[ Go to Stephen's Entry Page ]

[ TI Book front page |    TI Resources Page |   TI99 Articles (use search at page top) |   PC99 Programs |   TI*MES 3 ]
contact - please use subject="pc99 page" to avoid spam trap!

This web page contains the text of my article for owners of the TI-99/4a in a series called Rambles, from Issue 2 of TI*MES dated Autumn 1983, published by Clive Scally. It is of use to users of the TI-99/4a emulators and of historic interest regarding home computer use in the UK in 1983.

Clive Scally Hello there

We hope you will see a more polished TI*MES this month. We believe we have achieved the right formula with our newsletter from the kind remarks you have made, and with No. 2 we hope to have ironed out the typing and spelling errors.
Our old typewriter was suffering badly from hiccups and arthritis. October 1983 will be remembered as the month when the TI-99/4A went below £100. Many of you who paid £149-£199 last year will gnash your teeth. But just think how much entertainment and enjoyment you have had in the last year while others dithered. I have spoken to people who paid £500+ for their machines and have never regretted it.

Has the price of this computer reached rock bottom? Well in the States it sells at $89, which some people feel is below the cost of manufacturing the machine. They obviously expect to make their profits on the software and peripherals.

We have been trying to gather together as much information as possible as to where to obtain software as this seems to be somewhat of a desert. You will notice several pages in this newsletter of companies specializing in Texas Instruments and it's nice to see some price competition as this can only be to your benefit.

We welcome Stephen Shaw as a contributor. There's not much that he doesn't know about the TI-99/4(A) as you will see in coming issues.

Our next issue is in the New Year, 1984, so let us be the first to wish you happy Christmas!

News and Views Coming soon from Phoenix Publishing Associates: Getting Started with the Texas TI-99/4A by Stephen Shaw. Similar books in the series cost about £6-£7. Hope to review a copy in the next issue.

Watch the top five best selling home computers charts. TI has made it.
October UK chart
1. Sinclair Spectrum.
2. VIC-20.
3. Texas Instruments TI-99/4A.
4. BBC.
5. CBM 64.

We were going to bring news of the new computer: the TI-99/2. This has been aborted in favor of the TI-99/8, which will use TI-99/4A add-ons but will have a massive 80K. If you want to upgrade it may be worth waiting for. This is good news because Texas is keeping its word that, should you upgrade your computer, you can still use the same peripherals.
[Alas, November 1983 brought the news from TI that they were going out of the home computer business entirely ]

September has passed without the promised appearance of the Texas-sponsored [replacement for the] TI Home newsletter.
[This was Texas Instruments Home Computer User Club newsletter meant to officially replace TIHOME TIdings. TIHOME itself was not TI sponsored as far as we know, but it is almost certain that TIHCUC was. Produced by a PR firm (Ray Hodges) it ran to at most 8 pages and only five issues.]

Rambles from TI*MES Issue 2, Autumn 1983

BY STEPHEN SHAW

Hi there. New publication for Rambles...which is a sequence of hopefully helpful tips, comments and general rambling...

TAPE HINT:
When you insert a cassette, do you notice sometimes the tape is fairly loose in the cassette shell? If it is, always use REWIND to tension it: even the best behaved tape recorder can digest a tape which is loose in the shell. And don't forget to clean and demagnetise your recorders regularly,please!

Unofficial 99/4(A) Review / Summary - Publications FROM THE USA:
'UNOFFICIAL 99/4(A)' July/Aug and Sept/Oct 83 issues.

The Sept/Oct 83 issue is available as a PDF file from whtech.com - file is Un091083.

July/August: Very basic introduction to INPUT in TI BASIC spread over 4 pages of A4 .... another four pages give an example of using cassette files .... two pages of press reviews...and Larry Sabo of Maple Leaf Micro Ware introduces his programs (sold in the UK by Stainless Software: me. I may use his text in next issue, as an ad) .... very basic article on Mini Mem, but not too helpful .... four short programs. one simulates a computer(!!!). two drill programs and a short short (yup. two shorts there, deliberate...) colour program.

SEPT/OCT issue: Articles on computers and schools...simple article on OUTPUT including a drill program (eg it tests you,in this case on division)...a program to simulate the '15 Puzzle' (thats the one with 15 sliding square blocks)...Press Review, inc news of the 99/2 demise taken from our own Popular Computing Weekly...another shallow Mini Mem artic1e...and an interesting article on random numbers.

