This TI99/4A all plastic beige version was launched in June 1983, five months before Texas Instruments decide to definitely get out of the home computers market.
The goal was to reduce the production costs and offer a better price front of the Commodore VIC-20 competition. T.I. also thought of standardizing colours and peripherals of its future line of home computers, the TI99/2 and TI99/8.
Internal hardware of the beige version was quite the same as the TI99/4 black and silver model. All of the TI99 peripherals could run on the new version. Some minor change were made though:
• New power supply unit
• New power switch moved to to right of the keyboard
• The power Led was replaced with a blue colored area on the power switch
• Only the T.I. licencied ROM cartridges could run on this version.
Despite its short life, several tens of thousands system were sold, in American continent and Australia.
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In the middle of 1982 the TI99/4A black and silver model was imported from USA to Argentina. The local production started in 1983 with the TI99/4A beige model, made by the Argentinean company SDT S.A. between 1983-1986. The TI99/4A beige model was used in Argentina mainly for educational purposes, generally for teaching BASIC and programming concepts.
When used for teaching, the TI99/4A was used together with TI Extended BASIC cartridge and the Expansion Memory Unit. A large quantity of software was available for this computer: TI Extended BASIC, a variety of games in cassette tapes, diskettes and cartridges (Parsec and Microsurgeon were my favorite games), TI Calc, TI Pascal, TI Logo (wide used for teaching), Home Financial Decision, Assembler Editor, and so on. Most of this software ran from cartridges called Command Modules.
The Texas Instruments TI-99/4A was a great computer that was never really given a chance. It came out in Argentina around the same time as the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, which eclipsed the TI99/4A. It was the first small personal computer to have a 16-bit address bus processor. It also had a Speech Synthesizer module that sounded remarkably good.
Unfortunately the TI-99/4A had some strikes against it:
â€¢ Used a normal cassette player for storage. This requires fiddling with cables and volume levels. Commodore''s dedicated Datassette player was much easier to use, and more reliable at writing and reading information.
â€¢ Required a large expansion box (known as Expansion Memory Unit in Argentina) in order to add memory. Even with expansion, BASIC programs only had 12K for code.
â€¢ Was very slow in BASIC due to its BASIC being doubly interpreted, but it was much faster at the machine language level.
The Expansion Memory Unit contained memory expansion cards, a disk drive, RS232 card and various other peripherals. However, many of the peripherials could be purchased separately and plugged directly into the console. Although the TI99/4A could be connected to any TV set, the Texas Instruments color monitor provided a much better quality picture.
This computer had very good features to make up to 32 moving sprites on the screen using TI Extended BASIC, but does not had graphic commands to draw simple shapes (lines, circles, boxes, etc.)
For file managing on diskette, the TI99/4A must be used together with the Expansion Memory Unit and the Disk Manager cartridge. It allows to format, rename, copy and $ files on 5,25" diskettes.
One of the worst design flaws of the TI99/4A''s keyboard was the location of the ''FCTN'' (function) and the ''$'' keys. Pressing both at the same time resets the computer with no confirmation message. I remember that instead of pressing ''SHIFT'' + ''$'' to write the ''+'' character on the screen, I pressed ''FCTN'' + ''$'', which caused the computer to reset. This happened many times with a large BASIC program on memory and of course, not saved yet on tape or disk!
When the TI99/4A reached the end of its life around 1985-1986, it was replaced in Argentina by the MSX computers which had the same video processor. From that years, MSX computers begun to be used for teaching MSX BASIC and MSX Logo. Decades after having being created, the TI99/4A continues being in the heart of whom we learned with it our first steps in the computers world.
Wednesday 31st August 2022
Ricardo FabiÃ¡n Portilla (Argentina)
I am 13 and I have found one of these in a building my family owns. I am interested in it and how it has the same controller ports on it as a sega genesis does. Really neat.
Tuesday 13rd October 2020
I cut my teeth on this machine, learning program literally by copying the listings from magazines, and then figuring out which part did what action or sequence. My dad bought this machine for me when it was already discontinued, but as a poor family, we didn''t care. I love this machine to this day, and it is still connected to my tv.