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The most outrageous, far-out, super cool probably never to be made dream item for the TI-99/4A...

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Tis the season to dream, but if you're gonna dream, you might as well DREAM BIG!

The past couple of years have been an awesome ride and a mind blowing experience for us TI'ers.  We've gotten new stuff that quite frankly was beyond what many of us could have conceived in our wildest dreams back in the day.  But what about now?  Having seen what you've seen, and now knowing what you know, have you been inspired to think, what the hell if?

 

Post all your ideas, probable, possible, even crazy, or what you think might never be attainable... because you never know what could happen with the geniuses we have here in the TI Forum.

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One for me would be a replacement keyboard built as a drop-in replacement for the original.  Possibly even just affixed on top of the black plastic housing (with the old board removed), in order to provide a little extra key real estate (vis-a-vis the existing cutout), for the sake of minor design improvements.  But otherwise, a replacement board of identical design using modern mechanisms.  Or hell, buckling spring mechanisms, just because I'm picky that way, and everyone else should have to live with my preferences.  After all, we're dreaming big, right?

 

 

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How about illuminated keys in either green, blue or orange?  It could be neat for  late night sessions.

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Actually, a keyboard replacement like that might be possible, especially if the key mechanisms are small enough to fit into the allocated space. The circuit card for it would be relatively easy, as it has no other electrical components, and we already have an appropriate cable replacement available.

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An actual TI 99/8 with matching hexbus peripherals.  It can be using modern hardware inside to emulate a full TI 99/8 experience, but I would want it to externally look and behave like the machine TI intended to produce in 1983.

Perhaps as a bonus it could include enhanced features that could optionally be used, such as F18a type video, internal emulation of disks, etc., but I'd love the ability to have it default configured as the original intent.

 

I know, things can be had by emulation on modern machines, but I love the look and feel of old "iron".  When I program on my TI, I still do it on the machine.  There's something I love about that, the feel of the TI keyboard, the jet engine fan of the PEB, all of it!

 

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4 hours ago, Ksarul said:

Actually, a keyboard replacement like that might be possible, especially if the key mechanisms are small enough to fit into the allocated space. The circuit card for it would be relatively easy, as it has no other electrical components, and we already have an appropriate cable replacement available.

 

If anyone ever makes one for sale, I'm a+1

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9 minutes ago, --- Ω --- said:

 

If anyone ever makes one for sale, I'm a+1

And I feel like even just distributing a blank card makes plenty of sense, given keyboard building is a pretty popular, well-supplied, and well-documented hobby these days.

 

I suppose that given ideally you'd have keycaps with all relevant TI functions on them (e.g.., a -/ key rather than a \| key, an alpha lock key, the correct symbols on the lower faces of the caps) rather than just semi-analogous IBM 101 keys, it would make sense to see if custom keycaps can be sourced, though.  And if it gets to the point where you're sourcing the caps and printing the board, you're close to a complete kit anyways.

 

In any case, I'd buy anything from a blank card to a complete kit in a second.  Though it'd be nice if the card came with a connector.

 

It seems like there are on demand custom keycap printing services out there which would work for the individual installer, if accurate keys were desired.  WASD Keyboards (art, text) and Max Keyboards (art), for example.

 

One way to economise on custom keys might be to just buy standard black cherry mx keycaps for the great majority of keys whose labels are identical to those on an IBM 101 keyboard, and only do custom keys for the exceptions, and any keys for which non-standard dimensions (e.g., a "skinny" shift or ctrl key) are required. 

 

And I suppose given that the symbols on the lower faces aren't actually actively touched during keyboard use, it'd be easy enough to replace those with self-printed white-on-black plastic labels, and not have them look half bad or interfere with the keyboard feel. 

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I still believe a search driven program loader will change how we use the TI.

There is never the need again to find the correct disk or refer the correct disk image in the ten thousands of your disks, or the wanted cartridge dump in correct format, you simply enter in that loader what you want to search for (like now in Web99 on the Windows PC) and you get it through the RS232 or DataBus the program loaded into your memory.

 

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9 hours ago, jstimson said:

An actual TI 99/8 with matching hexbus peripherals.  It can be using modern hardware inside to emulate a full TI 99/8 experience, but I would want it to externally look and behave like the machine TI intended to produce in 1983.

Perhaps as a bonus it could include enhanced features that could optionally be used, such as F18a type video, internal emulation of disks, etc., but I'd love the ability to have it default configured as the original intent.

