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Tim Hamilton

Getting my TI back out—where should I start?

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Hi, all,

I just joined the forum, and it's my first post.  I've recently gotten my TI back out from my parents' house, about 25 years after I turned it on last.  I have the TI-99/4A, with the GE Data Recorder, the Myarc peripheral box (32 kB memory, RS-232, and a single 5-1/4" disk drive), and a Seikosha dot-matrix printer hooked up to the Myarc parallel port.  I found many, but not all, of my cartridges (thankfully, I've found Super Extended Basic, Editor/Assembler, and the Disk Manager II, as well as several games), as well as a whole lot of programs on disk.  Who knows if anything survived on those disks in a garage attic all of these years, but I'll get a head cleaner on the drive and clean the disks if there's any mold, too.  The old B/W TV I used to use it with has a fading tube, but I've bought a composite video cable and have gotten it to work on a modern TV.

 

So here's my question:  What should I get next?  I have read about a lot of the modern peripherals that are available, but I don't have any experience with them. 

1) I'd especially like to get a reliable, non-magnetic mass storage device soon.  I've read of...what, three flash-based storage devices?  TI-PI, the nano-PEB, and the HxC Floppy Emulator.  Which one would you go with?

 

2) I get black vertical bars and no color on the screen.  I've read it could be the VRAM chip that needs to be replaced, but another site describes replacing the crystal for the same symptoms.  Which is more likely?

 

3) I'll have to tell y'all later what I found on the cassette I still had in the Data Recorder.  The nerdiest thing in the entire house.

 

Advice?

TI setup.jpg

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This is just my opinion...

 

1) Get a replacement console first off, don't worry about fixing the one you have... YET... (I have a reason).

2) Get a FinalGROM99 from << HERE >> and a case for it from << HERE >>

 

.. Now wait for a little while...

 

3) When the F18A Mark 2 is released, stick it in your old console, if the video was the problem, that'll fix it.  If not, stick it in the new one.

4) *IF* the Myarc expansion box is capable of taking P-Box cards, wait for the next run of P-Box TIPI's.

 

Forget the Nano-PEB you cannot use it in conjunction with your disk expansion.  The HxC floppy emulator is nice, but if you end up running a TIPI and/or FinalGROM99, you may find you'll not use the HxC much afterwards (I don't).

 

 

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This is just my opinion...
 
1) Get a replacement console first off, don't worry about fixing the one you have... YET... (I have a reason).
2) Get a FinalGROM99 from HERE >> and a case for it from HERE >>
 
.. Now wait for a little while...
 
3) When the F18A Mark 2 is released, stick it in your old console, if the video was the problem, that'll fix it.  If not, stick it in the new one.
4) *IF* the Myarc expansion box is capable of taking P-Box cards, wait for the next run of P-Box TIPI's.
 
Forget the Nano-PEB you cannot use it in conjunction with your disk expansion.  The HxC floppy emulator is nice, but if you end up running a TIPI and/or FinalGROM99, you may find you'll not use the HxC much afterwards (I don't).
 
 
I sell those cases too btw..



Sent from my LM-G820 using Tapatalk

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The Myarc peripheral box is rare. If you would rather have a modern storage device, someone here would pay a good price for it. ;-)

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Definitely true on the general rarity of the Myarc MPES-50. There are less than ten of them in the community, counting yours. I also have one, so I can answer a few questions: it has no additional expansion capability, so what you have is what you get. The disk controller is DSDD, but the format is to 320K (the TI DSDD standard used in both of their experimental DSDD devices), not the more generally available 360K (CorComp, Atronic, BwG, later Myarc FDC cards, and the Myarc HFDC). An HxC drive should work fine in one of the two drive slots though.

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7 hours ago, Tim Hamilton said:

I get black vertical bars and no color on the screen.  I've read it could be the VRAM chip that needs to be replaced, but another site describes replacing the crystal for the same symptoms.  Which is more likely?

If you're able to see the title screen behind the black bars, but with no color, it's almost certainly a crystal problem. For something like that I see no point in buying another console; the crystal only has 2 pins and would probably take about 10 mins to swap.

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2 hours ago, Ksarul said:

Definitely true on the general rarity of the Myarc MPES-50. There are less than ten of them in the community, counting yours. I also have one, so I can answer a few questions: it has no additional expansion capability, so what you have is what you get. The disk controller is DSDD, but the format is to 320K (the TI DSDD standard used in both of their experimental DSDD devices), not the more generally available 360K (CorComp, Atronic, BwG, later Myarc FDC cards, and the Myarc HFDC). An HxC drive should work fine in one of the two drive slots though.

Asmusr & Ksarul—

I had no idea that MPES/50 was so rare!  Looking at the manual right now, I see we bought it in October of 1985.  I was searching the web and found that the one-drive version I have (MPES/50-1) originally sold for $595.  My parents were certainly willing to put some investment into my computer hobby in middle school.  A couple or three years earlier, I'd spent the summer building them a very long rock wall along our driveway and farm road to earn the $50 to get the GE Program Data Recorder shown above.  What an upgrade the Myarc was!

