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hloberg

Who created TI-99 BASIC, TI or MS?

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12 hours ago, kl99 said:

This is spectacular! Endless thanks for sharing this.

 

I got in contact with Stan Hume, who is mentioned in those source code documents so many times and will ask him if he is ready for an interview. His Linked In profile claims his involvement in the BASIC interpreter.

"Software Engineer, Texas Instruments, June 1978 - June 1981, Lubbock Texas.

First job out of college. Wrote a large portion of the embedded BASIC and all of the Extended BASIC product for the TI 99/4 and TI99/4a. Anyone learn to program on a 99/4? Yes, I started as an Assembly Language programmer. This gives a unique perspective on how software actually runs on hardware that many today don't understand."

 

Also I know about Sumiko Glenn, who was working on Extended Basic.

"Software Design Engineer, Texas Instruments, Jan 1977 - June 1982.

Worked as a software engineer and implimeted Extended Basic Interpreter and other home computer software."

Very cool! It's nice to finally start seeing talks from people who actually worked on the machine. I was beginning to think that the 99/4A was just a collective myth we all believed in. ;)

 

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37 minutes ago, Tursi said:

Very cool! It's nice to finally start seeing talks from people who actually worked on the machine. I was beginning to think that the 99/4A was just a collective myth we all believed in. ;)

 

I might even have discovered Bob Greenberg on LinkedIn. I asked for his confirmation if he is the early Microsoft employee in my contact invite. Let's see whether we can get some facts about what was actually happening from their point of view.

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7 hours ago, kl99 said:

I might even have discovered Bob Greenberg on LinkedIn. I asked for his confirmation if he is the early Microsoft employee in my contact invite. Let's see whether we can get some facts about what was actually happening from their point of view.

well then, I guess i'll hold off the wiki article till this is sorted out. thank all.

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Well, I guess I waited long enough for any public comment or new information. I'll start putting together the Wiki update. will post when ready.

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Here is the correction for the TI-BASIC Wikipedia article I plan to post. I might also correct some other lacking information too.

 

post your thoughts or corrections. and any typos.

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

The origins of TI-BASIC controversy.

 

As of late there has been a bit of a controversy of the origins of TI-BASIC for the TI-99/4 line. It has been in print that Bill Gates and the programmers at Microsoft have claimed authorship of TI-BASIC. But TI engineers and internal TI documents have either disputed the claim or at best never recognize it.

 

Here are some of the claims made of the Microsoft origin and their sources:

 

(Bob) Wallace (a Microsoft programmer) 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.

 

(Bill) 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."

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

 

...Microsoft was contracted to build to build BASIC for the TI-99/4, and the two lead programmers, Bob Wallace and Bob Greenberg, struggled to get it done, in part because TI only supplied Microsoft with a TI interpreter to write the language in….

pp. 194 Endless Loop, the History of BASIC programming Language by Mark Jones Lorenzo

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1974277070/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_sTOzDb8H9S92F

 

 

On the other hand TI Engineers who worked on the TI-99 project claim that TI-BASIC was programmed all in house:

 

Here are list of interviews with TI engineers that Klaus Lukaschek posted on Atariage.

 

 

Interview with Herman Schuurman who had a 36 years career at Texas Instruments, from November 1977 to his retirement in 2013. In March 1978 he got promoted to be Lead Programmer for the Consumer Products Group in Lubbock.

The description of his work is taken from LinkedIn for that designation:

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.

[https://www.linkedin.com/in/herman-schuurman-60584b9/]

Q) Can you describe your involvement in the TI-99/4 project (Herman Schuurman)?

  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 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.


Another interview:

I got in contact with Stan Hume, who is mentioned in those source code (TI_BASIC, TI-Extended BASIC) documents so many times and will ask him if he is ready for an interview. His Linked In profile claims his involvement in the BASIC interpreter.

"Software Engineer, Texas Instruments, June 1978 - June 1981, Lubbock Texas.

First job out of college. Wrote a large portion of the embedded BASIC and all of the Extended BASIC product for the TI 99/4 and TI99/4a. Anyone learn to program on a 99/4? Yes, I started as an Assembly Language programmer. This gives a unique perspective on how software actually runs on hardware that many today don't understand."

 

There is also no evidence in any TI documentation of BASIC source code of authorship of Microsoft.

 

Conclusion:

It could be that Microsoft was contacted to create a BASIC for the TI-99 and TI did not elect to use it. Or it is possible the Microsoft programmers were thinking of the work they did on the ill fated 99/7. Unless some document is ever produced to verify absolutely one side or the other we may never know.

 

 

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I'd rather not do it as a Q-A/interview style; this won't be accepted as encyclopedic. Also, you should not call it a "controversy". This is evident by the different sources. And "lately" or "as of late" is not useful in an encyclopedia; mind that people will read the text in 5 years probably.

 

The link to the Bill Gates citation is not a useful source; it is a simple user home page at a university (with a user home path, ~cs104). You cannot tell how trustworthy this information really is. (At least I would not allow my students to put such a citation in their theses.)

 

Also, the Amazon link is not really useful (you don't see that page in the book), the book reference instead would be OK.

 

I don't want to discourage you, just warn that I'm pretty sure people will instantly revert your edit in this form. (Not me, I can promise you. 🙂 ) We should  do some work on that passage in this forum.

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2 hours ago, mizapf said:

I'd rather not do it as a Q-A/interview style; this won't be accepted as encyclopedic. Also, you should not call it a "controversy". This is evident by the different sources. And "lately" or "as of late" is not useful in an encyclopedia; mind that people will read the text in 5 years probably.

 

The link to the Bill Gates citation is not a useful source; it is a simple user home page at a university (with a user home path, ~cs104). You cannot tell how trustworthy this information really is. (At least I would not allow my students to put such a citation in their theses.)

 

Also, the Amazon link is not really useful (you don't see that page in the book), the book reference instead would be OK.

 

I don't want to discourage you, just warn that I'm pretty sure people will instantly revert your edit in this form. (Not me, I can promise you. 🙂 ) We should  do some work on that passage in this forum.

 thanks. I posted it here so I could get constructive criticism. I have never done this kinda thing before.  I'll make the appropriate changes in a few days after more have had there say so we can get it right.  like I also said, the TI-99 BASIC Wikipedia is a bit lacking. may do a needed re-write on that too.  After all, we have the most knowledgeable people in all the known universe when comes to all things TI-99 on this forum. 😉

Edited by hloberg
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I would only say that "as of late" is untrue - this argument also occurred over a decade ago on the Yahoo list. ;) Also "Bill Gates" has never claimed involvement (although a third source claimed him responsible for the negotiation, NOBODY says he worked on it), people who say that usually mean "Microsoft". ;)

 

Also, you should strike the "conclusion". That constitutes original research under the rules of Wikipedia. Just lay out the facts, don't interpret them. :)

 

Edited by Tursi
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