DiscoverRetronautsRetronauts Micro 62: The TI-99 4A revisited

Retronauts Micro 62: The TI-99 4A revisited

Update: 2017-06-02


We circle back to the original Retronauts Micro topic to do it proper justice. Ben, Benj, and Jeremy tackle the TI-99/4A: Its history, its games, and... well, that's about it.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

restaurants in human instrument alley from Texas the the Everyone welcome to restaurants micro I don't mentality pride and Texas instruments I don't know who came to the bench in a long afternoon hi everyone it's Jerry Parrish with restaurants micro and you're of change Edwards then Elton and Mae Geri parish but I mention that already so today we are going revisit the original reference my current topic was kicked off this series is back and I don't know twenty fourteen twenty thirteen I can remember a long time ago the very first topic I covered was Texas instruments ti ninety nine for a computer but that was me modeling for like seven minutes which is not nearly as interesting or informative as a full conversation about the system so I invited two guys who know a lot about the system and its games come in and talk about it with me and this is going to be sort of a ham like a companion piece to reference micro episode one much much better thing to his office in sixty one or so and so it's been a while the the Yeah a bunch so I think it's fair to revisit a topic that was kind of covered in brief before and do it justice so that's what this episode uh so I think I mentioned in surely the micro episodes before that I did not own a Texas instruments computer but because in Lubbock Texas where T I ATI had its plan to manufacture the tentative name for a those things were everywhere like every other school system and how it use it T I was like no a school district you but T I's new classroom and they said okay so yeah of course the system you know being sold for like nine forty nine dollars because of price competition and yet were badly so that when it was super cheap and everyone could own one yet so I have one home and have a feeling it was probably after the price dropped a lot from my parents I actually asked her as they remembered why we bought this particular one has any computing you know Commodores are me is or whatever and they had no idea the Midwest and Texas up in St Louis was probably after the price dropped it was affordable and this was actually the first computer um but I had that was mostly mine was before you know I have many ass so this is where I had gains in computer stuff when I was all I think that he and four and was one of the first machines I get has a collector in the early nineties when I was still a kid but we my dad bought me one of the ham fests you know second hand model I came from Atari eight hundred sort of school of thought and a D II was incredible like just solid state software currently pushing their mean they're like any other cartridge they love the fact that you push and horizontally and they just were really different from computers based on cartridges were pretty uncommon the SX to that other was sort his hybrid space between personal computers and cars although council really a thing at of the Atari computers north there'll be some common color is like a scam pasting but yes it was this hybrid where had aspects of personal computer you could program I buy it also had these cartridges that were just eleven games but also how you can add all kinds of wacky peripherals to it like the audio recorder for its audio cassette which was just kind of weird but great and the whole actual other peripherals you can put in to expand it with Playboy synthesis was the cool an illusion step back for a second think about the precursor to the four A which is the four men in before we do that I think we should just talk about T I and how they it back yeah I think its right context so Texas instruments you probably know them from their calculators because they still make them and they're kind of the standard for graphing calculators and so and so forth back in the seventies though t I didn't just make calculators they also made mini computers computers aren't something that really exist anymore but this was back in the days when the micro computer which is what we think of as computers now was still kind of this high in the sky concept I mean this sort of developing that EI ninety nine for the system that eventually became the ninety nine unlike nineteen seventy six so it's kind of content for any of the Apple Watch yeah so Yeah so basically I had two different schools of micro processors that they thought this was this was in the days when it wasn't just Intel arm and Motorola making chips it was everybody everyone is making their own semiconductors so T I had another calculator chips they also have their sixteen bit processor or mini computers and they said let's let's get into the micro computer market and making it that ship and they failed they did not make a Navy ship they made a sixteen bit chip and said well let's just put this in our computer I yet their microprocessor that TMS wasn't just a single chip version CPU board from one of their mainframe computers Jenny put on a so so they accidently inadvertently in nineteen eighty created the world's most powerful no it was a sixteen bit system because they can get there it's a chip to work or whatever they can get the odds of what was the kind of ham strung it like even though it had the sixteen