 

Well, I'll be holding on to this for sentimental reasons, but I will make sure and take excellent care of it.

 

Considering that the Myarc MPES won't take any additional cards, as Ksarul noted, is the HxC my best bet, or would any of you recommend getting a different storage system in some kind of standalone configuration?

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9 hours ago, --- Ω --- said:

2) Get a FinalGROM99 from << HERE >> and a case for it from << HERE >>

[...]

Forget the Nano-PEB you cannot use it in conjunction with your disk expansion.  The HxC floppy emulator is nice, but if you end up running a TIPI and/or FinalGROM99, you may find you'll not use the HxC much afterwards (I don't).

 

 

Thanks a lot for all of the advice!  I've read over the FinalGROM99 description, and I'm not entirely clear how it's used.  Is it a general-purpose mass storage device that I could use like the disk drive (save my own files to), or is it intended to load copies of cartridge software or some other specialized use?

 

TIPI looks like it could replace the whole expansion system; is that right?

Edited by Tim Hamilton

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9 hours ago, --- Ω --- said:

.. Now wait for a little while...

 

3) When the F18A Mark 2 is released, stick it in your old console, if the video was the problem, that'll fix it.  If not, stick it in the new one.

 

Whether the video problem is the video chip or the crystal, I like the idea of the new F18A Mark 2!  I think that will really soup up my TI.  And getting a second console is good advice.  I can use that for testing and as a backup.

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Here's a picture of all of the disk software I have.  I'm excited I found the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but my favorite by far was Not Polyoptics' SPAD XIII Mark 2 flight simulator.  I played that simulation into the '90s, I'm sure.  I have a lot of the Home Computer Journal On Disk software collections, four volumes.  And then there's my high school science fair attempt at writing my own neural network.

 

I don't know how well the disk software survived with several years in a garage attic, but I see that SPAD XIII and maybe some others are available online as disk images, so I might go with that, once I buy a modern storage device for my TI.

TI software.jpg

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2 hours ago, AwkwardPotato said:

If you're able to see the title screen behind the black bars, but with no color, it's almost certainly a crystal problem. For something like that I see no point in buying another console; the crystal only has 2 pins and would probably take about 10 mins to swap.

Yes, I can see every screen behind the black bars.  I read a description of replacing the crystal here:

https://www.pagetable.com/?p=672

 

Do you think this is a good guide to doing this repair?  I haven't done any soldering work in many years, but I'm a physics professor who works closely with our Engineering & Computer Science department on some projects, and those guys would be willing to help me.  Thanks a lot for the advice!

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44 minutes ago, Tim Hamilton said:

Thanks a lot for all of the advice!  I've read over the FinalGROM99 description, and I'm not entirely clear how it's used.  Is it a general-purpose mass storage device that I could use like the disk drive (save my own files to), or is it intended to load copies of cartridge software or some other specialized use?

 

TIPI looks like it could replace the whole expansion system; is that right?

I have both of these devices so I can answer a few of your questions.

 

The FinalGROM99 is a cartridge that has an SD card slot built into it, and a menu system.  You can copy cartridge image files to the SD card in whatever organization scheme you want.  When you start the TI up, the 2nd option on the menu screen will launch a menu that will allow you to browse the directory structure of the SD card for cartridge files.  When you pick one, it is mounted into the TI just like you plugged in the cartridge for real.  From that point on, item 2 in the menu screen is the cartridge you’ve mounted.  The FG99 also has a reset button to reset the TI 99/4A, and a button to “eject” the mounted cartridge which then allows you back into the menu system to pick a different cartridge.  The FTP site at whtech has a zip archive file that has I think almost every cartridge that was available in a nicely laid out scheme.

 

The TIPI allows you to use a Raspberry Pi essentially as a hard disk system for the TI.  It provides the normal DSK devices (these are directories on the Pi’s file system), but it also provides you with flexibility with how you want to organize your files.  Most TI software allows for an “other” device that allows you to specify directories specifically on the TIPI and not mounted in a DSK.  It also allows you some internet connectivity (you can open a static text file on a website from within TI BASIC, as an example).  It won’t provide you a 32K memory expansion or serial/parallel ports.  Jedimatt has a 32K expansion card that plugs into the expansion port that the TIPI’s interface card can plug into also.  Greg (arcadeshopper) has all of these items I think available, including cases for them.

Edited by Casey
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After reading what Ksarul said about the MPES-50 having no additional expansion capability, if you plan to keep the Myarc box, your original idea of getting a Lotharek HxC for the second slot would definitely give you the capability of porting new stuff over to the TI from the Internet as well as copying your legacy software to the newer format.  