The magazine is published by Mark Leyton. it is A4. typically 24 pages, stapled. It has the appearance of a 'fanzine'...or a user group newsletter without the group! The seamail sub to the UK is US$2O for one year (6 issues) and US$35 for 2 years (12 issues). Payment must be in US dollars on a US bank. The simplest source is a US Dollar IMO from Barclays: they can issue them on request and only charge a pound commission.
Address: M T LEYTON, Unofficial 99/4A. P O BOX nnn. CLUTE. TEXAS. USA, 77nn1
...any delay in replying is due to hurricanes. apparently Clute suffers badly from these...


Enthusiast 99 INTERNATIONAL 99/4A USER GROUP:
Presidents Letter. August 1983: News that the head of the Consumer Division of TI in the USA is now former head...and the TI President, J Fred Bucy is taking sufficient interest in the product to open an office in Lubbock...and is also personally scrutinising internal PR work. also has appointed an outside PR firm. The 99/4A is due to appear in the MATT HOUSTON tv show ...shortIy in the USA, may take a while for the shows to make it over here (what is the time lag: anyone know?).

Enthusiast '99. July 1983
This magazine is available as a 35 megabyte Pdf file from whtech.com, file name is E99-0783.pdf.

(I received this magazine after the above letter):
60 A4 glossy colour pages...lots of ads...Q and A pages (tip: the cassette remote lead may drain power from under powered recorders. Removing it could make a difference)...reviews of the TI Professional and an article on the CC40 portable...one games program in Extended Basic...introductory article on the general way the 99/4A actually works...with an explanation for that SLOW Basic...and a very useful article on assembly language with a useful source code listing of assembly routines similar to HCHAR, VCHAR, CHAR, PRINT, CLEAR, SCROLL, KEY, FOR NEXT, END. and a new one DELAY.(NB: As presented. not suitable for Mini Memory.Sorry.).

Interesting Advert:
Do it yourself modules .... ROMOX 8k modules available blank for US$2O. Load your assembly language program into them from disk using a module programmer and you have your own module...tire of it- Erase the module with an eraser. (US$40). ROMOX modules available WITH GAMES IN THEM.
Disk owners who have damaged one part of the disk index somehow lose access to the entire disk...along comes DISK FIXER a program which allows access to disks by sector. effectively a disk recovery program.

Enthusiast 99 is bimonthly and the sub is a mere US$16. which also allows access to the IUG program library (over 47 megabytes of programs and growing daily. The IUG programs are US$3 only, minimum order four programs.
SUBS in US FUNDS only to:
International 99/4 Users-Group. P O Box nn. Bzzhany, OK. USA. 75DDB


99'er HCM 99'ER HOME COMPUTER MAGAZINE August l983:
This magazine in available from whtech.com as an 86 megabyte pdf file under filename 99er8308.pdf

A4 glossy colour. lots of ads.
Letters page with a hint to Extended Basic owners with the speech synth but not the speech editor module...program reviews...a program listing for a game in TI BASIC and another in Extended Basic...part of a series on Multiplan A Module...usual LOGO feature with sample procedures...article on the CC40 and how to use it WITH a 99/4A...using the wafertape drive and the Hex Bus adaptor. it is possible to record a wafertape with the CC40, and then use it on your 99/4A. or vice versa. The data files have to be in display format cos the computers use different chips...
...a short TI Basic 'sunrise' program...any lady readers? there's a KNITTING PROGRAM? (it will give you a pattern from birth to size...56!...and most interesting of them all. something not of great practical interest to most of us. but an answer for our smart aleck friends with other comps: Know the BBC computer has the TUBE which is supposed to allow it to use another processor? It doesn't seem to be working at present...

99er Magazine is available from several sources.

If you would like me to cover anything of general interest in the next issue, please write... if you want a direct reply. an SAE is essential. and please be patient. the next few months will I hope be very busy. so a reply could take a while to arrive!

Stephen Shaw. 1D Azzzone Road STOCKZZRT Cheshire SKN NAH
I am on the phone. but due to shortage of time, prefer letters! If a call is really urgent, please ring only between 9.30 and 10.30 p.m.
Thanks. Just a little plug here:
My book 'Getting Started with the TI99/4A' is due out Nov 28th from Phoenix Publishing Associates. price GBP 5.95 from all good dealers and booksellers. Sorry, due to restrictive trade practices I can t supply you. With any luck Home Computing Weekly will review it!

