14 March 2008 @ 15:54Reminiscing about my old TI-99/4A

ti-994a_sm.jpgI’m not sure why, but I was just thinking about my days as a kid with our first computer — a Texas Instruments 99/4A. It must have been about 1983 when we got this computer. The TI-99/4A had a 16-bit TMS9900 CPU running at 3.0 MHz. Wow! It was attached to a 13-inch color television. First and foremost (for me) it was a gaming platform. Up until this point, we hadn’t had any sort video game system, so this new machine was nothing other than AWESOME to me.

The games that I remember playing were Car Wars, Hunt the Wumpus, Alpiner, Jungle Hunt, and Indoor Soccer.

carwars.gifCar Wars was my first and my favorite game. I would describe it as a cross between Pac-man and trying to avoid a head-on collision with a car. The goal was to clear all the dots from each level while avoiding a collision with the “computer car”. Each level got incrementally faster. I don’t remember exactly how far I got in that game, but I do recall some very tense driving. :)
Hunt the WumpusHunt the Wumpus was a sort of a strategy, hide and seek game in which you had to figure out which “room” the monster (Wumpus) was in, all while avoiding hazards such as bottomless pits and bats. Once you figured out which room the Wumpus was in, you had to fire an arrow into that room, but if fired into the wrong room, the Wumpus would be startled and attack you.
AlpinerAlpiner was a climbing game in which your goal was to climb safely to the top of various mountains while avoiding such hazards as falling rocks, avalanches, wild animals, trees and brush fires. Coming into contact with obstacles would cause you to fall, sometimes only a short distance, and sometimes back to the bottom of the mountain, in which case you would lose a life.
Indoor SoccerIndoor Soccer was a relatively simple game in which you would run around on screen with a ball attached to your foot, and once you were ready to kick the ball you would press the controller’s button. As simple as it was, this game was pretty fun, so long as you had another person willing to play with you. This game required two players. There was no option to play against the computer.
Jungle HuntIf I remember correctly, Jungle Hunt was one of the last games we ever bought. I distinctly remember it as having one of the games with the most variety. You would run, jump, swim, swing on vines, and more. The goal of the game was to rescue your beautiful companion from the savages. I seem to recall that I got to a particular point in the game and couldn’t get any further. You can see from the graphic to the right that it has about the best graphics of any game I had had played up to that point. :)


Texas Instruments start screenAside from playing games, I did do some simple programming in BASIC. I had bought a couple books with programming examples, and from there I would just retype what was in the book and run the program. I remember designing these little 8px by 8px graphics that I would maneuver across the screen with some lines of code. These programs could then be saved to a cassette tape. Yes, that is correct. The most common method of saving was onto an audio cassette by simply attaching a regular cassette recorder to the computer. I remember the cool sound of the data as it was recorded and played back from the cassette.

We didn’t have any of the add-ons for our TI 99/4A, but I do remember that I badly wanted the voice synthesizer for it. Who wouldn’t want that? According to wikipedia, Texas Instruments was a pioneer in speech synthesis technology.

A couple years later we bought an IBM PC XT with an Intel 8088 processor running at 4.77 MHz and a whopping 128k of memory. Not long after that, we ended up giving the TI 99/4A to my cousin’s family.

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