 

To answer your question, yes, a sidecar TIPI would totally replace the Myarc with more capabilities like a simulated HD and WiFi to Internet, but it would give you no way of copying your old physical data over.  The sidecar TIPI also REQUIRES his 32K expansion and of course a Raspberry Pi. 

 

Now about the FinalGROM, regardless of which direction you go, staying with the Myarc or going the TIPI route, the FG99 is a must in my opinion.  Why?

 

1) I has a TON of storage capacity and can take the load off of the physical drives, leaving them simply for data in most cases

2) It'll allow you to run either Force Command or 4A/DOS or both which with a disk system is awesome.

3) Loading stuff off the FG99 is a LOT faster than loading anything off of a physical disk drive or HxC.

4) While you are deciding which path to take, it'll give you more, NOW.

 

NOTE:  Going to the sidecar TIPI will make it impossible for you to use that pictured dot matrix printer.. (unless one of those sidecar splitters is still available) then you could conceivably run both.*  

 

*You'll need to verify this with others more knowledgeable. 

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32 minutes ago, --- Ω --- said:

1) I has a TON of storage capacity and can take the load off of the physical drives, leaving them simply for data in most cases

2) It'll allow you to run either Force Command or 4A/DOS or both which with a disk system is awesome.

3) Loading stuff off the FG99 is a LOT faster than loading anything off of a physical disk drive or HxC.

4) While you are deciding which path to take, it'll give you more, NOW.

Well, I think you've sold me on it, then.  I'll see if my wife, who has been tolerant almost to the point of indulgence with letting me set up the old system on the living room TV, will mind me spending a hundred bucks for the FG99 and case.

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1 hour ago, Tim Hamilton said:

I've read over the FinalGROM99 description, and I'm not entirely clear how it's used.  Is it a general-purpose mass storage device that I could use like the disk drive (save my own files to), or is it intended to load copies of cartridge software or some other specialized use?

The FinalGROM is a device that allows you to boot cartridge images from the start screen.  The only way to get those images onto the FinalGROM is by using an external system (PC or Mac); the TI cannot create cartridge images.  The FinalGROM is not a disk drive like device that allows you to save your BASIC programs.

 

In general, think of the FinalGROM as a cartridge-only device.

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26 minutes ago, chue said:

The FinalGROM is a device that allows you to boot cartridge images from the start screen.  The only way to get those images onto the FinalGROM is by using an external system (PC or Mac); the TI cannot create cartridge images.  The FinalGROM is not a disk drive like device that allows you to save your BASIC programs.

 

In general, think of the FinalGROM as a cartridge-only device.

Yes, but since he's on the Internet it's probably safe to assume he has access to the << REPOSITORY >>, which has practically everything decent at this point, so he can store more than any disk drive is capable of for immediate access.

 

When using Force Command he'll be able to load and run any program off the cartridge or disk from the DOS prompt in a seamless environment.  

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There's a FinalGrom 99 available on ebay right now.

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/FinalGROM-99-FG99-FinalGROM99-SD-reader-TI-99-4a-case-manual-NEW/283612526286?hash=item42089fb6ce:g:qVQAAOSwVRBcJYJM

 

Arcade Shopper is probably more legit, but they only do local pickup it seems. (If I am wrong, please tell me so; there's some things I would like to order, but I refuse to drive halfway across the USA to pick it up.)

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11 minutes ago, wierd_w said:

There's a FinalGrom 99 available on ebay right now.

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/FinalGROM-99-FG99-FinalGROM99-SD-reader-TI-99-4a-case-manual-NEW/283612526286?hash=item42089fb6ce:g:qVQAAOSwVRBcJYJM

 

Arcade Shopper is probably more legit, but they only do local pickup it seems. (If I am wrong, please tell me so; there's some things I would like to order, but I refuse to drive halfway across the USA to pick it up.)

I gotta admit, that is a nice price, but that case and label looks kind of 'rough'.  I much prefer the fancy looking case pictured below, even if the combination is a few bucks more.  I mean after all, he'll have this for years to come and it'll be in his living room for all to see (thanks to his wife), so it's gotta look good.

 

FG99.thumb.png.80d43aea1e15e183183546f4e4ad3d19.png

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Tim Hamilton said:

Well, I think you've sold me on it, then.

You'll love it.  Besides, it'll give you a way to get many (most) of the good games and utilities from the Internet onto your TI.

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15 minutes ago, wierd_w said:

I did.  I have a FDM printer; the case does not concern me. (I can make my own to my heart's content.) 

In that case, I have access to the Engineering Department's 3-D printers.  Are there files available for the case design?

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I dunno. I was gonna design my own. (I have some cartridges I can measure with calipers, but that's a custom job.  I will check if it's on thingiverse though.)

 

EDIT:

Not the one  --- Ω --- pointed to, but better looking than the one it ships with.

 https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2458688

I could probably reverse engineer the pictured one, but I already have too many irons in the fire at the moment.

Edited by wierd_w
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