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TI-99/4A Software Conversion

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#1 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 11, 2017 10:34 AM

I used TI Extended BASIC and 32K RAM expansion to write games and create music in the 1980s, and I'm trying to easily resurrect this content 35 years later.

 

There are a variety of emulators and gizmos like the CatWeasel, but before I go too far, I'm wondering if there is a setup that can handle all these requirements:

 

- Ability to read original 5-1/4" disks

- TI Extended BASIC required

- 32K RAM exapansion required

- Games include custom "data" (strings of custom music and graphics) which must be periodically loaded during gameplay... not just code...this must be accessed using the "INPUT" (with files) command

 

I'm trying to decide upon the right approach:

 

1. Repair or replace my original hardware and get it to run it on the original platform

2. Try to build a conversion / emulator system and bring these files into the 21st century

3. Find someone with existing conversion capabilities who might be willing to help

 

I assume someone could help a software restoration newbie like me navigate the technical gotchas?

 

The content is mainly text parser adventure games (rather goofy ones at that) and music and graphic utilities I authored myself.

 

 

Thanks for all sage advice!



#2 adamantyr ONLINE  

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Posted Thu May 11, 2017 10:47 AM

Welcome, glad to have you here! :)

 

I myself got back into my TI about 12 years ago when I went back to school. I'd had full disk system and memory back in the day, so most of my software was on 5 1/4" disks as well.

 

In order to do the conversion, I had to put together a DOS PC (fortunately I still had one at the time) with a 5 1/4" drive installed, and run a TI conversion program to read the disks and output them as DSK images that I could then transfer via 3 1/2" disk to my Windows PC. (You can't use a 5 1/4" drive on modern Windows to my knowledge, it won't know what to do with it or it will use emulated versions of disk reading that won't read TI format.)

 

I personally find using Classic99 for all my programming to be the most convenient and easy way to write software. Getting it back to the iron is a bit tricker; I currently use a NanoPEB with a CF card to do this. It works pretty well, I've only recently discovered one annoying bug/issue related to files that occupy high VDP memory. Another option is a Lotharek drive, which emulates a floppy drive. You'll have to put it into your PE Box, but I've heard good things about it, may check that out myself...

 

Let me know if you want assistance with converting floppy disks to emulation... I could dig out the DOS PC and make sure it all still works. :)



#3 Sinphaltimus OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 11, 2017 11:12 AM

I have conversion capabilities and am willing to help if it comes to that.

#4 arcadeshopper OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 11, 2017 11:16 AM

There's also a gotek drive which is cheaper than the lotherek and uses the same format files with a special firmware upgrade.  

The program is ti99pc and it's available on ftp.whtech.com under pc utils..  to convert with a PC, it won't work with anything modern as the bios won't support the drive like you say.. gotta find an old PC at a recycler or something.

 

I can convert real media to digital if you need..  happy to do so.. 

 

Greg



#5 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 11, 2017 12:55 PM

@adamantyr, @Sinphaltimus, @arcadeshopper:

 

Thanks for the offers of support and the range of ideas!

 

I'm going to unbox my TI diskettes and peripherals tonight and put it back together to see what happens (last time I tried this was 16 years ago, when it failed.)

 

I will follow up with a description of the problems I encounter to see if that pushes me toward a more specific strategy.

 

 



#6 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 12, 2017 12:06 PM

I ran into a really novice barrier last night: I no longer own a TV with VHF screw terminals!
 

Is there a recommended adapter for modern TV hookups (coax would be fine)?

I called Best Buy, but they didn't have an adapter that fit that description. Radio Shack is gone, so I'm forced to hunt online... What do you folks use?



#7 RickyDean OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 12, 2017 12:17 PM

 

I ran into a really novice barrier last night: I no longer own a TV with VHF screw terminals!
 

Is there a recommended adapter for modern TV hookups (coax would be fine)?

I called Best Buy, but they didn't have an adapter that fit that description. Radio Shack is gone, so I'm forced to hunt online... What do you folks use?

 

Check these out, used to find them everywhere;

http://www.ebay.com/...er&_sacat=14961



#8 Ksarul OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 12, 2017 1:26 PM

Of course, if your TV has RCA inputs, you could always get yourself a standard monitor cable.  I have one from this guy--they are quite robust. . .others are a little cheaper, but the quality is often lower too.



#9 PeteE OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 12, 2017 2:21 PM

ArcadeShopper sells composite cables too: https://www.arcadesh...tegory=22342013



#10 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 12, 2017 3:32 PM

These are all great options, thank you.



#11 Sinphaltimus OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 12, 2017 3:36 PM

Or you can get the f18a and use a VGA monitor.



