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Tornadoboy

What could they have done better with the 99/4a?

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Not new as CorComp and other Disk cards previously had this feature of CALL CATALOG or CALL DIR.

 

It actually first existed from Miller Graphics that made a GPL Routine to be put in the GRAM KRACKER while they were researching the internal structure of the TI for products.

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I think Texas Instruments could have made the '99 better if ...

 

* They hadn't released the /4 in 1979, instead waited a while to correct issues that went wrong for them such as the 8-bit processor

* Eventually released a decent computer in 1981 with the Infra-Red wireless accessories that were planned, the headphone sockets, the volume slider where the "solid state" badge goes

* 32K internal RAM with no reliance on memory in the VDP (because by 1981 this was viable)

* Two standard joystick ports (atari compatible)

* Access to Assembly from Basic

* TI Extended Basic internal - simply called Basic.

* The ability to have Machine Code saved and loaded from cassette tape. (Would have saved the '99 in the UK at least)

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To Retrospect's point - in other words, include more features and functionality with the unit instead of a rather anemic "starter computer" for which many expensive and hard to find add-ons were needed to get it near to what the Apple ][+ and Atari 800 offered for the same amount of money. By the time Commodore released the 64 in 1982, the TI was already looking under-powered and overpriced.

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First, let me say that I love topics like this. It's so much fun to speculate with the clarity of perfect hindsight.

 

I'm going to go in a radically different direction and propose that TI shouldn't have tried to compete in the "home computer" arena at all. Rather, I think they would have better leveraged their brand by creating a more science and engineering focused portable machine based on their 990 Series Mini computers. This could have competed quite nicely with what HP attempted with their Series 80 machines. As a producer of microcomputer chips, plus a science and engineering pedigree that included National Defense contracts, they could have brought legitimacy in more expensive computing gear that could be designed to interface with equipment such as multi-meters and oscilloscopes. This would have kept them out of the home-computer price wars with Atari, Commodore, Tandy, and eventually Coleco.

 

When I look at the form-factor of the Kaypro II, I can very easily imagine that machine with Texas Instruments branding and a 16-bit TI chip-set; a portable version of what they eventually released as the DS990. I think it was TI's success with the Speak & Spell that fooled them into thinking they could compete successfully in the consumer electronics market. I think they could have "dabbled" in that market with simple, low-end devices like those later produced by Tomy and V-Tech.

 

But if they'd devoted their main engineering (and marketing) thrust to a "real" microcomputer - a professional technology "instrument" (...I mean hey, it's right there in their NAME!), I think they might have gotten a foot-hold ahead of IBM in the legitimate "professional" micro-computing arena.

Edited by almightytodd
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TI did make a card to interface with test equipment: the IEEE-488 card for the PEB. I actually have two of these. . .

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First, let me say that I love topics like this. It's so much fun to speculate with the clarity of perfect hindsight.

 

I'm going to go in a radically different direction and propose that TI shouldn't have tried to compete in the "home computer" arena at all. Rather, I think they would have better leveraged their brand by creating a more science and engineering focused portable machine based on their 990 Series Mini computers. This could have competed quite nicely with what HP attempted with their Series 80 machines. As a producer of microcomputer chips, plus a science and engineering pedigree that included National Defense contracts, they could have brought legitimacy in more expensive computing gear that could be designed to interface with equipment such as multi-meters and oscilloscopes. This would have kept them out of the home-computer price wars with Atari, Commodore, Tandy, and eventually Coleco.

 

When I look at the form-factor of the Kaypro II, I can very easily imagine that machine with Texas Instruments branding and a 16-bit TI chip-set; a portable version of what they eventually released as the DS990. I think it was TI's success with the Speak & Spell that fooled them into thinking they could compete successfully in the consumer electronics market. I think they could have "dabbled" in that market with simple, low-end devices like those later produced by Tomy and V-Tech.

