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This web page contains the first ever three issues of the UK TI99/4A User Group Newsletters, issued way back in 1981. The contents are very historical - please note that they refer to the initial TI99/4 console, which varied in a number of ways from the later TI99/4A.

You can see here how small the user group started and how little we all knew.

(Peter Brooks later advised that the first two issues had come from Texas Instruments in Bedford- presumably he meant the copying and despatch work and costs were met by them.)

TIHOME Tidings Volume 1 Number 1. February 1, 1981

Hello Fellow TI-99/4 Users

I wrote to all the major computer papers hoping that I would have a fair number of replies, I have waited two months and have only 14 names and addresses. Still, great oaks from small acorns grow, it seems fruitless setting up the formal organisation of a club with committees and all the rest, and so I propose that, for the moment, I act as a central post office issuing a newsletter once a month, containing any interesting points, letters or whatever you send to me during the month.

So here goes. TIHOME is born.
I have been in touch with TI and have the following points of interest to pass on. TI have been using students in America, during the holidays, to translate programs from TRS-80 Basic to TI Basic. I understand that close on 150 programs have been converted already. TI is hoping to make them available in the UK on cassette and floppy disk later this year. The new programs will include speech for those that have the facilities.

Programs included in the list are:
1) TI Trek, a version of Star Trek/ Space Invaders.
2) Teach Yourself Basic.
3) A mailing list program.
4) A software upper and lower case character set.
5) Software routines including ACCEPT AT and DISPLAY AT to enable easier use of the screen.
6) ROM cassettes including:
a) Terminal emulator to enable RS232 coupling to the telephone lines with dialog saved in RAM to enable later listing.
b) A VAT accounting module.
c) 2 or more games from the States.

To give you an idea of the potential sale of the 99/4 I would point out that the 99/4 Users Club in America has 1500 members. Even taking into account the size of the two countries the market for TI has not even been touched. I think advertising has something to do with it. I cannot remember more than one advert for the 99/4. The magazines seem to be full of Pets and Apples. What about it TI?

Every machine has its users and each machine and its users are different. To my way of thinking TI have come up with an ideal machine for the market for which it was intended. Pets and TRS-80s are all very well if you like to take your computer to bits and solder it back together again. They are fine if you like to get into the operating software and start amending it to customise it to your own particular requirements. But if the day comes when a home computer is as common as a telephone then it has to be the kind of machine that you plug in and it works.

The housewife of the future is going to want to know as much of the innards of her home computer as she knows of the innards of the family car or the family colour television set. She is going to want to be able to plug it in, then use it. The TI-99/4 seems to me to be the ideal machine for that purpose. Remembering how long it took this country to get used to the idea of video recorders, it may be a time before home computers move out of the area of dedicated amateurs into the area of family appliances.

The Americans, of course, take anything new, purely for the sake of it.
In this country we tend to stand back and let some other fool make the initial mistakes. Well, we are the fools and I think we can have a lot of fun making the initial mistakes.

Cassette Load Tip
Mr. P. Brooks of Oxon suggests the following idea. If you have ever waited for a program to load and then had the message NO DATA FOUND displayed you will find this useful. I have tried it and it works. Before loading a program from tape proceed as follows:

100 FOR A= 96 TO 159  
110 PRINT CHR$( A);  
120 NEXT A  

If you follow this procedure, when the tape loads the redefined characters march across the screen as the tape buffer is filled. If they do not march you have time to rewind the tape, alter the volume and retry. Try it for yourself, ring me if you have any queries on the subjects

Some of you have been kind enough to write to me and phone me. I have not replied because I expected to be able to get TIHOME off the ground a lot sooner than this. I have been waiting for my letter to be published in Practical Computing, but they have either ignored it or they have so much copy that it will appear some time in the future. Still, apologies all round, no offence meant.

I have built myself a collection of programs that I use and no doubt so have you. If you would like to send me any program I would be pleased to start a library. Let me have a copy of the program and I will copy it for anyone who is prepared to send a blank tape. I have an extensive hi-fi system with total graphic equalisation, so I am sure I can produce a tape that will fit all your cassette decks. In fact, if you have a tape that your TI will not read, send it to me and I will alter the tonal balance and volume to see if it can be improved.

Well, best of luck with your programs and TI equipment. Please let me know of any interesting points you may have. A club is made by its members and TIHOME is no different. I will publish anything you choose to send me, censorship permitting, and it is as well to bear in mind that this newsletter goes direct to the Home Sales Manager of TI. So here is your chance, say your piece, who knows it may do some good.

Till the next time,

Paul Dicks

TIHOME Tidings Volume 1 Number 2. March 1, 1981

The State of the Game
Thank you for all your letters and comments. Your letters are always welcome and I include quotations from some of them in this newsletter.

