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Who created TI-99 BASIC, TI or MS?

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There seems to be a bit of controversy if Microsoft created TI-99 BASIC. I have heard for many years that TI created it in house. But recent I was told Bill Gates claims MS created TI BASIC. what have you to say. Please source if you can. Note: The Wiki pages may or may not be apocryphal so don't take them as your source.  

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It was developed in house at TI not by Microsoft as has been rumored. That is according to TI Engineer H. Schuurman who was responsible for TI-99/4 File system and was in the 99/4 team in Lubbock.

ref.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TI_BASIC_(TI_99/4A)

 

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TI BASIC was a dialect of BASIC for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Home Computer (1981), developed under contract to Microsoft by Bob Wallace and Bob Greenberg.

ref.: http://mytechne.com/programming-languages/ti-basic-ti-994a

 

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Wallace said, "I put in a lot of extra time trying to get the TI BASIC to do funny little things ... In BASIC, you could bring up a line and edit the line. So ... suppose you wanted the same line somewhere else. Why can't you just edit the line numbers? And it didn't work that way, so I worked a lot to get it to work that way. ... Unlike other Microsoft BASICs, which used LEFT$, MID$, RIGHT$, and ...

ref.: Manes, Stephen; Andrews, Paul (1993). Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself The Richest Man in America. Touchstone. ISBN 0-385-42075-7.
 

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He was first hired in 1977 by Bill Gates (with whom he had attended Harvard) to create a new version of the programming language BASIC for a Texas Instruments computer

ref.: https://microsoft.fandom.com/wiki/Bob_Greenberg

 

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- GATES: Our basic business strategy was to charge a price so low that microcomputer makers couldn't do the software internally for that cheap. One of the bigger early contracts was Texas Instruments, where we bid $99,000 to provide programming languages for a home computer they were planning. We picked that price because we were too shy to make a bid in the six figures. Afterward we realized they would have paid a lot more, and we thought, "I guess this is what the big shots do: They bid big numbers."

ref.: http://www2.cs.uregina.ca/~cs104/how_to_do/gates_quotes/quotes/software.html

 

 

Edited by sometimes99er
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Here are extracts from an Interview that Dan Eicher did and one that I did.

 

Granville Ott

by Dan Eicher
May 21, 2004

 

Granville Ott was the chief architect for the TI-99/4A development. And yet, to TI'ers, he is relativelyunknown. He is listed as a contributor to the Mini Memory (PHM3058), Line-by-Line Assembler(PHM3058L). He is also credited with inventing the GROM and the Graphics Programming Language(GPL), and was the author of a number of patents fundamental to the Home Computer.

 

Q. Do you have any knowledge of a project called Basic Support Module? It was a cartridge that was only available to TI employees. It came with or without 2K RAM and added a number of commands to Basic — almost a cross-breed of the Mini Memory with a bit of Extended Basic put in.
A. The initial Basic was a little weaker than we wanted. We had talked to Bill Gates in Albuquerque, NM, but his retargetable Fortran would run too slow on our machine.


Q. There is heated debate about TI Basic. We believe the first implementation was done by Microsoft. Is this correct? If so, who set up the deal? Do you know of any details? How much did it cost TI? How was it delivered? How long did it take to write? Was it considered quality code? Who did Extended Basic?
A. We talked to Bill Gates before Microsoft, but didn't buy his because of it would be slow. We wrote it ourselves. I don't remember who all worked on it, but I will look at some of my old documentation and try to catch Herman Harrison and ask him.

 

Herman Schuurman
by Klaus Lukaschek
December 2015

Quote

 

Texas Instruments
Lead Programmer - Consumer Products Group
March 1978 – Sept. 1981
Lubbock, Texas

Software design for advanced personal computer products. Design and implementation of Text to Speech system based on TMS5200 speech synthesizer; TI 99/4A mini memory development system; I/O section of 99/4 Home Computer; I/O section of BASIC interpreter; system software for various peripheral devices.

Data taken from LinkedIn

 

 

Q. Can you describe your involvement in the TI-99/4 project?

A. The Home Computer (99/4) project started about a year before I joined the team in Lubbock.  I believe the original promotors of the project were Granville Ott and Len Donohoe.  I was originally hired to work on the SR-70, a small scientific computer, but by the time I landed in Lubbock, that project had been moved to the Data Systems Group in Austin, and I was put to work on the SR-62, a small self-contained computer that shared most of its software with the Home Computer. In addition to the Home Computer stuff, the SR-62 had a small built-in monitor and a thermal printer. When the Home Computer eventually fell behind schedule, the entire SR-62 team was moved over to complete the 99/4.