 

But if they'd devoted their main engineering (and marketing) thrust to a "real" microcomputer - a professional technology "instrument" (...I mean hey, it's right there in their NAME!), I think they might have gotten a foot-hold ahead of IBM in the legitimate "professional" micro-computing arena.

Well, I have to think TI would have been better off making a more professional computer targeting the $1500 to $2500 price range.

A desktop case with external keyboard, maybe an OS modified from their mini-computers, 64K (32K words) RAM standard with RAM expansion cards adding to that.

They had access to several compilers, and existing software, just put it on a desktop workstation.

The initial version might only be 3 MHz, but later versions would be 8 MHz or more.

 

 

Edited by JamesD

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I always harken back to what folks like Consumer Reports et al complained about - slow BASIC, "confusing" keyboard, and the cost of peripherals. IIRC, the oft-quoted figure of PE Box sales was something like 10% of console sales. Largely because of the cost. $1200-1400 to get 32K and a disk system was pretty high compared to Commodore. Those kinds of prices put the machine in Apple territory, not Commodore. But to stand the argument on its ear, I wonder what things would have been like if the console itself had the slots internally and it sold with the 32K installed...no expansion system needed.

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That's what they should have done, 32K internal ... because by 1981, the price of RAM had dropped somewhat from the heady days of the 70's ... 1978 they were tinkering around with the idea of the TI-99 and that's why it had it's RAM in the VDP because of prohibitive costs in that year. Why they had to pay high prices though is beyond me when they're a chip manufacturer.

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Just like IBM ... every division is on its own, not a real chance to get a special offer from the guys in the semiconductor group...? If I remember correctly, IBM, in particular, had OS/2 as an advanced operating system significantly ahead of Windows in those times, and yet the PC division set up and sold their boxes with Windows.

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In hindsight, they could have kept an ear to the ground for what the Japanese were doing and released a machine in the summer of 1983 to match the spec of the SEGA SC-3000.

 

And if that brought in enough cash, then they could have offered MSX compatibility.

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In hindsight, they could have kept an ear to the ground for what the Japanese were doing and released a machine in the summer of 1983 to match the spec of the SEGA SC-3000.

 

And if that brought in enough cash, then they could have offered MSX compatibility.

TI-99/8 would have competed with it nicely but then they pulled out of the home computers altogether.

 

I've a sneaky suspicion though regarding those computers in Japan - they all came out after '83, am I right? TI probably had lots of chips going spare and they ended up with the MSX. which was what the TI-99 could have been, if they'd only gotten the CPU right and other architectural quirks.

Edited by Retrospect
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maybe this was mentioned before- but I always felt TI's practices with third-party software were limiting for the platform too (not that this didn't stop innovation!).

 

The durability of the hardware I think was one of the greater points of the 99/4A and I concur that it would've been cool for TI to position themselves going into 83-84 for the Personal Computer market rather than trying to compete with Commodore directly for price point.

 

The 'Video Game Crash' would've likely made the computer less attractive as a game console, but a really good hook for the kids. ;-)

 

Trying a similar strategy to the TI-8x series of Graphing Calculators where the 99/xx infiltrated the school market exclusively could have been a game-changer.

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We have to try to see through TI's eyes back in the 80's.

 

The way they saw it, the only profit to be made from selling computers, was in selling the software, not the hardware, so while it could be argued that if they opened up GROM access to 3rd party developers (at least at less than $4 a chip), that development would have gone wild (and that, by removing the 8K restriction, we would likely have had some of the best software of any of the "home" computers of the time), the TI piece of the pie would have been less significant. AND if this development would have resulted in selling more consoles (which by that time TI was selling at $50-$100, it would have ended up costing TI a ton of money.)

 

Also important to remember that in the early 80's, memory cost a small fortune....

"Prediction: The cost for 128 kilobytes of memory will fall below U$100 in the near future." - Creative Computing magazine December 1981

(to put that in perspective, at that price the 256MB CF card I use in my nanoPEB would have cost me $200,000 WHOLESALE!!! (If CF cards had existed in '81 of course) And remember, that was a prediction... real world retail price for 128k in 1980/81 averaged $300-$400!

