This web page contains the text of my articles for owners of the TI-99/4a in a series called Rambles, from Issue 11 of TI*MES dated Winter (issued during the Winter of 1985 to 1986), 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 11, Winter (issued Winter 1985-1986)
Rambles by Stephen Shaw
Hello again. Good to met so many of you at the show.
After the deafening
lack of response on Forth I gave a little warning in
the last issue: it worked! Many of you have written
asking for MORE Forth so more there is. Thanks
especially for the more detailed requests... they are
BIRMINGHAM was fun, thanks Clive, Audrey, and everyone
else. I travelled in on the first train of the day and back on
the last (through) train of the day, so the timing was
just right... I started the day with a very nice bacon
buttie at a mere 50p from a transport caff near the
Civic Hall. Did you spot the new products? I walked
out with a TREASURE ISLAND module and an INFOCOM
INFOCOM ADVENTURE: PLANETFALL
available from Arcade Hardware.
I'm not a good adventure player and I haven't been too happy
with the usual two-word adventures seen so far.
INFOCOM however allow a more wordy input, and provide a
very wordy output. If you ask for copy to be printed
you can quickly go through a box of paper!
PLANETFALL is a 'standard' level adventure, ideal for
adult beginners. Even I have managed 27 points (out of
80) so far. There is ample room for 'adventuring'
here, and some nice touches. Ever tried picking an
activated robot up? Worth trying. And if all else
The package is not cheap, but includes
all the frills... well made box, colourful booklet,
extraterrestrial post cards (ideal for post card
collectors), personal diary, ID Card (ideal for credit
card wallet...). The disk is a FLIPPY, which carries
proprietary protection only. (Copy it with anything
other than Disk Manager Module!). And if you should
get stuck, all is not lost...
INVISICLUE HINT Books are available in the Uk
from Software Exxxess, nn Sxxxxyhurst Rd.,
Exxxxgton, BIRMINGHAM. tel DEI 384 SDBD for credit card
These hint books are VERY clever. Lots of
questions are posed... some of them are of no use at
all and are there just to mislead you. For each
question there are one, two or three blank boxes. If
there is more than one answer, they are in increasing
order of helpfulness: if you only need a very subtle
hint thats all you get. To read the clues you run a
special felt tip pen (supplied) over the paper and the
clue is revealed. There is a separate folded plan
included if you need it.
A section of the book
indicates how the points are accumulated, and suggests
some things to try after you have scored 80 points,
just for fun.
IF you like adventures, you can't live without the
Infocom series. If you are not keen on adventures,
take a look at a 'standard level' Infocom adventure,
such as PLANETFALL (SF), ZORK I (classic underground
adventure), ENCHANTER (magic), WITNESS (murder mystery)
CUTTHROATS (a mercenary diver) and of course if
anarchy appeals, the HITCHHIKERS GUIDE.
The ease of copying ensures that some TI owners will
choose the cheap (and illegal) way to obtain these
products: but will INFOCOM continue to support our
machine if you do? Will the UK importer be able to
support us if you do? And the packaging is worth
THE STICK shaftless joystick.
Many moons ago a venerable shaftless joystick appeared
called LE STICK, and it is still available from MAPLIN
for GBP 24.90. Both LE STICK and THE STICK are wired for
Atari computers and require an adaptor for the Tl99/4A.
Both use gravity sensitive mercury switches to sense
the orientation of the stick.
Shaftless operation means no shaft to break. Mercury
switches have the disadvantages of SLOSHING if held in
a trembling hand, or if operated slightly
enthusiastically. THE STICK seems less liable to slush
than LE STICK. THE STICK has two very comfortable fire
buttons. Use requires practice and a firm controlled
Maybe a little difficult for such games as
MUNCHMAN but eminently suitable for POLE POSITION or TI
INVADERS. The stick insists on a sensitive touch and
can make for very relaxed play (or else!).
TREASURE ISLAND is quite a rare module (try PARCO) and
only just made it. It is the only one by DATA EAST to
make it (the other, ANGLER DANGLER seems to have been
lost in the crash). A well written game, by no means
You guide a little character along mountain
paths up an island/mountain which is steadily scrolling
downwards. NASTIES may throw things at you or dislodge
you... you can throw rocks back at them too.
transport you to exit at other caves, at random. The
game insists that you pay steady and close attention at
all times! and gets harder as you go along. A colour
tv is not absolutely essential but recommended. As is
this module. It is fun and it is different.
