The Texas Instrument TI 99/4A was a very succesful computer. A large number ROM cartridges (36 KB each) were developped for this computer, as the popular Extended Basic.
Up to seven peripherals could be connected : 32 KB RAM extension, RS232c, Disk controler (90 KB per disk, up to 3 disk-drives), speech synthetiser, Peripheral Expansion box, and so on... One item of note is that the bus architecture for the Peripheral Expansion box (PE) was the basis for the NuBus used in the later Macintosh computers.
Contributors : Stephen Boutillette
Ben Yates says :
The TI VDP had 16K of dedicated VRAM, outside of the CPU RAM memory map.
The 99/4A has 4 VDP modes :
1. Graphic I (32x24, 255 redefineable characters, 16 colors, 1 background and 1 foreground color for each character set of 8 characters, 8x8 character matrix)
2. Text mode (40x24, foreground/background colors out of 16)
3. Multicolor (weird 48 x 64 mode, 4x4 unicolor character matrix)
4. Bitmap - same as 1, except 768 characters and each character can have a foreground and background color (of 16) for each pixel row of that character.
David Stites adds:
You list the TI 99/4a as being released in June 1979. At about that time I
purchased a TI 99/4 for around $700. Besides the built-in BASIC and the
firmware cartridges it had a third function called an Equation Calculator. I
never used it and when the computer went insane they replaced it with the
/4a for $50. The /4a didn't have the Equation Calculator.
This was the first 16 bit home computer and had unparalleled speech capability for the time but TI crippled the rest of the machine rather than take advantage. For instance could you imagine any computer company today selling a unit with zero main memory, the CPU running only off of the GPU''s vram? That''s pretty much how TI did this thing.
Nevertheless I got countless hours (days, weeks, months?) of enjoyment out of this machine, mostly from programming or program mods, hours of Parsec, and exploring the bounds of the Speech Synthesizer and Terminal Emulator cartridge.
Friday 27th July 2012
Jim Odell (Windsor, Ontario)
I had one when I was a teen. We had both the 99 and the 994a. Also had the expansion box with 32k of ram. I wrote asteroids in assembler on it. Had to do my own movement processing of the sprites since I needed the ram space the sprite table used. Kind of liked the processor. You could designate any 32 bytes for a 16 register array. Most operations were direct memory to memory. Slow machine but that was due to the gimped architecture which there was no excuse for other than TI didn''t want people using the thing for general computing.