Posts Tagged ‘voice synthesis’

Throwback Thursday – The TI-99

April 17th, 2014
TI-99 Texas Instruments Vintage Computer

The TI-99 used technology ahead of its time. It was both a home computer and a gaming machine.

I bet not all of you remember the Texas Instruments TI-99 computer? It was a fairly popular machine, but in no way shape or form did it receive the publicity or following that the Commodore 64 received when it was released just a year later. The TI-99/4a was released in June of 1981, while the Commodore followed in January of 1982. Back in those days households did not have access to the internet and as such the TI-99 didn’t provide access.

The TI-99 was my (and when I say “my” I really mean my parents) first computer. And the little-machine-that-could provided me with knowledge I still hold to this day. We owned the TI-99 with the voice synthesis and a tape drive. Yes that’s right, I said a tape drive. Back in the day you would record data, programs … ect on regular cassette tapes in the same way you would later record data on floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, Hard Drives or by Cloud Storage.

I remember spending many days typing in programs (mostly games) provided via Family Computing Magazine into Basic on our TI-99. Then saving them to the Tape Drive. The first game I entered was a racing game where you would control the car with the keyboard. If I remember correctly it was called Roader. To get that game working I had to type in five full pages of basic coding. I was probably ten or eleven at the time. Typing in the program must of took me about three full days. Once I was done I had to go back through the debugger to fix all the errors. When I was finally able to get the program up and running it felt like an incredible accomplishment. The idea of the game was to see how far you could get before hitting one of the walls on either side of the track. It was such a simple game, but provided hours of fun along with a fantastic learning experience.

We also had the video game Alpiner, which was on a cartridge. The computer was a gaming machine and a computer. I never really understood why computers moved away from accepting gaming cartridges. Anyways, the TI-99 was the first machine of its kind to include a technology called voice synthesis. Alpiner was one of only a couple games that put the technology to use. Alpiner was a blast to play. It was a one or two player game with the object being to race to the top of a mountain as you avoid falling objects. That is where the voice synthesis came into play. In the 1980’s, hearing a computer talk to you was something out of this world. I remember the TI-99 telling me to “beware of falling objects” and “Onward and Upward” along with a number of other sayings. The voice synthesis made Alpiner so much more fun.

Looking back now I understand the impact this little machine had on my life. It probably had a similar impact on many other peoples lives as well. The TI-99 provided me with years of learning experiences and fantastic memories. I’ll always have special memories of the TI-99.