Peripherals and other extras you may want...

There are a number of peripherals available for the 99/4A. and TI do not appear to like saying too much about them. You may not be fortunate and have a good well informed dealer nearby. so here is a brief run down on what is available and what it can do:

CASSETTE: Enables you to save programs and data to tape. Inexpensive but slow. Although there is a verify function for programs you save. you cannot verify data ( except data saved with certain modules. such as Chess). Requires regular maintenance: cleaning and demagnetising. If you do not attend to this your recordings could be lost! Always make a second recording on a different tape to protect against accident.

JOYSTICKS: TI have brought out several types of joysticks. with minor improvements each time. The current model sometimes requires a lot of pressure,especially on diagonals, and can be quite tiring. Arcade Hardware produce a hefty industrial joystick with microswitches, which requires very little pressure on the stick.Adaptors for Atari Joysticks are also available from some sources.

MEMORY EXPANSION: The 32k ram card requires the expansion box. It cannot be used by TI BASIC, nor by many of the modules (eg Personal Record Keeping). lt can be used by Extended Basic. and then allows you to use up to 24k for programs.with 16k used for the stack (variables) and another 8k reserved for machine code programs.
NB: In Extended Basic you cannot load a program longer than 12k from tape even if you have the Memory Expansion. Your 12k program will however have all that extra memory available for stack use.eg to store variables.
The 32k ram is REQUIRED for many of the newer business type modules such as the TI WRITER and MULTIPLAN. You also need it to use the Editor Assembler module to write machine code programs.
There is a slight increase in program speed in Extended Basic when you add the memory expansion.
The 32k ram allows you to peek and poke the computer. amending and checking various memory locations. It is possible for instance for a program to write another program. I have seen extended basic programs which loaded machine code programs.

MINI MEMORY is a module. but can be described here- it gives you 4k of cpu ram in a module. with battery back up. You may store a program in the module. in TI BASIC or machine code. or you may use it as a solid state disk drive to store data. The information stays in the module even _ when you remove it from the console. ln addition it not only gives you the peeks and pokes of Extended Basic plus 32k ram. but allows you to access the vdp ram. allowing customised cursors for instance. with care you can also use a couple of sprites.
As with the 32k ram. you can write a program to write another program. An additional extra is the capability of writing short machine code programs or of running programs (up to 4k) developed on the Editor Assembler. With this module such short machine code programs CAN be loaded from tape, although you can load (but not save to) disk if you prefer.
NB:You are not given sufficient information to allow you to write assembly code programs with the module.

RS232 Card for the Expansion Box: This card allows you to use two RS232 ports and one parallel port Centronics type). To use two RS232's you need an additional cable (NB:NO cables supplied with this!). The Box will take two cards. allowing you to use 4xrs232 and 2xPIO.
* Because you will need a cable made up to connect this card with your equipment, ensure that you or your dealer are able and capable to make up the cable before you buy!!!
This card allows you to use a printer (most printers can be connected to the parallel (PIO) port if you make up the cable) or a modem or indeed to make a connection between the computer and the outside world.

Disk system: A fast but pricy storage medium for programs and data. The TI file handling, even though badly described in the manual, is in fact one of the easiest to use. The disk controller card is needed (and of course the EXPANSION BOX!)

At present TI supply a single sided single density drive, capable of holding up to 90k, but a disk manager module (provided with the card) is now available in the USA which can handle a double sided disk. The great advantage of a disk system is speed. The TI system allows you to make back up copies of disk using only one drive.
With a disk system you can use random access files, which are a considerable improvement on the sequential files you have to use on tape. and as you can also use variable length files. data storage space can be used to optimum advantage.
You do not have to buy TI drives - many other single sided single density drives will also work with the system, check with your dealer. Your dealer may even be able to install a double sided drive and make the computer treat side two as DSK2 (eg as a second drive altogether).

EXPANSION BOX: Is a large and very heavy piece of engineering into which many peripherals are plugged. The Box has a fan cooled power supply. which makes you think you are on a ship! The cards are also very heftily engineered, and are by no means to be compared to the sometimes flimsy bare PCB's sold as expansion boards for other computers. This may help to explain the price difference - the box and cards are built like tanks. You may easily place your tv on top of the box.
The box can hold seven cards, eg you may wish to use: disk controller, two rs232. 32k ram, p/code card (new,for pascal,pilot,p/code basic and so on), and still slots are spare.