Some members have suggested to me that they NEVER play
games and have no interest in them. I am sorry about
that... I came into computing as a confirmed games
player! Games of course provide a good entry point for
programmers, be it in basic or machine code or
whatever. They also provide recreation and relaxation.
I won't support the shoot-em-quick variety of game,
although they do have their place (TI Invaders is a
very good 2nd generation module). But I do question a
decision to put games to one side and ignore them!
Thats how I feel!
Need a GOOD DATABASE? Somehow we have not done very
well with the TI99/A when it comes to a database
program. PRK is a very early module, and excellent in
its way, but you soon come up against the memory
constraint... and PRK does NOT recognise the 32k ram!
What is needed is a disk-based data base. If they can
work with a RAM CARD (such as Myarcs) so much the
There have been several attempts at producing a disk
database for the TI. So many of them however use a
fixed size record, of one disk sector, regardless of
what YOU want to file! And a SSSD disk only allows 358
To the rescue... DATABASE 1 by SPC SOFTWARE. US$30 plus pp.. say an
extra $5 from Box nnn, Bxxxxtwaters, NY, USA, nnn18.
This package took a few weeks to arrive, but I was very
happy to receive it. MICROpendium rated it an A, and I
have to agree.
The size of each record is set by YOU
(and can be subsequently amended). Within that record
you may have up to ten fields. Each is limited to 28
chars. The TOTAL record size say be used up between
the fields with total flexibility. If you try to enter
more text than there is room for, you are told and
allowed to reduce the entry.
Documentation runs to 30 pages in D/V8O format on the
disk. Sort and Search facilities are available, and
with care, a double sort is possible. Files may be
split or combined. You can with one instruction write
a common string to one field of every record!
There is a disk cataloguing utility. Formatting output
is easy and flexible. There is a mail facility which
allows you to use selected data in letters created with
TI Writer. When letters are written it is possible to
amend fields (eg DATE LAST LETTER). And if the
program utilities don't suit you for some purpose,
records are in a very accessible format allowing you to
write your own utilities.
How many records per disk?
Depends on how many characters per record... if you
choose 70 characters per record ( enough for many
simple record keeping purposes) then you can fit over a
thousand records on a single density single sided disk.
If you have bigger disks you can fit more on!
A very useful general purpose database program. Mostly
in ExBas for easy personalisation with the important
bits in machine code! (eg sorting!).
Very highly recommended.
Mr M G Poskitt has written mentioning console lock outs
when RESEQUENCING long programs ....
When the computer resequences, let's say it changes line
3000 to line 100... it then has to go through the
program and change every reference to 3000 to 100...
and keep track of where it is.
This requires a little
memory. If you have a very large program there may not
be enough room for the housekeeping work to be done.
result... a hung up console.
Mr E J Stocks asks about an entry in the Mini Memory
'BLWP @VMBR Equates VMBR to >6030 '
What does this mean?
Using the Line by line assembler you are limited to two
letter labels and cannot use VMBR - you must use an
However... if you write a program using the
EDITOR/ASSEMBLER, you may use VMBR and YOU D0 NOT NEED
EQUATES. When the assembled code is read by mini
memory it automatically does the equate to >6030.
Therefore machine code programmers can produce one
source code secure in the knowledge that it will load
with Ed/As AND Minimem. There is absolutely no need to
produce special source code with mini mem equates if
you use Editor/Assembler.
Also in the mini memory manual, we are told that the
code for CIF is >23. This is wrong (page 46 refers).
The XML routine code for CIF is 72. Hence DATA >7200.
This quite serious error seems never to have been
corrected by TI, and the source of the error is not too
BASIC BASIC BASIC BASIC
Keep your eyes open, 'cos
you will shortly come to a little surprise: 32 sprites
in TI BASIC with no special modules required, no
peripherals except a tape recorder...
(Ha! That even made the machine code programmers sit up
Several thousand programs for PC99 can be found on the inexpensive DVD-rom from CaDD Electronics, The Cyc, just $25 for programs plus huge amounts of documentation, many books and manuals - all legally copied and reformatted in searchable form, - considerable effort. Includes legal copies of all TI modules in PC99 format, including the much sought Tunnels of Doom module. Available to PC99 owners, and the cost of the CD plus PC99 Lite itself is a great deal less than the bare TI99/4 sold for originally. And it is legally licensed by TI. Might look costly but a huge amount of work has gone into it- US$72 for an immense organised fully searchable library plus TI programs and modules. UK readers can arrange with Mike to make payment into a UK bank account. VAT and post office collection charges are payable on delivery in the UK.
Note that Mike only checks his emails every week or so!