow when I announced that my computer had 2048K. It was worth the punches and kicks to know that your printer was more powerful than your friend's computer though.

Computers vs. Printers (2.00 / 1) (#35)
by bunsen on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 11:17:47 PM EST

I remember my brother doing a processor transplant between an Apple ][ and our 1541, since the Apple's 6502 had its higher address lines screwed up, and the 1541 didn't use them. Or something like that. I was probably 8 at the time, so don't blame me if I don't remember it right. Whatever it was, it resulted in a working 1541, a working Apple ][, and no leftover parts (quite a rare occurence around my house).

Then again, maybe I should remember. After all, I did learn elementary BASIC programming on a TI-99/4A before I heard of cursive handwriting (thanks dad!). I wonder how much my math education was affected by learning about variables before math class hit long division...

---
Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]

electron vs ti994/a (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by leukhe on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 05:15:09 AM EST

My first pc was an ti99/4a (an c64 was too expensive in that time). When i saw a electron in a shop i benchmarked it: (somtthing like:)
10 for i =1 to 1000
20 next i
It was fast! only a few seconds what took an ti 30 seconds.

By the way: an elektron has 64 Kb, of which 32 Kb was ram, of which up to 20 Kb was graphics memomry (depending on the mode). It was not read-only, it was graphics memory. the electron missed the "teletekst (mode 7?)" the BBC conputer had.

Both of then i bought at their end of life time. The Ti cost me ~180 Euro, the elektron ~100 euro. The TI still works (PARSEC rules!). The elektron has a failed power modele an can only run on batteries, just yank out the power converter and let it run on 5V. (4x1.2v recharcheable.)

by the way, does parsec run on the/a emulator on a PII 350?

Oh those where the days.







[ Parent ]
what exactly are people using them for? (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by turmeric on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:29:04 PM EST

other than being obsessive compulsive weirdos?

RE : what exactly are people using them for? (4.00 / 2) (#37)
by bowdie on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 04:46:57 AM EST

We're using them to play games we enjoyed in our youths.
We're using them to show younger people what computing was like before intel and M$ got involved.
We're using them to look at demos we wrote 15 years ago.
We're using them to show new coders the basics.

I still have my first computer on my desk right now, a ZX81.
I keep it next to my P4 1.7Ghz workstation to remind me where I came from.

Talk to someone who wrote for these machines, and you'll see someone who writes tight code. I remember when you had a finite number of clock cycles and memory...

[ Parent ]
M.U.L.E. and Pitfall, of course... (none / 0) (#42)
by Ricdude on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 11:52:52 AM EST

The day someone comes up with amultiplayer game as cutthroat as M.U.L.E. or a single player game as entertaining as Pitfall is the day I give up my pair of Atari 800's (just in case one breaks =) and my 2600VCS. Not a day sooner.

[ Parent ]
M.U.L.E. rules! (none / 0) (#51)
by bgarcia on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 11:16:29 AM EST

I remember playing M.U.L.E. on my Commodore.

Definitely one of the best games of all time.

[ Parent ]

Old machines still live under emulation (4.00 / 2) (#34)
by slur on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 09:24:12 PM EST

Modern computers are so amazingly fast that they can easily emulate older computers, all the way from the processor to the screen display, disk drives, and tape drives. Most computers from the Ti/99 generation were based on either the Z80 or 6502 processor.

Here's a page of TI/99 Emulators.

Check out Emulation Dot Net for an amazing assortment of emulators, including the TI/994A, Atari 800, Commodore 64, Amiga 1000, and many others. Although Emulation Dot Net is focused on emulators for the Macintosh the various emulator main-sites to which they link most often contain versions for other platforms.


|
| slur was here
|

Still have my old 99/4A (none / 0) (#41)
by Caranguejeira on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 11:38:02 AM EST

Yeah, it was OK in its day, but I still envied my Atari-wielding friends. Then when the first NES came out, I was too embarrased to ask for a game console, so I asked for a "computer" instead. I ended up with one of the family TIs to hack on, which was fun until I couldn't put more than six sprites on the screen at once, or mix colors. And I was too dumb to learn the assembler.

Now look at me. Instead of a compulsive gamer, I had to become a developer instead. Ruined, ruined, ruined.

