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(jeffa) Re: My first computer was...

by jeffa (Bishop)
on Jul 04, 2003 at 06:41 UTC ( #271412=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to My first computer was...

TI-99/4A. It was a Christmas present from my parents in 1981 (or was that 1982? ... off by one again). My dad wanted to prevent me from installing games on his Apple ][+ (he used it for accounting purposes). The TI-99/4A hooked up to a conventional TV set and had a cartridge slot as well as a cassette tape connection (i still have the original portable cassette tape player that i used). I remember playing a lot of games like Hunt the Wumpus and Parsec, but eventually i learned how to create and animate sprites and wrote my first game - Money Bags. Simple. You control a cursor (an arrow) and move around the screen. There are two bags: one is a gold coin and the other is a bomb ... i think you see where this is going ;)

Even though the TI-99/4A was my first computer, it just couldn't compare to that "monster" Apple ][+ that was in the other room. Anyone remember Temple Of Apshai? Bard's Tale? Wizardry? Escape From Rungistan? Zork! Lot's of oldies ... but as well as playing games, i did manage to learn some BASIC programming. I had no troubles with loops and conditional branching, but i couldn't grasp the concept of peeks and pokes (i had no understanding of RAM, address space, and memory allocation), so eventually i lost interest in programming (which i wouldn't gain back until 1996). I (ab)used that Apple until about 1988 and it still works ... i have no idea what happened to the TI-99/4A however.


(the triplet paradiddle with high-hat)

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Re: (jeffa) Re: My first computer was...
by Phaysis (Pilgrim) on Jul 04, 2003 at 20:57 UTC
    My first was also the TI99/4A, the beige box. Aah, the refresh that pauses. :) I loved that thing. It was a gift to me by a friend of the family who no longer wanted or needed it (his son was completely disinterested in it). I was given a cardboard box with the TI, several education cartridges, a voice module, some cassettes, and both of the instruction books. I didn't have a cassette deck, so I picked up a "slimline" recorder at a pawn shop. Didn't have a cassette interface, so I had to pick up a DB9 connector and some 1/4" phone plugs and within a week of having the system I hacked my own. Later built the cable for the secondary tape recorder.

    I learned a lot of BASIC on that thing. My largest ongoing project was a TI-Basic port of Pac-Man; mmmm, nothing like defining my one-color sprites with hexadecimal and having to move them around with PRINTCHAR(x,10,8). Got the game as far as being able to move Pac-Man around, with either cursor keys or my home-made joystick, to eat dots and get scores, but couldn't determine how to make the ghosts move to chase Pac-Man or how to make sounds play concurrently with gameplay. That project taught me to have the good sense to gratuitously use subroutines and structured program flow -- before then my projects mainly consisted of straight-through execution and GOTO's. I Learned a lot on that machine. I later ended up with FIVE of them, all in various states of disrepair and cannibalisation.

    My second computer was a hand-me-down Timex Sinclair 1000. Let's hear it for membrane keyboards, 2K of RAM, 8K of ROM, and 1-bit graphics!

    It wasn't until '92 when a close friend of mine gave me his Amstrad 128k Z80-based machine (which displayed on a PAL monitor) that I found a piece of heaven; internal 3.5" floppy (non-standard form factor), 3-voice sound, 3 video modes, and probably the best, most powerful implementation of BASIC I had ever seen (which blew TI's BASIC out of the water). He even gave me his CP/M disks.

    Aah, halcyon days, friends.

    (Ph) Phaysis (Shawn)
    If idle hands are the tools of the devil, are idol tools the hands of god?

      The TI-99/4A was also my first computer. I got it after they had gone out of style and PCs were becoming commonplace. (See my scratchpad for a brief glimpse down memory lane.)

      I loved programming it for sound and graphics. My attempts at sound effects would drive my parents bonkers on the weekend! I too wrote a pac-man like game that used the joysticks for input. That was fun!

Re: (jeffa) Re: My first computer was...
by logan (Curate) on Jul 06, 2003 at 07:06 UTC
    TI 99/4a, ah, that takes me back. You hooked it up to the TV and used a cassette deck to store programs. Shortly after I got mine, Dragon Magazine published a BASIC program for generating D&D characters. Needless to say, I geeked out immediately typing it in and debgging it. The next month, I realized that other gamers were into computers as well, as almost every letter in Dragon had a bug fix or improvement to the code. Sadly, the editors decided only to print the headers of each letter without the code, explaining that they were a gaming magazine, not a computer magazine. In retrospect, it should have occurred to me that I didn't have a printer and I had no way of printing out the characters I created. Ah, well.

    A few years later, I got an Apple II+. 64 MB RAM, dual 5 1/4 floppy drives, a printer, and even a 96 baud modem. The modem was key, as it was my first experience with a BBS. I remember thinking "Wow, this is really klugey. Seems like this could be done far better." And that's how I invented the internet. Wait, that wasn't me, that was Al Gore. Sorry, I confuse them a lot.

    In 1988, I bought a Mac Plus. It's the smartest thing I've ever done in my life. It had 1, count em, 1 megabyte of RAM, a 30 MB Hard drive ("30 Megs! I'll NEVER fill that!") and a dot matrix printer. I was able to write all my papers for school, recycle them for other classes, and having the spell checker was worth a full letter grade. Using that tiny box, I learned MS Works, Pascal, and first used Prodigy. This also insured that computers would still be part of my life when I left college, setting me on the path to, uh, spending my Saturday nights posting on Perl Monks. Damn you, Steve Jobs!

    "What do I want? I'm an American. I want more."

Re: (jeffa) Re: My first computer was...
by skillet-thief (Friar) on Jul 04, 2003 at 12:16 UTC
    I started with a TI-99 4A as well. Nothing has quite ever replaced the experience of listening to the BASIC program you wrote as it loads back onto the machine.
Re: (jeffa) Re: My first computer was...
by ehdonhon (Curate) on Jul 09, 2003 at 22:28 UTC

    My TI-99/4A lasted me from the second grade until my Junior year at High School. I still remember getting it for Christmas. I really really wanted an Atari so I could play games. I was very miffed when I got that TI, but soon I learned that not only could the TI play games, but it would let me write my own also!

    TI Basic was my very first programming language, self-taught from a book. Probably the best thing that ever happened to me, as it shaped what would eventually become my career.

    I never did play hunt the wumpus, but I spent hours playing Munchman, Car Wars, TI-Invaders, and Alpiner. Later, I got the tape player attachment and started playing games like Treasure Island, and the Temple of DOOM. I never did solve those, though.

    I still have that TI.. I should really think of something creative to do with it.

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