The Texas Instruments 99/4A

History of My 99/4A

My first contact with a computer was when I saw a ZX Spectrum sold in a mail order catalog during 1983. I read the description many times and was convinced that I wanted one immediately. I was already involved in electronics and having a computer seemed like a dream to me.

Nevertheless, the ZX Spectrum was not the first computer I used. It was a Commodore 64 a friend of mine got when he went to UK. I had already read a couple of books on BASIC and we wrote some sample programs on it. It was pure magic.

The second one was an Oric-1! Another friend of mine bought it, second hand. He also had some games. It was impressive despite the awkward keyboard.

However computer prices were high. Those were difficult times, and I could not justify the cost for something nobody else understood. A full year had passed with me asking and pressing hard for a computer.

Finally, it was decided that I get one. But then which one? The price of the ZX Spectrum has fallen, but then the TI-99 was sold at the same price as well. I knew the 99 was discontinued, but decided to get it. I didn't care about preprogrammed software, I just wanted to program myself.

The TI BASIC era

I remember very vividly the day I got my 99 home, unpacked it and connected to the (BW) TV. I had a cassete recorder and immediately started writing and saving programs. I was impressed by the quality of information I found on the Beginners Basic and Reference manuals included with TI. Soon my programs got quite complicated and included graphics and sound and even file processing (on tape!) I've written a few games and demos as well as some math and educational software.

I quickly outgrew the TI-BASIC. It was really slow (double interpreted as I learned later) and could not use the extended abilities of the console. But then I could not afford to buy any modules. Certainly TI Extended BASIC was the one I needed.

The TI Extended BASIC era

A year later I managed to get a second hand Extended BASIC for half the price of the new one (still quite expensive). I also got a brand new pair of TI Joystics since the shop that I originally bought the TI started liquidating its limited collection of TI items.

I immediately started writing programs in Extended BASIC and was really impressed with screen control, subprograms and sprites. TI Extended BASIC is up to this day an advanced version of BASIC.

I kept working on TI for another two years. The home computer market was growing and faster and more capable computers were produced, but then I could not afford to change.

The end of the TI era - the Amstrad era

It was in my last year of high school when I managed to get funds to replace my 99 with another computer. I got the Amstrad CPC 464 with a green monitor. Initial plans were to sell the TI with all accessories (in mint condition) but that plan failed. TI was stored away and Amstrad got its place. I never really liked the Amstrad very much, though I must admit the speed increase was significant. I always hated the green monitor though. The CPC also helped me learn Z80 programming, useful to me as a student of electronics.

My student years and the Atari ST

As a student, I quickly realized I needed another machine for some serious work, both programming and word processing. I wanted to learn more computer languages like Pascal and C. The school had some PC compatibles but I didn't really like them.

I got a summer job (programming) earning a substantial amount of money and got an ATARI 1040STE with the BW high-res screen. One of the best machines I got, had through all my years in university and postgraduate year in UK.

The PC era

What should I say about this era? After selling the ATARI before returning from UK and returning from my military duty, I bought my first PC immediately after Windows 95 was released. The rest is history. The PC era surely has no magic to describe any further.

What happened to the old machines?

  • The TI is still well kept in storage. It is in mint condition, and I take it out when I get nostalgic. It is in perfect working condition. Lately I also acquired a black TI, along with a speech synthesizer and a couple of other modules for my collection.
  • The Amstrad was stored as well, but I once reconnected it and found out it didn't work anymore. I tried fixing it as I had some spare parts, but couldn't. I became furious and (regrettably) I trashed it.
  • I sold the ATARI ST when I finished my studies in UK.
  • I don't even care to say what happened to various parts of my various PCs!
  • I acquired for collecting purposes an original ZX Spectrum and a Spectrum +2 and also intend to get an Oric and a Commodore 64 since those were the first machines I used.