 

And as mentioned, the video-game industry looked like it was going to crash (which of course it did), and no one could have expected the Famicon would come rising from the ashes, creating a second wave that we continue to ride today.

 

It is just sad that TI didn't fix more of the "quirks" when they moved from the 4 to the 4A, and recognized that their competition was the Commodore 64 / Atari 800, NOT the VIC-20 (which never held a candle to the 4A). They dig their own grave when they decided to play along with Commodore's VIC-20 price war.

 

Mind you, if TI would have done everything 'right', and successfully released the 99/8, would its home computer line have survived the birth of the Amiga and Atari ST a few months later, when they themselves did not survive the end of non-standardized hardware/software a couple years later. (except of course for Apple, although they DID nearly commit suicide with their bland beige PowerPC line - until saved from death's door by Jobs, with his bright coloured translucent iMacs and the neXT based osX)

 

TI just never had a Steve Jobs (but neither did Commodore or Atari - although Tramiel came close for both of them in a purely capitalist (non-visionary) sense).

Edited by PeBo
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1. I black/silver models had a tendency to scrape the top of the carts because of the aluminum tab. That could have been designed better.

2. The power switch sucks on the black/silver models. They fixed it on the beige models but took away the LED (but it can be added back in).

3. Better sound or at least 3 more voices of music? The C64 has great sound.

4. Real functions keys.

5. Built-in speech (in the console)

6. And my god the firehose! Surely there was a better way.

 

Darryl

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47 minutes ago, Samuel Pedigo said:

(:: does not work on TI basic, nor does Call Char)

Pretty sure call char works in TI Basic.

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50 minutes ago, Samuel Pedigo said:

not require XB for even the simplest programs (:: does not work on TI basic, nor does Call Char)

 

CALL CHAR() works just fine in TI Basic. Perhaps you intended a different XB statement.

 

...lee

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CALL CHAR statement works in TI Basic but I think I know why you say it doesn't 

In Extended Basic we can define 4 chars with one call char statement ie; 

CALL CHAR(104,"0307070307070707377F7F7F3800000080C0C080C0C0C0C0D8FCFCFC38000000")

 

Whereas in TI Basic that hex pattern would have to be broken down into 

CALL CHAR(104,"0307070307070707")

CALL CHAR(105,"377F7F7F38000000")
CALL CHAR(106,"80C0C080C0C0C0C0")
CALL CHAR(107,"D8FCFCFC38000000")

 

:)

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On 4/23/2017 at 8:21 PM, --- Ω --- said:

I would have liked a "DOS CARTRIDGE" that would have given the TI an environment similar to at least TRSDOS 1.3. By today's standards, it was a very simple DOS, but considering what we had to work with,m it would have been wonderful.

 

(Example manual attached below)

TRSDOS 13.pdf 261.47 kB · 10 downloads

 

After coming across this old post from a little over two years ago, I'm struck with how much things have changed/improved over that time.  With the new Force Command DOS for the TI by @jedimatt42 it's like a whole new TI world.

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3 hours ago, Samuel Pedigo said:

Is there a version of C or C++ for the TI?

Yes:

C99, C99C, and GCC.  The first is a native compiler, and the others are cross compilers.  All support C, and I believe only GCC supports C++.  See the first post in this thread for links to the respective compilers:

 

 

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What Retrospect has already said, basically the TI994/A failed because most of it's (admitedly later) competition just ran straight out of the box, all the expensive add-on's required held back software development and users jumped ship to other platforms as the market matured.  Just one of those things really, TI went in early attempted to set the standard and the competition learned from their mistakes and the rest is history.  A fully expanded system was no less capable than the other systems of the time but just how many users had a "fully expanded system" back in the day?

 

With all that said and done we now live in the age of hindsight and get to experience the software from the like of Rasmus Moustguard to show us how it should have been back in the day.

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