bit processor like the buses and just like the system couldn't take advantage of everything but yeah it started out as kind of a mass quantity I ninety nine for and go go for it because it was like okay well it was a big big mess to clean keyboard is the biggest mass part of it now I'd say the fact that it cost eleven hundred dollars costs and millions more it was eleven and become a mother because of the mess they couldn't get FCC of their their connector so they could only kind of monitor you can use it with any TV like a lot of other computers so I had to come with a specific scene is I think is enough monitor and yet raise the price there's the keyboard and talk about the ACA set screws now it's just a crappy little keyboard that doesn't sound like a full touch typing are you putting down you feel it like that Mac has gotten his lap that can no more action I mean it's more like pushing on with some of the grapes the boards were squishy Apple has managed to get some decent scissor action to their tiny tiny keyboards that was not present in a chick lit keyboard from long ago hoping things like they tried to take this like more powerful business computer and just kind of smooshed it down system and really didn't work the first times or like it did just everything was compromised but still expensive yeah I mean it was more expensive than an apple to much less powerful much less pleasing to use it just it was not good so that was nineteen eighty I want to say nineteen seventy nine yeah and remember it was a huge flop okay I did an article called Design mistakes classic PC design mistakes into the sniper technologies are thinking I know I've written about TNA nine somewhere like the original nine nine four minus eight For he was called before a late May forum oh I know it's only nine because of its chip was the team s nineteen nine hundred and the four A was because the video and data digital video display processor its serial number ended with an A for a confined anywhere I the the shoot and let me look a interferes with bag different one in course is to expensive Jia an and had some other problems in our member something that the power supply or the RF some of the four is and ethics of things and they needed a lot cheaper and it suddenly became competitive for as a couple days in a half to give you a better keyboard like a nice chunky keyboard with a goal think he's good when you press them for who I think they allowed you to use different kinds of mothers that she was plain tortilla and they also give you like the Daisy chain cereal expansion which I don't think was in the forest was it wasn't for the picture it holds near and so they and their stuffs one awareness for his things about expansion could just keep adding things like Daisy chaining ok thats normal like everyone does Jesus painting but if you want a full system you end up with something that's like five feet wide just to kinda like a synthesizer there's even a printer the stuff inside a thirty K Ram expansion serial port thing and disk controller and heavenly so that's right our mean because round with the maid of the thirty five feet tall and is turned on its side and then you got the eye with all its really weird because they did Daisy chaining but instead of using cables to connect everything each component to slide so yeah see is the keyboard like five or six things they became impractical for the longest one of the things that they did with a ninety nine for a After like a year was create the peripheral peripheral the mansion box of habit and that that which was a kind of made the ninety nine for a look more like what you think of these days as like a classic computer you know though that the processor was in the keyboard that was the computer but then he had had any for the monitor on top of that it was a large aluminum box was very durable but you basically can slide everything into there and it would be discrete and tucked away into the serial just a bowl and what kind of automatically modify itself to and I think that I it some hefty hefty think it's a place like and it's got a big pair of fly for just rising and it's capacity with your tired as this sprawling mass of connected peripherals are treated even have that we just had the base system and then we had to put into our old CRT TV because you could just like you can get a T adapter for when I when I think of the T ninety nine for a I think of the keyboard with this piece and speech synthesizer point of the side and then be peripheral expansion box behind it with them on top that was kind of like the way that you know was sort of the ideal way to use the T I did for most people probably used with the cassette try at the expense involved yeah that was the cheapest we should talk just for men about one of the reasons that the nine for a scene so sluggish was the fact its basic was written and interpreted language EPL graphics programming language I wonder so interpreted language and basic if you're a you know if you're idling program in basic it's running on top of another interpreted language that's being interpreted it super duper design a yeah but displayed some of its quirks it was an extremely expandable system one of the interesting things that you know in in researching this episode I found is that T I was working on something that kind of function like a USB back in the early eighties was like a plug and Play Haas waffle interface they never got it working but there is the you know a