Since my background was in operating system design, I worked on a lot of I/O related stuff such as the audio cassette, thermal printer, etc.  I also was responsible for the I/O section of the BASIC interpreter, including formatted I/O, etc... One of the more complex peripherals was the floppy drive. Bill Nale and I split that design, with Bill responsible for the hardware and the low level software, while I took the file system design and implementation.  This was the only time I remember having contact with anyone from Microsoft, even though a lot of 99/4 websites seem to think that Microsoft was responsible for a lot of the software on the 99/4.  We had Bob Greenberg come out once to validate the file system design (there were no design changes).

 

Q. Do you know how it came that the command to load a program is called "OLD" on the TI?

A. It probably came from the original Dartmouth BASIC, where OLD was used to retrieve a program from storage, and NEW to start a new program.

 

Q. Do you know how much Microsoft or Bill Gates was involved in the TI Basic / System Rom of the 99/4?

A. Microsoft was not involved with the 99/4 development.  They (in the form of Bob Greenberg) were contracted to develop BASIC for the SR-70 (which is also sometimes referred to as the 99/7), but the BASIC for the 99/4 was developed in-house.

 

Q. Why was the native GPL chip replaced with the TMS9985? How far was the GPL chip developed?

A. Although it was before my arrival in Lubbock, the GPL chip was supposed to be developed for an external customer. When that customer dropped out, the GPL chip was also dropped, and was replaced by the TMS9985.

 

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I haven't got there yet, but this is probably at least partially a response to my question in the other thread. Thanks for collecting it. ;)

 

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it looks like 2 things may have happened that explain how Bill Gates remembers them creating a BASIC for TI while the engineers remember it being created in house:

1.) MS created a BASIC for the TI-99 then TI scrapped it and created their own.

2.) What Bill Gates is remembering was the BASIC for the 99/7 that one of the engineers remembers MS creating. The 99/7 never came to fruition.

My guess is the 2nd one.  

But in defense of 1.) a similar story is where MS was going to create the BASIC for the Atari 8-bit line but MS couldn't get it to fit in 8k. So Atari kept the code, gave it to Shepardson who told Atari it was easier to just modify an existing BASIC from another machine they were coding. That became Atari BASIC and the original MS code became Atari MS BASIC they sold later. So it's possible MS created a BASIC code that TI rejected then used parts of it for TI BASIC. Back then companies out right bought the code from MS.

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I picked this up this week...both extremely informative and enjoyable. Found this:

 

E6D3F2F5-DA9F-42E7-B4C6-6B3B08511193.thumb.jpeg.5cafa361fffb041f317bfff3250ce284.jpeg

 

I’m only half-way through it and already have learned so much about the origins of: BASIC, Time Share systems, and the early microcomputer era.

 

Easy to enjoy the fascinating stories within. Recommend.

 

6CF3E4B3-F646-4A4E-8C76-71339B3A22F9.thumb.jpeg.822a4a00daadc3b84b741c354ca70fe1.jpeg

 

So is it safe to assume the whole “TI only supplied Microsoft with a TI interpreter” deal was yet another example of TI’s closed system approach biting them in the posterior?

 

Looks like Microsoft did a version for the 99/4 which understandably ran too slow, so TI rolled their own less-slower BASIC?

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well, it's looking more and more like MS created a BASIC that wasn't up to snuff and then TI made their own. It's possible, considering the short time span mentioned in the book, that MS submitted their BASIC, TI management killed it then told TI engineering to write their own BASIC and the engineers weren't even aware MS had been involved.  

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2 hours ago, hloberg said:

it looks like 2 things may have happened that explain how Bill Gates remembers them creating a BASIC for TI while the engineers remember it being created in house:

Bill Gates has never, to my knowledge, claimed to write TI BASIC for the 99/4. The sources that we have do not quote Bill Gates, nor was he claimed to be the coder. But that Microsoft contracted with TI is the point he seems to have been involved in. What's unclear is the result of that contract.

 

My problem with the 99/7 theory is that of timing. Was the 99/7 really in development - to the point of coding the operating system - even before the 99/4 was released?

 

1 hour ago, Airshack said:

So is it safe to assume the whole “TI only supplied Microsoft with a TI interpreter” deal was yet another example of TI’s closed system approach biting them in the posterior?

 

Looks like Microsoft did a version for the 99/4 which understandably ran too slow, so TI rolled their own less-slower BASIC?