 

I know, things can be had by emulation on modern machines, but I love the look and feel of old "iron".  When I program on my TI, I still do it on the machine.  There's something I love about that, the feel of the TI keyboard, the jet engine fan of the PEB, all of it!

 

Sort of like the Commodore community's "Mega 65" project(more or less a resurrection of the unreleased C65)?

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While drawing a title screen prototype for FarmerPotato's upcomming title, I noticed that with it shrunk real small, it looks real sharp.

 

This made me have a strange idea, when I considered the FPGA Ti 99 project cited in the develpment subforum...

 

Small Ti 99 handheld. (think about the size of the original gameboy, but a little fatter in the 'depth' direction, so full size carts can go in.)

There are tiny vga (and composite) screens you can source for such a thing. It would make a neat project I think.

 

 

You said the most radical, so there you go.

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Here's what I'd like to see, a PEB card (and maybe side-expansion) that combined the following:

 

1)  True NES controller port (I have a few of these but they are hard to find...).  I much prefer the NES controller to anything.

2)  Two AY-3-8912 PSG's.

3)  32 KiB (or maybe 1 MiB SAMS??)

 

I think that would be a great card to combine with the F18A.  That card could become a standard like the F18A has become.  Imagine those two standards together.

 

 

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More dreaming big, this time on the graphical front:

  

An F18A which supports switchable 240p/480i/480p RGBS and RGBHV output modes as well as S-Video, for the complete CRT support feature set. 

 

For those of us still subject to the notion that displays that don't have the phrase "electron gun" in their description must just inherently be less cool than anything that does have the phrase "electron gun" in its description. 

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I'd like to be able to use a joystick with more than one trigger button. How many buttons can a TI recognize? Just a maximum of one?

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57 minutes ago, Gilbyph said:

I'd like to be able to use a joystick with more than one trigger button. How many buttons can a TI recognize? Just a maximum of one?

You could hook up a modified Genesis joystick, and use one of its many buttons as an additional fire button.  This would require any game to poll both joystick 1 and joystick 2 for button presses.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Gilbyph said:

I'd like to be able to use a joystick with more than one trigger button. How many buttons can a TI recognize? Just a maximum of one?

Currently as the standard goes, only one. 

 

Games could be written that use a joystick interface that would tie in with the keyboard as a plug-n-play sort of wiring harness.  The problem is sometimes the mere suggestion of anything new, evolutionary, or exciting can get one trampled on fast if there is the slightest indication that someone somewhere would have to actually do something, or some judgemental person takes offense to it for some personal choice reason.  Personalities, flip comments and the fear to speak up can hold an entire community back.

 

Then you have the chicken and the egg thing, who is going to make the fancy new joystick, if no one wants to write software for just a few early adopters.  We've had some fantastic new stuff come out over the  past few years, very little has been made for some devices, while the software actually made is being neglected and unused by the majority.  I can truly understand why some developers cop an attitude after devoting some much of their personal time, money and effort to bring us stuff, to be a 'flash in the pan' and then forgotten or ignored.

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I saw Rasmus Moustgaard's awesome Super TI-99 Mario Bros video on Youtube and think it and many other homebrew games would benefit from at least a separate A and B button controller, but I have absolutely no programming or hardware skills.

 

 

Edited by Gilbyph

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13 hours ago, --- Ω --- said:

Currently as the standard goes, only one. 

 

Games could be written that use a joystick interface that would tie in with the keyboard as a plug-n-play sort of wiring harness.  The problem is sometimes the mere suggestion of anything new, evolutionary, or exciting can get one trampled on fast if there is the slightest indication that someone somewhere would have to actually do something, or some judgemental person takes offense to it for some personal choice reason.  Personalities, flip comments and the fear to speak up can hold an entire community back.

 

Then you have the chicken and the egg thing, who is going to make the fancy new joystick, if no one wants to write software for just a few early adopters.  We've had some fantastic new stuff come out over the  past few years, very little has been made for some devices, while the software actually made is being neglected and unused by the majority.  I can truly understand why some developers cop an attitude after devoting some much of their personal time, money and effort to bring us stuff, to be a 'flash in the pan' and then forgotten or ignored.

I added support for 2-button joysticks in Knight Lore, but I don't think I had any feedback on that feature.

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14 hours ago, --- Ω --- said:

Currently as the standard goes, only one. 

 

Games could be written that use a joystick interface that would tie in with the keyboard as a plug-n-play sort of wiring harness.  The problem is sometimes the mere suggestion of anything new, evolutionary, or exciting can get one trampled on fast if there is the slightest indication that someone somewhere would have to actually do something, or some judgemental person takes offense to it for some personal choice reason.  Personalities, flip comments and the fear to speak up can hold an entire community back.