I have spoken to TI recently and nothing very much appears to be happening at the moment. A lot of things are on the way as I reported in the last newsletter - but we are still waiting.

TI Bedford do have a sample of the expansion RAM but this is not yet generally available. They have not yet got a sample of the Extended Basic module, which is a pity, because that is the thing we are all interested in.

I am producing a "flyer" which TI have kindly said they will distribute to other outlets and they will insert one in new equipment as it arrives in the country. This could produce a fair number of members. Anyway I hope so.

America, America!
Late one evening last week I received a telephone call from Charles LaFara, the president of the American 99/4 Users-Group. We had quite a long conversation. He has since sent me a copy of the American newsletter and four floppy disks containing 58 programs for the 99/4. Along with the newsletter he also sent me a complete listing of the titles in his software library. There are 139 titles divided into games, graphics, music, educational and business.

As it would be difficult and expensive for each individual member to get programs from the States and also for the Americans to get programs from us, Charles and I agreed that it would be better if communication between the two users groups was through us. We also agreed that in exchange for programs from him I would send back any programs developed in this country which would be of use to them.
So, come on lads, let's take some serious steps to build the English software library. If anyone has any programs or subroutines developed for the TI, put them on tape, send them to me and I will add them to the software library. Somewhere, someone wants the type of programs you are writing, no matter how simple or complex, someone can use it.

I enclose with this newsletter a copy of the American newsletter for your information and to show the sort of level reached by the Americans in only three issues. If we can increase our membership we can do the same.
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Quotes From Your Letters
Mike O'Regan, Beeston, Nottingham
The TI joysticks are of poor quality, mechanically, (I am already on my second set as the first suffered a broken shaft after a couple of weeks use, being cheap plastic and too long). When I received the replacements (after a FOUR month wait) they were identical to the first set, and are now showing signs of the same fault.

As a newcomer to computing, I find the graphics feature at once fascinating and frustrating . . . computer-buff friends remark on my ingenuity at producing lines of apparently random-coloured alpha-numerics, while I silently fume that they are not uniformly black as I intended.

My synthesiser produces a word like "illi" when I type in "good", although the phrase "good work" is perfect.

Incidentally, if you haven't discovered the bug in the handy CHARACTER DEFINITION program on page 184 of your Users Reference Guide then amend as follows:

510 LOW=B(R,5)*8+B(R,6)*4+B(R,7)*2+B(R,8)+l  

I. M. Beattie-Edwards, Crawley, Sussex
I do have a TI Acoustic Modem and RS Interface unit (110 volt working). These were supplied by TI for use on the 99/4 in the States. You are welcome to them at the price plus duty that I paid for them.
Stephen Shaw, Stockport, Cheshire
1500 members in the States is also small - note the lack of ads also in U. S. magazines. I feel that when TI are able to deliver in quantity (sometime this year?) we may see a proper launch, as the system is now virtually complete.

Wanted: How to join programs (append): possibility?

Peter Brooks, Didcot, Oxfordshire
Apparently in a couple of months TI hope to have a module which enables phonetic speech to be used - so you simply key in your text in phonemes, and the unit will speak it.

I hope to produce a program which will enable high resolution plotting (at the moment the plan is for a plotting area of 88 by 88 points, individually addressable); it reinvents the wheel a little because TI says that his people have already done it. Programming
One small point that you have probably discovered for yourselves. Status returned in the CALL KEY command can be one of three values. It is useful to note that one of these values means that the same key has been pressed as last time, or pressure has not been released from the key.

I have come across a few programs where choices are given in the form requiring the answer Y or N. If you do not test for a repeat key, it is possible to hold down the letter Y and merrily drop through three or four choices. Another point worth taking note of is the old programmer's trick of saying that if they do not say YES they must have said NO. It's not always valid.

I recently spent quite a time trying to find the reason why a particular program offered a choice and then denied it to me, and the answer to my problem was a mixture of the preceding two points.

Best of luck and enjoy your computing.

TIHOME Tidings Volume 1 Number 3. May 15, 1981

Well, at last there appears to be something happening on the TI front. Turn to the TI News page to see the news. It is really no more than we have hoped for, for a long time. Still, don't knock the goodies! Let's hope that TI's plans work out and this state of limbo ceases to exist. I am rather getting fed up with the total lack of mention of TI in the computing magazines I read.

I have finally managed to copy all the American programs onto tape and am prepared to supply programs according to the Program Exchange Policy. Remember, 4 for 1, so come on, you programmers, let's see a little action. Don't be bashful, somebody somewhere wants just the program that you are now writing.