I think it's safer to assume that the "TI interpreter" is GPL. I mean... if the BASIC that shipped was someone's idea of a "less-slower" BASIC, then the whole team should have been canned. ;)

 

It's not like Microsoft were new to writing BASIC interpreters, nor were they new to working under virtual machines. Most of their BASICs were developed under virtual machines of one sort or another. It's hard to believe that it failed so badly that TI were willing to start from scratch on the entire BASIC interpreter.

 

Of course, it's also possible that that 4 day effort was insufficient and snuffed. And it's possible that they were simply working on a different machine that didn't make it. All these stories are feasible, but I don't think there's enough data to map it out absolutely.

 

The (non-contradictory) facts that we appear to have are that Microsoft was involved at some point, and that TI in-house developed a BASIC interpreter. The uncertain facts seem to be what Microsoft was developing for, and whether that code was ever used. Personally, I think that's what belongs on the Wikipedia article - citations of the sources and a note that they may contradict or that portions are uncertain. Or... we go hammer the sources a little more. ;)

 

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The many internal documents from TI on the TI-99 that the community has got don't indicate a single involvment of Microsoft.

I assume there is no doubt that the GPL interpreter and the System Software was done by TI themselves.

The GPL interpreter contains 3 dedicated commands for the Basic Interpreter.

https://archive.org/details/tibook_ti994a-intern

These 3 commands are the only ones that are in ROM plus some tables, the remaining of the Basic Interpreter is written in GPL and in the Groms.

Also the Documentation on the Basic Interpreter is not indicating a different format/style or a note that Microsoft was involved.

I will check the interviews that Dan Eicher did (\cyc\articles\eicher\intrview\intrview.pdf) for information on the timing on the TI-99/7.

 

 

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Like Wikipedia, I am not quick to trust information in a self-published book, especially when lacking citations.

 

Plus, he used the word "floundering" when he should have used "foundering."

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32 minutes ago, OLD CS1 said:

Like Wikipedia, I am not quick to trust information in a self-published book, especially when lacking citations.

 

Plus, he used the word "floundering" when he should have used "foundering."

The book is extremely sloppy.

 

Their info on the graphing calculator BASIC.. well, a simple read of the TI-74 Basicalc manual would make that look foolish.

 

https://ftp.whtech.com/hexbus_cc40_ti74/ti-74/TI74 Programming Reference Guide.pdf

 

 

The Basicalc interpreter was derived from the CC-40 language.

 

 

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3 hours ago, FarmerPotato said:

Their info on the graphing calculator BASIC.. well, a simple read of the TI-74 Basicalc manual would make that look foolish.

Also, their first graphing calculator didn't come out until 1990, so their graphing calculator business very much wasn't flourishing in the early 80s.

Hell, if the TI-81 came out in 1983, it would've been epoch-making for the display alone.

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OK guys, I'm going to update Wikipedia sometime this week so what do you think I should put. obviously there is possibly conflict info. should I just point  the conflict with citations? 

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On 8/24/2019 at 6:08 PM, hloberg said:

Back then companies out right bought the code from MS.

Hm, is that really the case? Microsoft at one point wanted to charge Commodore a license fee per sold computer (PET) which Jack Tramiel replied to with "I am already married" and instead negotiated a legandary one time license fee for using BASIC with rights for own modifications. It caused Microsoft to secretly add an Easter Egg in the next version of BASIC which made Jack upset and forced them to remove it. However remains of that Easter Egg can be found both in other 6502 and even 6809 based versions of Microsoft BASIC.

 

If it was custom to buy Microsoft BASIC in form of (source) code instead of some form of licensing, the Commodore deal shouldn't seem as unique.

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6 minutes ago, carlsson said:

Hm, is that really the case? Microsoft at one point wanted to charge Commodore a license fee per sold computer (PET) which Jack Tramiel replied to with "I am already married" and instead negotiated a legandary one time license fee for using BASIC with rights for own modifications. It caused Microsoft to secretly add an Easter Egg in the next version of BASIC which made Jack upset and forced them to remove it. However remains of that Easter Egg can be found both in other 6502 and even 6809 based versions of Microsoft BASIC.

 

If it was custom to buy Microsoft BASIC in form of (source) code instead of some form of licensing, the Commodore deal shouldn't seem as unique.

ok, I may jumped the gun on saying Atari bought Atari MS BASIC, the wiki article on Atari Microsoft BASIC uses the words license. But the point was Atari looks to had total control over the code as they gave the code to Shepardson afterwards to modify. TI could had a similar deal. management could have handed the MS code to their engineers and said, 'here fix this'. the engineers looked at it, picked up some ideas they liked then file 13 the rest and created new code inhouse. in fact it could have not gotten as far as the engineer level. management could created a spec list from the MS code and handed that to the engineers. 