  

Then you have the chicken and the egg thing, who is going to make the fancy new joystick, if no one wants to write software for just a few early adopters.  We've had some fantastic new stuff come out over the  past few years, very little has been made for some devices, while the software actually made is being neglected and unused by the majority.  I can truly understand why some developers cop an attitude after devoting some much of their personal time, money and effort to bring us stuff, to be a 'flash in the pan' and then forgotten or ignored.

I also added support for 2-button joysticks to Alex Kidd, but I don't think anyone has ever used it...

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So you can plug in a two button controller and the TI will recognize it, as long as the program was written for it?

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9 minutes ago, Gilbyph said:

So you can plug in a two button controller and the TI will recognize it, as long as the program was written for it?

Well the TI-99 joystick port (and the software which supports it) inherently supports 10 discrete inputs by design (eight directional, two fire buttons).  They're just normally wired to two separate controllers.  The hacks mentioned here are exploiting this fact to put more of those inputs on one controller, rather than evenly splitting them between two. 

 

To this extent, there's also nothing stopping anyone from using Joystick 2 (in the absence of any hacks) for additional inputs in a single player game.  It would just be less convenient.  Especially given that almost nobody uses the original painsticks, so a lot of people will tend to use only one joystick, as it is.  Though I dare say most people here have more than one Atari compatible joystick kicking around, and a two input Atari joystick adapter. 

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Would there be interest in a custom arcade-style controller box?

 

I have made one with real arcade joystick and 2 buttons.

 

It would be feasible to manufacture a kit for about $50. One or two joysticks. Two buttons, your choice of colors. I imagine a switch to assign both buttons to joystick#1, or #1 and #2. The arcade joystick is the most expensive part. 

 

The sides and top are wood (1/8" baltic birch color with laser-burnt edges) or some color of acrylic. The bottom is removable.  There is a second plexiglass layer on top. You can put custom artwork under the plexiglass (I put Dragon's Lair.) The DB9 connector is screwed flush into the side. A DB9 extension cable is used to connect it to the 4A. All the wires inside the box have push-on spade contacts to the arcade joystick and buttons.

 

The hardest part of assembling mine was crimping the DB9 pins. I would not do that again. Solder cup is much easier. However, making a litttle circuit board would make it even easier for the end-user.

 

 

Repeat, these would offered with some-assembly-required. For wood, you need wood glue, and you paint it yourself. For acrylic, you need special solvent (I guess I could glue acrylic for you... bigger shipping box though.)

 

 

 

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I guess on the flipside (of cost and complexity), I feel like the best possible solution for cheap mass distribution of a two button joystick option would be a very simple, external 5V powered (micro-USB probably) Genesis controller adapter, with with the 5V doing nothing but keeping Select high.  Absolutely no signal processing or dealing with the mux required, since Up, Down, Left, Right, B and C are all exposed on unique pins with Select High. And Genesis controllers are abundant these days, in both cheap as dirt knockoff and high quality reproduction forms. Only gets you two buttons. But I figure it’s pretty good, for a solution which involves nothing but some traces/wires connecting two DB9 ports and a 5V source.  

  

I’m biased though.  Genesis controllers are my preference, and I use a modified Genesis controller for my own TI-99 gaming. 

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I was planning on doing this very thing in the near to distant future. (Still waiting on shipment of the adapter.)

 

2 DB9 female, 1 DB9 male, and a 5vDC barrel connector, on a protoboard, in a 3D print shell. Bob's your uncle.

 

 

 

 

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OK, another "Wish I had..." Option.

 

44pin interface (EG, after a JediMatt 32k card and Tipi) SAMS. (I can envision how SAMS can be expanded even bigger in a more or less back compatible fashion*)

 

Not all of us have the desk real-estate for a PEB, nor do they want one. 

 

 

* Basically, you put a better mapper on, with an opaque latch driven by the data bus in addition to the CRU bus SAMS currently uses. You do this by marking a small slice of RAM as reserved for the banking register, and do the writes there. When the correct address lines (for that location) and WE are hot, the data bus latch enables and catches the data written to control the mapper. Each additional bit gained exponentially increases the banking space. Since switching can still happen in the original SAMS methodology without the special writes being done, it would be back compatible. Just if you do the special write, you basically "Bank out the set of banks".  At least from a logical perspective anyway. 8 bits of additional latch should bring the theoretical max banked memory up from 1mb to 256mb.

 

 

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