This web page contains the text of my articles for owners of the TI-99/4a in a series called Rambles, from Issue 10 of TI*MES dated Autumn 1985, 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 1985.
Rambles from TI*MES Issue 10, Autumn 1985
Other material from the magazine (Rambles follows) :-
From Clive Scally:
In this issue we give news of the third
Show. Yes it is in the heart of Britain.
BIRMINGHAM often hosts the best shows and
this one will be no exception for TI99/4a
enthusiasts. Those of you who have
supported previous shows will know that
it is good to get together and get to
meet other TI users.
You will meet and talk to many of the
group writers. See some of the latest
things happening to the TI console in the
way of hardware and software available from
the two 100 per cent TI dealers. Of course many
books will be on sale too. You can
really get a lot of comfort that there is
a lot going for the TI99ers.
You are invited to join in the fun of the
day, if you wish to help at the show then
drop in at the Group stand. Everyone
will pick up a bargain for Christmas, or
sell that unwanted cartridge etc in the
grand TI99 auction. There is a chance to
win a valuable prize in the TI*MES draw.
The TI OXON club will be there with PETER
BROOKS who will show you a trick or two
as you get to master the TI99. At the
last show we were sorry not to have
STEPHEN SHAW. this time he will be there
to get you started.
(Comment- the previous show was in Brighton, about as far South as
you can get, and held on a Sunday when public transport is restricted.
I stood no chance of getting there and back without spending
more time than I had available and much
more money than I had available.sjs)
The Civic Hall, Digbeth is not far from
the main rail station, the National coach
station is on the doorstep. If you come
by car vou will be amazed at the ease of
the drive to the city. Your support will
ensure that these shows continue, so come
along and reallv make it vour day.
Here's a short routine to extract a month number, 1 to 12, when the first
three letters of any month are entered. It uses POS, a dazzlingly fast device for
this sort of job. Try writing the routine in a different way, without using POS,
and ponder the speed difference.
100 INPUT "MONTH?":M$
120 IF M<>INT(M) THEN 100
130 PRINT "MONTH NUMBER IS ";M
When a program is RUN it is scanned to reserve space for variables, arrays,
DATA etc., which all takes time, hence the delay before a program begins to
execute. By including the pre-scan 'on' and 'off' statements at judicious points
in the program we can prevent the computer wasting its time (and ours) looking
at lines containing variables etc. that already have space reserved, and thus get
our program running a little quicker.
By the way, pre-scan 'on' is !@P+ and 'off'
An oddity of !@P- is its ability to dump us back into TI BASIC if certain
types of error are found on pre-scan, which could be useful in some circumstances,
otherwise make sure ALL errors are cleared from the program before using it...
Red herring department again. All variables must start with or consist of a
letter, right? Of course - er, hang on. Some non-alpha symbols can be used if you
so wish ('@' is one of them). No doubt there's some inscrutable TI logic behind
Rambles by Stephen Shaw
OK... gossip first as usual, serious stuff later...
STAINLESS SOFTWARE .... will be closing down at the end
of October l985, due to lack of interest, as losses now
reach towards four digits .... a few programs will be
placed into the User Club libraries, but most will
merely cease to be (legally) available. Note that in
such cases copyright will continue to apply.
If you need anything in the Stainless catalogue, please
do not delay!
I shall however continue to maintain a library of
public domain/freeware programs available to club
members at low low prices. SAE for details
please. Contributions of both funds and programs are
most welcome: but nothing which is copyright please!
PUBLIC DOMAIN: I understand that there is some
misunderstanding about this term. In U.K. law, EVERY
artistic creation is AUTOMTICALLY copyright :
everything created in the U.K. IS COPYRIGHT.
In the UK, the closest we can come is OPEN LICENCE
where an author, although retaining copyright,
authorises anyone to copy his work. He may if he
wishes make the consent subject to certain restrictions
(eg the work is not sold commercially, or with his name
Similarly, in the USA, the FREEWARE range falls into
this category of Open Licence, with the author
retaining copyright, and some measure of control.
There are a nuober of programs circulating which are
NOT Public Domain nor Open Licence. Please be aware
that copying a copyright program is unlawful even if
you do not INTEND to deprive the author of his
royalties. If you DO have such an intention ....
It has also come to my notice that some TI owners are
merrily copying recent commercial copyright works, such
as GRAPHX and INFOCOM adventures. This is not merely
unlawful, it is insane: how much longer will authors
bring out high quality material if xxxxs like that copy
their work without paying a penny for it? If you should
happen to have a hot for even slightly warm) copy of
such programs, please give consideration to purchasing
an authentic copy (and thereby supporting the
commercial infrastructure which is also still
necessary) or at the very least, sending the author
direct an anonyoous donation for his work.
Is there anyone out there who still does not know what
The July copy of LA99ers Toplcs tells us about the
TI99/9 from dealer TexComp... which turned out to be a
genuine TI99/4A inside an IBM PC casing. I understand
that TexComp are not everyones friends ....
FORTH: No requests for more Forth but a request for
After this no nore Forth unless ye asks
for it lads!
TI BASIC EFFICIENCY...
Some detailed benchmark timings in PCW July 85 led me
to take another, closer look at the workings of our
FOR...NEXT loopings are faster on the TI than on the
A(4,5)=B(6,7) is faster on the TI than on the Commodore
X=5^2 is faster on the TI than on the Spectrum, the
Commodore 64 or the Apple 2. In fact, Extended Basic
is ten times faster than the Spectrum
CALL CLEAR is faster on the TI than on the Spectrum or
Forgive me for not listing all the itens for which the
TI is slower...
