Differences between the 99/4 and 99/4A
Between the TI 99/4 and
the TI 99/4A were some striking and less striking differences:
The keyboard of the 4A
was better and greater. De 4 had keys like those of a calculator. The most
striking difference are the orange ENTER- and SHIFT-keys on the 4.
The smaller number of
keys on the 4 could lead to some risky situations. For instance, the 4
didn't have a FUNC-key. A program could be stopped with SHIFT-C. Who
instead of that pressed SHIFT-Q, lost everything, because this was the
fatal reset combination.
- On the 4, you could
only type in capitals.
Unlike the 4A, the 4 had overlays that covered the whole keyboard.
- In the start menu the 4
had an extra option: the calculator function. This explains why the 4 had
5 KB more ROM.
- The 4 had a different
graphic chip, with an extra mode, although one could not use it in BASIC.
- The adapters were
different - never confuse them!
Welcome to the nostalgic
history of home and game computers
TEXAS INSTRUMENTS TI 99/4A-
TI's short-lived adventure
Texas Instruments 99/4A changed my life. It was the first home computer I
came in touch with in the early eighties, through a friend from high
school. With admiration I followed the piece of magic he performed with
this machine; I'd never seen anything like that before. Most amazing was
the moment when this computer started to talk through a Speech Synthesizer
and when even more mysterious things happened through the modem, a device
in which one had to put the receiver.
For me it was the beginning of an
addiction to countless games like TI Invaders, but also the beginning of a
long exploration of all the possibilities of BASIC.
The Texas Instruments 99/4A was the successor of the TI
99/4, which because
of it's late introduction in Europe only led a short life there. The case
was just as elegant as that of the 99/4 - aluminium and black plastic -
but some aspects were improved. The 99/4a had a mature keyboard, a major
improvement compared with the (only) 41 calculator-like keys of the 99/4.
More differences between the two computers are described in the box
elsewhere on this page.
When Texas Instruments announced in 1979 that it would launch it's own
home computer, competitors like Apple and Commodore shuddered. That was
understandable, even more when it turned out that the TI 99/4 and the
99/4A would be the first home computers with a 16 bits processor. Its
name was the TMS 9900, manufactured by Texas Instruments since 1976.
In other respects these home
computers also showed great promise. For instance, they were equipped with
an excellent graphic chip, known from the Colecovision and of course also
manufactured by Texas Instruments. This chip conjured up sixteen colours
on the screen and made it possible to use sprites.
The TI 99/4 and 99/4A had a cartridge slot that simply asked to be used. A
tape recorder in combination with these computers, somehow or other was
'not done'. Texas Instruments and some other companies produced dozens of
different cartridges, varying from games to administrative programs.
Soon many options were available, all manufactured by Texas Instruments.
People who had plenty of dough - the prices were substantial - could equip
there home computers with an external floppy drive, and acoustic modem, a
thermal printer and the famous Speech Synthesizer. This thing with its
canned voice produced much hilarity, I remember.
When you had all those options,
you had a snake of devices connected to your computer. Texas Instruments
was aware of this problem and started to sell in 1982 the so-called
Peripheral Expansion Box. This box was equipped with a floppy drive and a
memory extension and had besides that six slots to hide other options in
an orderly way. With this large box you had almost a real PC at home.
In spite of all this it went wrong with the TI 99/4A; competitors could
heave a sigh of relief. I don't know if it played a role in the failure of
the home computer adventure of Texas Instruments, but one of the problems
was the incredible slowness with which BASIC programs functioned on the TI
99/4 and 4A. This was caused by the fact that BASIC was double interpreted
- and thus the advantages of the fast processor were nullified. Programs
in machine code, like on the cartridges, didn't have this problem and
functioned as one should expect on this kind of computers.
anyhow caused problems for Texas Instruments was the fact that it kept the
technical details of the TI 99/4 and 4A secret. Therefore competitor
couldn't profit with own games and options. But the other side of the coin
was that for the TI there was less choice in options and games then for
other home computers.
Besides, Texas Instruments initially asked a substantially prices for the
computers, and the options were also expensive. Soon a price ware flared
up with Commodore and other companies. Texas Instruments tried to survive
on the home computer market with a beige model of the TI 99/4A that was
cheaper to manufacture, but it was of no avail. Finally TI went below the
cost price, and the company was in the red.
TI was through with it
At the end of 1983 Texas Instruments decided to quit
the home computer market. Then, some 2.5 million 4A computers were sold.
It is to its credit that Texas Instruments during a long time maintained
the service for owners of its home computers.
Specifications of the Texas Instruments TI 99/4A
||1981 - 1984
||32 x 24 (16 colours), 40 x 24 (2
||256 x 192
||3 channels, 5 octaves, 1 noise
||monitor, cassette, cartridge, 2x
joystick, extension port
||525 U.S. dollar
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