certain sort of fan community and developer community that still exists for the Tiananmen four am people have brought us feet to the system so any of this modern interface standard four eight which I don't know what I'm doing that it's their new video replacement chip thing going on to get more colors and stuff the obvious are doing it for now it's called I'm sure you could just use USB drive your basic or what else what else you get into some limited interface for the Tory hundred USB interface to sort of thing yes just like if the Mount Everest think it's there see got to do it but yet so this is what I made an interesting computer with some flaws and some good traits love the cool things about it was the speech synthesizer module today and I touched on which had a really good although generally computer generated speech you know why why speak and spell rented this because I really this came from with the thoughtless pig as the ship so I interviewed who creates because Bill unfortunately forgot his name but you can find a vintage computing a calm and empty I did that project and simulated vocal tract electronics is really crazy to an advanced race time and so they have the technology around the button of the samples like you would do today this was actually like just taking wrong way forms manipulate them into you got stuff that was recognizable it comes in really it works in a really weird kind of way yeah that's a little a little boxy see anytime you see eighteen eighty nine for you almost always see that little box plugged into computer right side of it yet so it's it's like almost an oversized mouse except it's not it's just the speech that I don't actually have this piece is the but I do know that Jennifer and I do have a speaking style can if you're one my speaking skill into the TIF very next day for the new TV season is home to oh we came for you buddy on a plain tee and invaders the the go games so that kill them games yeah thing about the T I is that Texas instruments did not license they say they did not like super strict about things they wanted like it if someone wanted to publish and he either needed to do it through T I kind of like Nintendo wants to be even more so yeah but the thing is Nintendo didn't really bring out licensing program into existence until they lock in the Japanese market T I did not have a lock in the American market and there were a lot of computing computer standards and so their parties mom thinks we'll go with other companies and so no games that you recognized showed up on T I was a con a lot of hungry and I asked later later soft ports later for one made and nearly like rewritten not there some say yeah they were going a cartoon style I of those but if you search something on the port the end of its last and where they were actually I of the first two years it was all in house like frog or something those are probably rare ministry leader in Easton okay yeah so when we talk about the games that did come out when you know in the heyday the two year period where this is a viable system pretty much all by T I some of them are original some of them were adaptations of classic concepts and some of them were just straight every boss in popularity it's pretty much the three categories ATI games so yeah I've got a list here together and see the guys have added to it so just go for it Sean what to start with a straight rip off the move up to more interesting about the rip offs like we had you know we have much and guess what not with a ripoff of munching vacation is basically if it's in reverse Pac Man wherein does happen it means light cycles yeah so im studying dots you're laying a trail was though I may be thinking about this much no reason other than that the rib of man but has more as I know my mom and Casey mention the double rainbow yeah bring up Casey much but they are laying down trails and other than that is exactly Pac Man on and then you have to invaders which is a straight up say tomatoes it was fine it's fun to play it safe is busy meeting if you can make the phone they need to take your should point out the joystick seventy I sucked ass I mean they're like like playing a stick with the big wide but the one revenue know that two into one plug to two controllers know in the one thing is in the back too but they just were horrible I mean they just bring in there and I felt like you know like stirring frozen ice cream that's a good analogy both of them with fairly for cables into a single ply so basically two of you sitting on the floor and for the system is the only way are going as the Wendy's frosty controllers here yet it actually was a candidate from that french fries with the keyboard by necessity because either joy sticks or the joy sticks broker they are just now have to just think I was urged to that friend of mine same block of B had a T I and had the joy sticks which we didn't have it the computers at school and I did not enjoy using the trees sticks to nobody and no I have like five pairs of the six and used them because they're just terrible now in fairness some of the Atari choices were pretty bad to worse so I mean they were depending on which well it's a hundred half as good and so are there any other rip off games mean of patients like on the wonders of things that's hum of this is one of the great games of the tea I would say the same class and graphic exhibition of the mainframe game ends up playing kind of like mine mine sweeper in my opinion because you're