ASSEMBLY LANGUAGE is best supported with editor assembler module. disk system and 32k ram. lt is by no means easy and no simple introductory books were available when this text was written. If you are prepared to work hard and persevere, maybe you could write something like Parsec!

The new modules deserve a mention here as well as one or two old ones-
The Personal Record Keeping and Statistics modules give you a couple of extra TI BASIC commands when they are inserted into the console. The easiest to use simulates DISPLAY AT and ACCEPT AT. with care you can also save data in program format- this takes up less space and permits you to verify it. This has been dealt with in 99er Magazine and TI HOME, also you may be able to talk TI into sending you a copy of their technical leaflet on the subject: one does exist.

The TI WRITER module (on which this text was assembled) allows you to use your computer as a word processor. It requires a 99/4A,32k ram and a disk system plus RS232 and printer.
It has every facility you could want, including a mailing list option to allow you to print labels, or even those appalling form letters the postman keeps delivering. Text can be printed from disk or from the screen.
The most severe limitation is the time on word wrap (you keep typing, and when you get to the end of a line,the computer automatically adjusts the words so that the line ends with a complete word and you move to a new line.) It may be my (two fingered) typing speed, but I have to watch it carefully as it usually misses a letter or two in moving to the new line. Otherwise you will be limited by the capabilities of your printer - this module allows you full access to your printers facilities.
The TI Printer not being available I purchased an Epson FX80 printer (update- bought in 1983 and still working perfectly in 2011) but any printer will work, provided you make up the cable properly.
I use the parallel port. The original TI Printer (MX80) apparently used the RS232 port, but it looks as though the new one (Omni 850) will also use the parallel port.

Perhaps a member with the P Code card or the speech synthesiser (with TE2, ExBas and Speech Editor) could let us have a few notes on those.

A recent paragraph in COMPUTER ANSWERS regarding the TI WRITER was totally in error - it is not a toy, but a serious word pro. The Editor IS limited to a printing line 80 characters wide, but using the Formatter option you can print to any width you chose, and may of course use the tabs on your printer instead of the TI Writer tabs. You are limited to a 40 character wide screen by the computer, but everything you can find in a dedicated word pro is there, and in my humble opinion (we have AES word pros at work) considerably easier to use.

IMPORTANT: Please note that when using the 32k ram expansion, you are still limited to a maximum program length of 12k when using the cassette interface. To save longer programs you must have the disk system. There is still some benefit from the 32k ram though, as it permits the use of Call Load,and also you need not worry about stack space, you can use the full 12k for your program : variables and arrays will find their place in the rest of the memory

Cassette Storage BEGINNERS: CASSETTE STORAGE:

You have just spent HOURS keying in a program, it is late, and you don't quite know what you are doing. You mean to save the program and type C 'SAVE CSI', press ENTER. A message appears , you rewind the tape and press enter. THEN you read on screen 'PRESS CASSETTE PLAY AND THEN PRESS ENTER'
what do you do? After screaming and trying to knock a hole in the floor .....
PRESS KEY E. This will allow you to exit the 'OLD CS1' loop which you have accidentally entered by typing 'OLD CSl' instead of 'SAVE CSl' in fact, keys E R and C are available to you at all times during the cassette operation loops, except when the tape is actually rolling. For instance you can record a program twice, by pressing R after the first copy has been recorded and the screen message is 'PRESS CASSETTE STOP THE PRESS ENTER'
My thanks to Paul Karis of Holland for this tip.

Special service, for members ONLY. Unfortunately, in an attempt to avoid piracy. some software producers insist on using the Extended Basic 'protect' feature when selling programs in that language.
With a TI BASIC program, you can (and should) make a back-up copy of any program you purchase, in case the original is accidentally destroyed (or just wears out!). You should not of course make copies for sale, and preferably not even for friends.

With a tape in Extended Basic which is protected .... you cannot make a back up. For all tapes which I (am forced to) sell in protected format, if any are damaged in use, I will provide a new copy provided the original is sent together with a small rerecording fee, currently two pounds inc post and packing.

What if a program supplier (eg not me) does not offer a similar back up service? You could lash out and buy the same program again...
But life is easier if you have a back up. As a service to members who face this problem, I will make a back up tape for them. The rules are: Send original tape and two pounds. A protected copy will be made and sent to you with the original. BOTH will be coded to indicate a copy has been made,and only ONE copy will be made from each original.
Should you illegally sell the copy, it has been marked with your name and address : you wont be able to see or change that! So don't.
(Yes friends, it is easy to remove the protection. but in the interests of software vendors I'm not saying how. And if you discover the way, PLEASE don't make it public. Thanks).