I am publishing in this newsletter, a revised English Software Library and also a list of members. Perhaps there is someone within commuting distance of you who is struggling with problems that you have solved long ago.

You will notice that there are a couple of hardware supply companies in the list. If you are having difficulty getting hardware then do not hesitate to get in touch with them. Who knows, they might have the very thing you are looking for.

As for this newsletter, apart from your letters, for which I am very grateful, I would welcome articles on any subject connected with computing and especially with TI-99/4 computing, Send them in, preferably typed but it doesn't matter, we don't all have a secretary at our disposal. At this point you might give a mental "thank you" to Mary Ashdown who types and copies your newsletter.

I understand from TI of Bedford that the American groups have a membership of 6000 which gives you some idea of how far we are behind the U. S. However, TI have kindly taken a pile of "flyers" from me which are being included in all new equipment sold and they propose to include mention of us on every occasion where it would be to our advantage.

I am hoping to see some of the "goodies" that are due from TI and as soon as I do I will report on them and let you know what is happening in the TI world.

Quotes From Your Letters
Dave Hamilton, nn ssssspool, rrrrnsthorpe Peterborough nnn 7LR
I think you are doing a fantastic job with the TI Newsletter, at long last it seems things are really going to take off with the 99/4.

Unfortunately, at the moment my programming ability is not all that good, although I am experimenting I keep getting a lot of bugs. Still, maybe I can submit some workable program

Pete Brooks, nn hhhhside, aaaaield Estate, A. E. R. E. Harwell, Didcot nnnn
A slightly sour note this side of the Atlantic, however, is sounded by the apparent inability of TI UK to supply a lowly Thermal Printer. Attempts to locate a retailer who might still have one in stock have been to no avail. With regard to the speech unit: the pronunciation of "VARY" and "VERY" pronounces the first in the same way we would pronounce "very" and the second in the way we would pronounce "beery"; if you have a sufficiently warped sense of humour, try "BACK+ BACK+ BACK" - it gives a good imitation of a dog; good for breaking the ice at parties, even better at Cat Shows!

Have you ever experienced when the screen starts printing out its every thought, and won't respond to BREAK commands? On several occasions the phrase "REVIEW MODULE LIBRARY" has gone shunting up the screen.

Stephen Shaw, Al stder Road, Stockport, Cheshire SA4
I have been speaking to Mike Lunch and he tells me that the UK PAL model is now unlikely to be available until June. More important, Mr. Lunch tells me that the product is in a stage of "test marketing" for at least the rest of this year [1981]. Possibly there maybe a product launch NEXT year. Note - if you have been using your modules for sometime (e. g. over 12 months) the contacts may become soiled - and they are difficult to clean! Try switching off power, flooding the contacts with Servisol, and plugging in and out a few times. Leave 5 minutes before powering up again and using. Try several times before giving up.
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Pete Brooks, Didcot
I've given up trying to get a TI Printer, and I will have to seriously re-think my purchase of the 99/4 if TI USA don't buck their ideas up; it strikes me as a rather cavalier attitude to take to ignore the requirements of users outside the USA; why bother selling here in the first place?

The proposed TI Text-to-Speech unit was reviewed in PCW recently, the interesting thing was that it is NOT based on phonetic form. The unit is pre-programmed with a range of "allophones" which are groups of letters which produce particular sounds. I wonder if you can impart different accents to it - anglicised French with a northern accent usually produces a few laughs - it would appear that the pitch of the intonation may be varied to produce a voice on the scale Lee Marvin to Larry Grayson; the scope for anonymous telephone calls is enormous.

Incidentally, I hear that a certain ladies' college in Oxford has just bought a 99/4 for general use; if I can steer them our way I will do so. (And if I can steer myself their way, you won't see me for dust!)

Tips for Programmers
If you consider a program as a straight line starting at the beginning of your program and going onto the end, it is obvious that it is best not to depart from that straight line if you don't have to.
Departures are inevitable, of course, but it is best to limit these departures as often as possible. The simple way to limit these departures is to frame every IF X<> Y THEN 100 (or some such) so that the greatest number of "equals" go down the line and only the infrequent exceptions are diverted to another program location.

I admit that this is the remark of a programmer used to working in a multi-disk multi-VDU environment where any GOTO or branch of any kind loses your control of the processor, but the general principle must apply in all types of programming.

A word on the GOSUB command. In commercial programming this resolves into the argument as to whether to use a macro or a subroutine. The basic rule is this; do not GOSUB unless the routine is to be used many, many times. If the routine is to be used only once or twice then put it into the mainstream of your program.

A useful tip is always to include the following lines in your program.