#12 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 16, 2017 1:56 PM

Wow! The F18a looks really cool. Thanks for turning me on to that.

 

I just received a basic video converter in the mail, though I have obligations this evening. I should be able to hook up my old system in the next couple of days. Very curious to see if anything still works!



#13 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 7:32 AM

I'm happy to say my TI system is in better shape than I expected. It did boot in TI Extended BASIC and I was able to load some smaller programs from my 5-1/4" disks.

 

The bad news is that my 32K RAM peripheral is dead, so many programs won't load. There also seems to be data loss on a number of diskettes (I couldn't execute CALL DIR(1) without errors). I've ordered a replacement 32K RAM on eBay, so in a few days I'll see if my larger programs (and the best ones by far) can load. It's quite suspenseful. This assumes the 32K RAM module is what's in disrepair-- and not the buss of the PE Box itself-- or the firehose cable.

 

Re.: Gotek/Lotherek. Can these drives be used as a second drive in my PE Box? (i.e. Can I do an exact binary copy from DSK1 to one of those devices in order to preserve and migrate the content to an emulator running on PC? I would need to mirror the content of the drive, including both Input files and program code.)

 

I never owned two drives and I was hoping there was an easy way to duplicate a disk.

 

Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions.


Edited by davidped, Mon May 22, 2017 7:35 AM.


#14 Sinphaltimus OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 8:01 AM

Gotek/lotherek - yes you can use then with the hxc firmware. Not sure about the chippy method bit yes you can chippy data from one floppy to the virtual one. They're done utilities you'll want like TIMT to create and manage hfe floppy images on your pc if you're using Windows. Not sure if there is a Mac or Linux version. Actuallly, I believe it's java to should work on any.

#15 --- Ω --- OFFLINE  

--- Ω ---

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 8:02 AM

 

Re.: Gotek/Lotherek. Can these drives be used as a second drive in my PE Box? (i.e. Can I do an exact binary copy from DSK1 to one of those devices in order to preserve and migrate the content to an emulator running on PC? I would need to mirror the content of the drive, including both Input files and program code.)

 

I never owned two drives and I was hoping there was an easy way to duplicate a disk.

 

Actually the << Lotharek HxC >> can be used as a second and even third drive in your TI at the same time (if you want).  For example, I have mine configured as DSK1 and DSK2 (at the same time) with an actual 3.5" as DSK3.

 

Yes, provided there is no copy protection on the disk and the disk does not push errors due to floppy disk degradation, it's easy to backup files, or the entire disk from one to the other.  My program of choice is DM2K.  

 

If you are thinking of going down the Lotharek path, you might want to check out << this link >> about a very affordable way to increase your storage capacity, providing you are using an unmodified TI floppy controller.  Just a heads up though, once you start using the Lotharek, you will probably not want to bother with that 5-1/4" drive anymore.



#16 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 1:08 PM

Thank you both! The HxC sounds like a really useful option.

 

The main idea is to take these past projects into the future. If there are any worthy of sharing, I would bring those into the online community, etc.



#17 Sinphaltimus OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 1:23 PM

I should mention GoTek is less expensive but to be able to use it with HxC firmware you will need to do the add an lcd and switch mod. Overall easy and still less expensive although with a lotherek, you can emulate more than one drive and it already has it's own buttons and lcd.

Edited by Sinphaltimus, Mon May 22, 2017 1:29 PM.


#18 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 1:27 PM

"Ashtray?" I'm not familiar with that feature?



#19 Sinphaltimus OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 1:30 PM

"Ashtray?" I'm not familiar with that feature?


Thanks, fixed. Damn android text prediction feature gets me more often than not.

#20 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 1:34 PM

Ah! The autocorrect always bites me, too. I'm just new to this, so I'm never sure when there's an unfamiliar buzzword. :lolblue:



#21 Sinphaltimus OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 1:48 PM

I know what you mean, it took me a while to figure out what a "coffee warmer" was in relation to the TI consoles.

#22 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 22, 2017 3:00 PM

Ha! That's a good one (I had to look it up). ;-)



#23 davidped OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 2, 2017 3:32 PM

I just wanted to close the loop on this thread. Thanks to your encouragement, I was able to replace my bad 32K RAM card and hook up a modern monitor, and-- many of my programs came to life again!

 

Some didn't, sadly. When diskettes get that old, they're not guaranteed to survive. I was pleased at how many DID work, after being in non-temperature-controlled storage for over 20 years!



#24 Sinphaltimus OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 2, 2017 4:01 PM

It's time for some new programs. :)







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