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TI 99/4a

Digitalman

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Sep 12, 2018
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I just got a TI-99/4a in a pile of other computer stuff.

I'm mainly a Commodore guy, never used one of these things before. What can I do with it?
 

SomeGuy

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It depends. What has it got with it? If it is just the console, you will want some cartridge software. The built in Basic is very slow and limited. If you have the Peripheral Expansion box with 32k memory card and floppy drive, then there is a lot more the machine can do.
 

Digitalman

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Seems to just be the unit. I have been googling around. Any thoughts the FlashRom options? What's the best options (value vs features)? As for Memory expansion, I assume there are aftermarket options there?
 

commodorejohn

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TI-99/4A always seemed to offer a lot more promise than it delivered.
It's one of the all-time "if-onlies" in the '80s home-computer period. They had a full-fledged 16-bit minicomputer CPU, comparable in performance and features to the freakin' PDP-11...and they did that with it!?
 

VERAULT

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Well having virtually no licensed games or programs made it appeal to noone. I dont think kids in the arcade were ever saying "Lets go to my house and play Alpine".
 

Gary C

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I always wanted one back when, because hey they were shiny !

As I remember, the TMS9900 is the processor in each card of the Reypack 99E PLC and we have hundreds of those at work, very reliable.
 

ngtwolf

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Yeah, so the silver version is a nice looking device of the era, but as for functionality.. meh. The speech module is really the best claim to fame of the machine, and if you can get one of those, there are a few games that you can play with speech. As well, The Extended Basic cartridge will allow you to utilize the speech on your own, which can provide you with minutes of enjoyment. The games/graphics on this device are probably pretty similar to what you'd get with a Vic-20 and the games are very much that quality. To be fair, if you have a C64, theres nothing you'll want to do on that TI99 that you wouldn't rather do with the C64. This is definitely a nostalgia only device, meaning you'll only appreciate it if you already owned one back in the day (much like sinclairs).

For software, you'll want to look at the FinalGrom cartridge (or the slightly less featured Flashrom99). There are a few other add-ons but I have no experience with those, and again, if you don't have the nostalgia of this device, you'll likely not want to put in the time and expense to 'max out' this machine.
 

Chuck(G)

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It's one of the all-time "if-onlies" in the '80s home-computer period. They had a full-fledged 16-bit minicomputer CPU, comparable in performance and features to the freakin' PDP-11...and they did that with it!?

TI was still making 9900-family minicomputers. Why would they make a home microcomputer to compete with it? At least that's my theory.
 

krebizfan

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TI had a prototype variation on the TI-99 design that used a Z-80 processor which would have been a much lower cost option and better suited to the market being targeted. I think with normal memory design and without the layers of code hiding the hardware, performance should have been very good for the cost of the system.
 

Towmater

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Just before Weirdstuff closed, I bought a Peripheral Expansion Box for the 99. Today, one can use some sort of Raspberry Pi mini-PEB to do the same and more, so the PEB is really a boat-anchor at this point.
 

Eudimorphodon

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TI had a prototype variation on the TI-99 design that used a Z-80 processor which would have been a much lower cost option and better suited to the market being targeted. I think with normal memory design and without the layers of code hiding the hardware, performance should have been very good for the cost of the system.

Sub a Z-80 into a TI-99 and you have an MSX. (Or a ColecoVision.) Which, yeah, makes leaps and bounds more sense. The architecture of those machines is positively mind-boggling.
 

bifo86

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TI was still making 9900-family minicomputers. Why would they make a home microcomputer to compete with it? At least that's my theory.

They could have positioned it as a training tool as well as a family computer, the design would be different enough anyway. Of course, back then companies were hardly wary of home microcomputers competing with minicomputers and were more likely to shoot themselves in the foot by simply not taking the microcomputer market seriously at all. Look at what DEC could have done with the Pro/350 or their 6100-based microcomputers with their existing software library.

This was also the era where departments within large companies in every industry would steal marketshare from and compete with each other, and nobody seemed to think much of it. US car manufacturers of the time were hilarious for that.
 

Eudimorphodon

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If you didn't know better you might think the design of the 99/4A was the result of a drunken bar bet over making the most inefficient small computer design humanly possible. Somebody definitely held someone else's beer at some point.
 

lowlevel

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May 15, 2020
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Seems to just be the unit. I have been googling around. Any thoughts the FlashRom options? What's the best options (value vs features)? As for Memory expansion, I assume there are aftermarket options there?

Interesting machines... and as others have said, kind of disappointing in the software department. If you're into electronics at all, you can build the FlashRom99, or FinalGROM99 's..... or just buy one. I got a couple of these things recently and have found some of the games not bad. I love the keyboard... Donkey Kong, TI Invaders... Munch Man is the earliest game I can think of that has a cheat code.
 

NeXT

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The Hackery/Disappearing Inc has been the PNW inventory for a mountain of 99/4a systems and hardware for almost five years now and even with just virtually all the configurations imaginable I have been unable to justify a reason to buy a complete system because I just cannot think of anything good that ran on it. I believe there was mention of a P-system but a lot of the cartridge games aren't all that fun.
 
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