Well, it wasn't all that bad, I guess. Compared to my first 8088-based PC, with DOS 2.11, it was wonderful. The lame PC could only do four colors (16 if I pressed the "composite" button on the old monitor to play King's Quest I), and a pathetic "beep" passed for music.

At least the PC has a disk drive, and I didn't have to listen to that awful magnetic tape every time I loaded my GWBASIC code. Plus, the TI seemed to be missing some important keys.

Sure am glad I missed punch cards, though.

save old hardware!? (none / 0) (#43)
by el_guapo on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 02:49:15 PM EST

heck yes! i've actually bought old stuff off ebay just for grins. i got an apple newton and an amiga 1000 (1500?) off of there. my first computer was an atari 400, but the YMCA had me help them with their TI, a friend had a commodore 64 and another friend had a commodore PET. holy cow are you making me feel old :-)
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
Minor corrections. (none / 0) (#46)
by static on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 06:28:18 PM EST

The '4a's memory expansion was 32k, not 256k. The console itself had only 256 bytes of RAM; the other 16k belonged to the video chip (but BASIC and the ROMs used it as they liked). The speech module was initially only a vocabulary unit. It was the very famous module, Terminal Emulator II, which added a Text-to-Speech function to TI BASIC.

I remember some of the early power-upgrades to the '4a. One of the most popular was the RAMdisk: battery-backed RAM which looked like a diskette drive. I also remember an early hard-disk adapter. The '4a's device archicture was very advanced for its time.

Wade.

Oh, so you want to swap horror stories... (none / 0) (#47)
by kevsan on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 07:34:23 PM EST

My first computer was a 486/33 with 8MB of RAM and an 150MB hard disk! And we had to run this extremely outmoded, antediluvian operating system called Windows 3.1. So, whine and complain about your comfortable and easy lives, but always think back to my 486.

-K
Your first computer ... (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by vrai on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 04:22:49 AM EST

... was a 486??? My first computer was a Spectrum, a 1Mhz Z80 with 48K of RAM (of which 8K was allocated as RAM). 150Mb hard-drives? A luxury, we had C90 tapes, 20 minute loading times and were happy with them!

I feel rather old now :(

[ Parent ]

486 (none / 0) (#49)
by Silent Chris on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 05:36:19 AM EST

A 486 was my first "real" PC (a horrible Packard Bell). I relied on the TI-99/4A, though, up until then.

[ Parent ]
48K of ram? (none / 0) (#55)
by SIGFPE on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 03:44:17 PM EST

48 times what I had on my ZX80.

Tapes? I never succeeded in reloading anything from tape - ever!

20 minute wait times? I'll have you know I typed in every program just before using it. If it was written in machine code I typed in the hex loader and the hex code.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Talk about a cool architecture! (none / 0) (#50)
by mgkuro5hin on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 08:28:35 AM EST

In one former job, I worked with a TI 9995. This was one of the members of the same family as the TI-99/4A.

ONE of the neat features of this processor was that it had, basically, a one instruction context switch.

Another neat feature was that, for slower tasks, you could locate your registers IN RAM. (On chip, high speed (lol) memory was for "real" registers.)

It was a very flexible machine, in many ways very elegant.

When POWER was 256K (none / 0) (#52)
by Mutant on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 03:44:30 PM EST

I remember going from a mod IV to a TI 1000. My whole world changed. I had a "real" computer. And as software goes. "DeskMate" was great! I fondly recall GW-Basic and my "cool stuff". Nice story. - Peace -
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." (from The Red Lily, 1894 -Anatole France )
Does anyone still have a Ti-99/4A? (none / 0) (#53)
by davis on Sat Mar 23, 2002 at 07:51:16 PM EST

I still do! With all my old games, but the problem is the cable that hooks it up to the TV broke at the end that plugs into the computer, and I have to resolder the wires to the pins, but don't know which colour goes to which pin. Does anyone have any idea of where I can get info on this? Thanks
---- jjjd
Indeed I do! (none / 0) (#54)
by egerlach on Sun Mar 24, 2002 at 10:05:28 PM EST

Go to http://www.99er.net/

Lots of info there.

"Free beer tends to lead to free speech"
[ Parent ]
The TI-99/4A | 56 comments (50 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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