Conparing TI Basic with Extended Basic, in a short
benchtest program it appears that XB is slower, but XB
is much faster than TI Basic for such things as SQR, ^, ABS, LOG and SIN. ExBas string operations are
faster... a simple A$="A" running three times faster
Where does DATA belong?
I also took a look at the use of DATA in programs, to try
to settle the old chestnut of WHERE in a progran DATA
As you might expect the answer is not so simple. It
depends on whether or not your program uses RESTORE.
With DATA at the start of your program, RESTORE is
faster but READ is slower, while conversely if your
DATA is at the end of your program, RESTORE slows down
a lot but READ is much faster. NB: this MAY differ on
consoles with differing operating systems.
On average, how many RESTORES do you process, and how
If the nunber of RESTOREs TIMES FIVE exceeds the number
of READs, place your data at the beginning. If the
number of reads is more than five tines the number of
RESTOREs, place the data at the end. The difference in
the timing of RESTORE in a l0k progran is unbeleivahle!
TIW Formatter : Do you wish to prevent the FORM FEED at the END of printing? Make the
last line of your letter etc: .PL 1 and the form feed is suppressed! NB: Do not forget to
reset PL if you have another document to print!
(Thanks SUPER 99 MONTHLY for that excellent tip)
Wow. 100 utilities!!! (well, one or two
tips and demos in there... but still). You know that CALL CHARSET leaves the
lower case letters with their space invader definitions! Jim has provided us
with CALL CHARSET2... and several typefaces to choose from as well. There are
so many useful utilities on this disk it is impossible to do a full and proper
review in less than ten pages (it's DK Clive I'm not going to!). Very well
worth the US$20 Jim is asking, and you will be supporting one of the User
Groups most helpful supporters in so doing. If you use XB, and have a disk
system, buy this disk.
Earlier I mentioned piracy of a program called GRAPHX. This program is
Australian and is sold by Parco
Now... GRAPHX is a hi-resolution sketching program. There now seem to be lots
of them about... but GRAPHX does stand out above the rest, with a superb
manual (14meg zip from whtech.com), and 120% for ease of use.
It has help to assist with the odd VDP
restrictions (which every other program ignores!) and of course the obligatory
disk and printer saves. Parts of the picture can be saved or moved, and there
is even a form of animation capability! The manual includes technical
information for machine code programmers to enable them to use GRAPHX files in
their own programs. Very highly recommended. If you buy just one sketching
program, buy this one.
DRAW A BIT is an older hi res program, and comes in two versions, DAB1 and
DAB2. DAB2 is more advanced but unfinished and of course harder to use. The
manual supplied is a trifle ropey, and together with the appalling demo screens
very nearly put me off progressing with the programs .... which would have been
a pity. The two programs are quite different and each has its strong point.
Ease of use is not too good, especially with DAB2! but with practice you can
quickly come to grips with them.
How to compare these three hi res programs? GRAPHX scores highly on manual,
demos, and ease of use. DAB gave me problems with PRINTING- I was able to amend
DAB1 to work with my Epson FX8O, but still cannot print with DAB2.
DAB allows storage of actual drawing sequences, as well as storage of finished
pictures, which can have its uses. DAB2 uses an automatic fill routine, which
can be messy if there is a break in the outline, but both DAB1 and GRAPHX go
for a semi-automatic FILL so the damage is contained!
DAB2 has many more features than GRAPHX including texture painting and more
flexible addition of text to pictures, but lacks the ability to slide parts of
the picture around.
DAB is cheaper! and is sold by Arcade Hardware. A serious graphics artist would
need all three programs, because of the different effects each offers. And be
advised: in hi res mode, the TI is capable of some astonishing pictures.
And do not forget SUPER SKETCH (and printer utility DFX
Screen Dump)- Super Sketch may offer fewer utilities, but is handy for the
younger sketcher or for a quick free hand sketch.
Dab is written by Dominic Melfi ....
Also by Dominic Melfi (and from Arcade) is a THREE GAME DISK containing KIPPY's
NIGHTMARE , SPACE STATION 1
and BANG BANG SUB.
The latter puts you in command of a submarine being attacked
by air and by sea. In all three programs the level of difficulty gets harder
and harder and harder .... and in this package (twenty quid for three machine
code programs!) do offer super value for money. All three games are quite
playable - although they will be preferred by speed freaks! And I defy ANYONE
to score over 300,000 on any of the games!
Oldtimers may recall CHRISTINE COMPUTING LTD., operated by Ian and Christine
Godman down in Watford. Congratulations to the couple on the birth of BARBARA
ANN at 4.50am!
A discount mail order price list for TI99/4A software has fallen into my hands,
from RAMTOPS, Levenshulme, Manchester. The catalogue has a large number of
titles for the TI99/4A... looking very much like a list of titles from an old
Stainless Software catalogue...
At no time has Stainless Software sold goods to this establishment, and our
spy calling in the shop found no stock available. If anybody has sent money and
had nothing back, please contact the Official Receivers Office in Manchester.
A receiving order was made against Mr D Barrett trading as RAMTOPS on 18th
July 1985, under reference MANCHESTER 25 of 1985.