32767 GOTO 32500  
32500 PRINT "32767 ENCOUNTERED"  
32501 GOTO 32501  

This will cause the program to halt after putting out the message that you have probably made a mistake in editing.

Cut down the length of your programs by using all the possibilities of the PRINT command. For instance:

PRINT :::::::  
is equal to  

FOR A= 1 To 6  
The TI-99/4 takes about 120 characters on each line of program. Using the PRINT command you can get a good 3 or 4 screen lines on one line of program. For instance:


This will give you 4 lines on the screen for only one line of coding.

If you are into advanced programming and have wondered what the SHIFT key does to those keys that do not have a shift character then here is a list of the ASCII codes for those keys.
The first number is the ASCII code that is generated by using the following two keys, so pressing SHIFT and A at the same time will print a CHRS(1).
5 (Not known (perhaps SHIFT Q))
10 (SHIFT X)
11 (SHIFT E)
12 (SHIFT V)
13 The ENTER key
14 (SHIFT W)
15 (SHIFT Z)

A natty way of doing without the scrolling when you are going to put a title page on the screen is to CALL SCREEN(2) just before you start printing the title page to the screen and then, when you have finished printing, CALL SCREEN(4). A bit crude, but it works.

If you are into computer music you may not have noticed that every note is half the frequency value of the corresponding note in the octave above. For example, A is 440HZ, therefore all As are multiples or fractions of that figure. A is therefore 110, 220, 440, 880, 1760, etcetera.

It is worth studying the TI-99/4 Reference Card that came with your computer. There are all sorts of goodies included that never get used because we get caught on the same dozen commands. Have a look, you will be surprised what is there. For instance, instead of writing:

IF A<> 0 THEN 1000  
IF A THEN 1000  
If you have a need to sort information, remember that the easiest method is the bubble sort. It is rather slow on the TI-99/4 but it does work. It works by considering that the information is as beads on a string and it starts at the beginning of the string and reverses the order of any adjacent pieces of information that are in the wrong order. It continues this procedure until the whole string is in the correct order. An example of this procedure is as follows:
1 FOR F= l TO 99  
2 IF A(F)<= A(F+l) THEN 7  
3 STOR1= A(F)  
4 STOR2= A(F+l)  
5 A(F)= STOR2  
6 A(F+1)= STOR1  
7 NEXT F  

You will have to introduce some sort of flag to make the FOR-NEXT clause recursive so that the string is scanned a number of times until all the elements are finally in the right order. However, I think you will find that this is the simplest form of sort.

For Sale
Disk controller and command module + 2 disk drives + cables .. GBP 650
TI-99/4 Thermal printer + cable...... GBP 200
TI-99/4 Console + cables ............ GBP 350
TI-99/4 Monitor .............. ...... GBP 200

The complete system for GBP 1,300.
For an additional 10% on any of the above items I would provide a 90 day guarantee.
Please contact: Martyn G. Simpson, nn mmmm Street, bbbbon, Uppingham, Leicester
Tel: Belton nnn (STD 95386) evenings/ some weekdays or Leicester nnn922 ext 7731 or 7734

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TI News
Mike Lunch tells me that the PAL version of the 99/4 will be launched about mid July on a test marketing basis. The price will probably be GBP 399 for the console and the modulator. He is hoping to have stocks during July.

The system will be that the modulator fits on the back of a television set and the console plugs into the modulator. Switching is automatic so that when the computer is turned off the television will then work as normal, I gathered that it is possible to plug a video recorder in line so there is a possibility of being able to record program output on videotape complete with sound.

The screen format on the PAL has the same amount of characters as the NTSC but the size is slightly different. The NTSC is in 3 by 4 proportion, whereas the PAL will be 2 by 3. One bonus, the random colour fringing, so annoying on the NTSC, does not happen on the PAL.

If you do not wish to have the family television set close to the 99/4, you can extend the output cable a fair amount, certainly enough to go across your living room. Theoretically, you need to extend both output cables but in actual fact you can get away by making a DIN to DIN extension lead, plugging one end into the back of the 99/4 and plugging the twin output cables to the other end. As you are then putting both video and audio signals along an unscreened wire you should loose some picture quality but Mike Lunch assures me that he has found the difference so small that it is not worth worrying about.

Once you have your PAL version connected to your television set you can connect your television to the AUX connection on your hi-fi. For this purpose only use a headphone output from the television which was built in by the manufacturer,

I understand that samples of the Extended Basic Module will be available later this month. This contains not only Extended Basic but the ability to check on the size of memory, merge programs, multi statements on a line and construct seven dimensional arrays. The mind boggles.

As soon as I can try any of this equipment I will report back on my impressions.

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