 

 

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20 hours ago, FarmerPotato said:

The book is extremely sloppy.

 

Their info on the graphing calculator BASIC.. well, a simple read of the TI-74 Basicalc manual would make that look foolish.

 

https://ftp.whtech.com/hexbus_cc40_ti74/ti-74/TI74 Programming Reference Guide.pdf

 

 

The Basicalc interpreter was derived from the CC-40 language.

 

 

side note, did you get my message i'll be in Austin next weekend?

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9 hours ago, hloberg said:

OK guys, I'm going to update Wikipedia sometime this week so what do you think I should put. obviously there is possibly conflict info. should I just point  the conflict with citations? 

I guess it doesn't really matter. But technically, the rules for Wikipedia are explicitly "no original research", you can only post information that is explicitly published elsewhere. That would be the conflict. But nobody's really policing the TI articles and people are really passionate about this issue. 

 

What you feel is right at this point, I guess. Someone will change it again in five years anyway. ;)

 

 

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11 hours ago, Tursi said:

I guess it doesn't really matter. But technically, the rules for Wikipedia are explicitly "no original research", you can only post information that is explicitly published elsewhere. That would be the conflict. But nobody's really policing the TI articles and people are really passionate about this issue. 

 

What you feel is right at this point, I guess. Someone will change it again in five years anyway. ;)

 

 

I plan to quote from the books, the interviews, what documentation that is on line and just put it all out there for people to make up their own minds.

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Sounds good. It should be best practise to offer different views with citations; it only becomes original research when you add own conclusions.

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4 hours ago, mizapf said:

Sounds good. It should be best practise to offer different views with citations; it only becomes original research when you add own conclusions.

I'll post it for critique here before I post to Wiki. there are a lot of people here know a LOT more about TI history then I do.

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On 8/24/2019 at 10:04 AM, Airshack said:

I picked this up this week...both extremely informative and enjoyable. Found this:

 

E6D3F2F5-DA9F-42E7-B4C6-6B3B08511193.thumb.jpeg.5cafa361fffb041f317bfff3250ce284.jpeg

 

I’m only half-way through it and already have learned so much about the origins of: BASIC, Time Share systems, and the early microcomputer era.

 

Easy to enjoy the fascinating stories within. Recommend.

 

6CF3E4B3-F646-4A4E-8C76-71339B3A22F9.thumb.jpeg.822a4a00daadc3b84b741c354ca70fe1.jpeg

 

So is it safe to assume the whole “TI only supplied Microsoft with a TI interpreter” deal was yet another example of TI’s closed system approach biting them in the posterior?

 

Looks like Microsoft did a version for the 99/4 which understandably ran too slow, so TI rolled their own less-slower BASIC?

Extended Basic was much quicker so TI was most likely thinking of selling the XB carts as TI Basic was so slow.

Besides TI Basic HAD NO SPRITES or could it run multiple commands in a single line or CALL SUBPROGRAMS, there was no sale points about TI Basic really.

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On 8/24/2019 at 12:04 PM, Airshack said:

I picked this up this week...both extremely informative and enjoyable. Found this:

 

E6D3F2F5-DA9F-42E7-B4C6-6B3B08511193.thumb.jpeg.5cafa361fffb041f317bfff3250ce284.jpeg

 

I’m only half-way through it and already have learned so much about the origins of: BASIC, Time Share systems, and the early microcomputer era.

 

Easy to enjoy the fascinating stories within. Recommend.

 

6CF3E4B3-F646-4A4E-8C76-71339B3A22F9.thumb.jpeg.822a4a00daadc3b84b741c354ca70fe1.jpeg

 

So is it safe to assume the whole “TI only supplied Microsoft with a TI interpreter” deal was yet another example of TI’s closed system approach biting them in the posterior?

 

Looks like Microsoft did a version for the 99/4 which understandably ran too slow, so TI rolled their own less-slower BASIC?

please supply me the page numbers for that mention in the book. I'm using it as one of the sources in the WIKI article. And before anyone says that it might be apocrypha I will have other sources from TI & interviews as well.

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I remember using a variant of ANSI BASIC on the PR1ME.jpg.4db2cd7d707e01f0ebb9c304ce861270.jpg mainframe I used in college.

 

I was amazed it so closely resembled the BASIC I was used to using on the TI-99/4A, because by this time BASICA/GWBASIC were king.  

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