Games Cheat Modes The debug feature in Munchman which allows you to start where you like in the game, and also set certain parameters, can also be found in Alpiner and Chisholm Trail. Select the game. When the game title screen appears you have two seconds to do the following:
Hold down SHIFT and press 8 3 0. Now respond to the screen prompts. quickly! Note that an entry of 0 means one, and entry of l means 2 and so on. Don't delay.your time allowed to use this feature is limited. (SOME versions of TI Invaders have this feature also).

Interesting to see Pete Brooks Banthorpe Plot (TIdings Vol 2 No 4) in the CHICAGO TIMES. eg Chicago TImes...the newsletter of the Chicago User Group - Vol 2 No 2.

What do you do with a TI Adventure when you've solved it? why not offer it in TI.MES? Perhaps there are enough adventurers for some form of swop facility? NB: Only originals: its illegal to make copies and sell or swop those! lf you sell the original you should destroy any copies you have.

Several books are now published in the USA, by Compute, Arcsoft and Tab- possibly they may make their way here in due course. Meantime I saw Paperts book 'Mindstorms' in WH Smith (its about Logo..)...I also have an MS out with Phoenix, watch out for the book...

Remember years ago when the Desiderata made the top ten? One of my suppliers, Tom Krohn, passes on this alternative :
I am resolved:
-to forget past mistakes and press on to greater achievements.
-to put first things first
-to make my work a joy
-to allow nothing to disturb my peace of mind
-to never lose self control
-to spend so much time improving myself that I have no time for criticism of others
-to think the best, work for it, and expect it
-to be a friend to man
-to stand for the right
-to be true
-to take every disappointment as a stimulant
-to live on the sunny side of every cloud
-to smile
-to look ahead
-to keep moving
Any aphorists out there? (dictionary practice for today).
That wraps it up for another issue. Have fun computing, and share your discoveries! Best wishes and happy computing...

Addendum - this part was printed after the end of Rambles...

Funware Modules REVIEW TIME: FUNWARE MODULES

General: FUNWARE manufacture INDEPENDENT modules for the TI99/4A. Naturally, TI do not like this and are sueing the pants off Funware, not to mention altering the console in an attempt to stop Funware's modules working... AT PRESENT the Funware modules work with ALL 99/4A consoles .... I bought mine from Maidstone (who do mail order) but you may find your dealer has supplies. I paid 29.00 for each module.

HEN HOUSE:
This is the first Funware module. You control a farmer at screen bottom who has two conflicting tasks: to protect his hen house from poachers and wolves, and to collect eggs.
If too many eggs are dropped or the wolf reaches the hen house, the game is over.

The game starts slowly, but as the score increases so does the speed. As you reach 10,000 things are really zipping around, and you have to make fast strategy decisions: do you take the chance on letting an egg fall in order to get your gun?

The instructions are a bit thin... the rifle is stored at screen left, to pick it up or drop it, move to extreme screen left. The eggs are collected by standing under a chute (without the gun!) and when the chute is full you press the fire button (joysticks are optional). You then move to screen right to drop the eggs into a red lorry (which is invisible on black and white tv’s: it is there though!).

A simple game perhaps, but the animation in neat and as it speeds up things do get tough.

RABBIT TRAIL: If you saw the 'review' in Personal Computer News, forget that. As usual, the instructions are thin, and the PCN reviewer didn't work them out...
You control a lovely bunny who has the arduous task of collecting carrots. When all the carrots on a screen are collected, you move to the next. I understand there are seven screens, but I've only made screen four so far.

To prevent you reaching the next screen, there is a timer and various hazards such as weasels, hawks, traps and so on. You can leap over these with care,or hide from the hawk.

Joysticks optional. To jump over two weasels close together or over a trap, you must jump while moving : this involves using both sides of the keyboard: Use O to jump and J or K to move, or Y to jump and S or D to move.

Level one is a simple run, level two is a little harder, level three more complex, level four adds an elevator (or lift).

The animation is very nice indeed.
This is a 'fun' game which can be frustrating. Recommended.
Stephen Shaw


[ TI Book front page   |    TI Resources Page    |   PC99 Review    |   PC99 Programs ]
read about addfreestats visitor tracker