so if you've got a sort of grid based system and you're playing off clues about water in the adjacent great tiles around you to avoid the want this and then you have to figure out based on the clues of the bats in whatever way to to kill them eventually well him each round takes like a minute but it's just me it's challenging because you have to have to kind of inferred through the clues and try to avoid killing you like working off imperfect information the game lets you explore and try to make your best guess you're not going to amaze so much as like um like this kind of a grid that's got your regular connection yet can you sort of figuring out the connections as you go The thinker but some of the Amber The House Between diagonal grids bases to me and then at the very end when you figure out where the office as you lay your arrow fly just like when you're fighting every action has another wife that awkward ones are mostly to strip off video games one which came with the system and large bundles which was just a cartridge to have three different games on it and they're all super simple kind of OK on one of them was hot shot which was sort of halfway between the cons and like an organ to a carnival you have it like bunnies on the top which are slowing Oxford professor gave various points for them is faster than news for doing really small the flow on this site removed and then there's a pinball game which is actually kind of weird combination of pong and breakout in that you have like these there's the top of the screen you have a pal of them on the screen although there's also like drains the site like and balls you can with every emotion has trains yeah but you're trying to break through things he can get higher score if you get into the thing behind things but if you break them all then like extra barriers show up so we can a little slow but kind of interesting and the other the cartridge is doodle which is really kind of terrible cuz it's basically Tron Light cycle zone leader controlling spiders that move very slowly and trying to trap the other spider in your trail and it's really frustrating not forget the sounds like a knight I to have for a while for more games to thicken up arsenic would you consider that a rip off its very defender that one about going back and worked yet looks like defender but it's basically just think you people don't the scramble really scramble a encounters sections apparently where you have to shoot down all the enemies way to keep wrapping around me coming back and then there's also this fuel mechanic where you can run on fuel has a very small very scripted and has good good speech synthesis synthesis and was the one in like learning enemy craft advancing to the Oh that's right you're enemy craft advancing the thing about is the way it's drawn even though it's not actually vector graphics is going in that style which makes it look like the fundamentals of the crafts games and has the offender was a dictator didn't look like they have and has this apparently like kind of randomized background swirls past and was again it's considered one of the best times the uh Today on Geffen Playhouse unscripted we're actor producer director officer or what else can you do bring you do do you unload the two nd give you a job in is loading it not know that Alan is buying the fit together and not the dishes that I buy that don't fit into destruction well I can teach you how they can fit right thank you Bryan Cranston on Geffen Playhouse be sure one the podcast one app and Apple podcast I regret to announce that our current boring instead of jumping on the back of the choke a bow or into the cockpit of a wonderous airship whenever we want to go down to the 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me I mean you're climbing a mountain and you're avoiding illness and items are falling rocks be incredibly frustrating but still kind of grateful if you missed out on the speech synthesis to like something where falling objects yes we're coming up this mountain has his mom's named after real mountains Mountain Everest and whatever kind of Matterhorn Matterhorn yes it's kind of get I see the setup of on time or just in that you continually going up and things are my key back down it doesn't happen every now and the mechanics are totally different more fun than his clever maybe probably don't know how to describe what's special about it they feel has this feel to it like it's just really cool like your own adventure I mean climbing a mountain trying to get as tall as high as you can always tie it all because how did someone Lubbock Texas know mountain yeah they didn't the things with the graphics and really impressive for the time even if they're pretty basic looking out but you have these huge straight to what looked like freaks were probably actually half background with small animated parts you have this character that was like you know where the St oh and you ran into like these humans in these bears that were like an importer to scream Why it and selecting a venue like it looked really impressive compared to other video games of the time just to have all these big things to interact with are graphically detailed and have these risk reward things going on like there would have like a jewel like right next to its paw that would give you extra points that might smack you in the key back down the mountain
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Retronauts Micro 62: The TI-99 4A revisited