Vintage & Retro Computer Project
Rescue, Repair & Relive Yesterdays Technology

Todays Date: April 23, 2024

RETRO DATE: Late 80’s Early 90’s

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS TI99/4A

The Commodore VIC-20 is an 8-bit home computer that was sold by Commodore Business Machines.

The VIC-20 was announced in 1980, roughly three years after Commodore’s first personal computer, the Commodore PET.

Texas Instruments

TI-99/4A

History

The TI-99/4 was a home computer released in late 1979 by Texas Instruments. Based on the Texas Instruments TMS9900 microprocessor originally used in minicomputers, it was the first 16-bit home computer.

The associated video display controller provides color graphics and among the best sprite support of its era. The calculator-style keyboard is a weak point.

TI only provided developer information to select third parties and required distribution via ROM cartridge, both of which resulted in a lack of software.

The TI-99/4A was released in June 1981 to address some of these issues. It simplified the internal design and added a full-travel keyboard, improved graphics, and a unique expansion system. At half the price of the original model, sales picked up significantly. TI supported the 4A with peripherals, including a speech synthesizer and a “Peripheral Expansion System” box to contain hardware add-ons. TI released developer information and tools, but the insistence on remaining sole publisher continued to starve the platform of software.

The TI-99/4A was launched about the same time as the Commodore VIC-20. Commodore’s CEO Jack Tramiel had once been offended by TI’s predatory pricing during the mid-1970s, and retaliated with a price war by repeatedly lowering the price of the VIC-20 and forcing TI to do the same. By 1983, the 99/4A was selling for under US$100, at a loss. Even with the increased user base created by the heavy discounts, after a US$330 million loss in the third quarter of 1983, Texas Instruments announced the discontinuation of the TI-99/4A in October 1983 and stopped production in March 1984.

History – Lisa Ventura

When the home computer craze of the early 1980s hit, it felt like we were in another world. The very idea of having a computer in the home was something out of science fiction, but when developments occurred in microelectronics in the 1970s this paved the way for them to appear in many British homes in the 1980s. It really did feel like we were entering a brave new world where technology would empower us and make our lives much easier.

From the Commodore VIC20 and 64, to the Acorn Electron, Apple Lisa, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro, these machines brought about a revolution in schools, workplaces, and homes. I desperately wanted my own home computer, so in 1981 (I think that was the year, my memory isn’t what it used to be) I asked my parents if I could have one for my birthday or Christmas.

I was so excited when I got my first home computer – a Texas Instruments TI-99/4 – and I felt on top of the world when I unboxed it and switched it on for the first time. Unlike other home computers it had a cartridge loader rather than a tape machine loader for games, so once a cartridge was inserted into the machine you could play games almost instantaneously rather than wait ages for them to load on cassette. I had “TI Invaders” and “TI MunchMan”, and I spent hours and hours playing them. They were the Texas Instruments equivalents to “Space Invaders” and “Pac Man”.

I also spent hours and hours learning “TI Basic.” If you got just one character wrong, the message “Incorrect statement” would pop up and you had to start all over again. And don’t get me started on the number of times I saw “syntax error” come up! Getting a program right was such a huge achievement, typing in “run”, pressing “enter” and seeing what you had done work was exhilarating.

I eventually moved on to having a BBC Micro and then after that a series of Amiga’s, specifically the Amiga 500, 600, 1200 and then the 4000 when I got married to my first husband as he had an Amiga 4000. After that I moved on to having PC’s, and I can’t imagine my life without computers today.

But I will always have a soft spot for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4 as it was my first ever computer. When everyone else had Commodore 64’s, Sinclair ZX Spectrum’s, or Acorn Electron’s, I had my Texas Instruments home computer. I had such a soft spot for it I decided that if I could get hold of one, I would like to add it to the Retro Room that my husband built so I could have my own little bit of the room. I asked my husband if he could have a look for one on eBay, and he managed to find one and not only that, but it was based in the UK.

When it arrived and he unboxed it I felt that sense of excitement all over again when I was 8 or 9 years old and unboxing my first Texas Instruments TI-99/4 home computer. It instantly took me back to a happier time when life was less complicated and when Airwolf, The A Team and Knight Rider was king. I wish I could go back there again.

What is interesting is that the graphics and interface of the Texas Instruments TI-99/4 is vastly superior technologically to that of other home computers, but back then I didn’t realise this or appreciate it. I can’t wait till I’ve received all the upgrades and games for it, and look forward to spending many happy hours reliving my youth with my Texas Instruments TI-99/4 home computer.

EBAY LISTING:

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Vintage Home Computer

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A vintage home computer.

With UK power supply,

UHF PAL adaptor / modulator (UHF Analogue Ch 36 output) and

cassette player connection cable.

Used and in working condition, but a few minor marks / dents on casing as shown.

ACCESSORIES & UPGRADES

SPARE TI-99/4A (USA) – Better Case

Due to the price and shortage of UK models, and to improve to looks of the UK model, a USA model was purchased to provide spare parts including the much better case.

TI-99/4A JOYSTICKS

Vintage Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Computer PHP-1100 Joystick Controllers guide

Used Vintage Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Computer PHP-1100 Joystick Controllers with user guide booklet.

Nearly 40 years old. I have tested them and they do work. These were not the best of joysticks even when new not very responsive, more of a collector item to add to your Ti 99 4a collection

 

JOYSTICK ADAPTER

Allows you to use the Standard ‘ATARI style’ Joysticks compatible with Atari 2600/Amstrad/Commodore 64/Amiga/Atari ST etc. with Your Texas Instruments TI99/4A Computer.

Texas Instruments Ti-99/4A Joystick Adapter 1 port version

The Texas Instruments TI99/4A Computer is not directly compatible with this standard. By using this converter you can use any Standard ‘ATARI style’ Joystick with the Texas Instruments TI99/4A Computer without any issues.

UPDATE: Now comes with Glossy Label inset into plastic so it won’t come off and lettering won’t rub off. It also makes it easier to know its the right way up (label up) and prevents it getting mistaken for or mixed up with other leads you may have. Also, the length has been increased a bit for ease of use.

C16 Motherboard

TI99/4A FINALGROM99 CARTRIDGE SD CARD READER

FinaalGrom99 designed by Ralph Benzinger.

This Cartridge will allow you to load rom images from an sd card.

This comes in a custom 3d printed case.

TI-99/4a 32K SIDECAR MEMORY EXPANSION CARD

Functionally equivalent to TI 99/4a Sidecar or PEB 32k expansion.

It plugs into the sideport of the TI with an edge card connector. It runs off of +5v, using about 5-10mah.

There is one configuration jumper to either take power from an external 5.5/2.1mm tip-positive 5.0 VDC power supply, or the TI-99/4A sideport. It will work with your Speech Syntehsizer installed IF you use an external power supply (available separately) OR modify your speech synthesizer to supply power at pin #1.

Many of the newer home-brew cartridge titles also require a 32k expansion and will work with this board. In conjunction with a FlashROM99 or FinalGROM99 cartridge (available separately), you can play 32K games without the need for a Peripheral Expansion Box (PEB) or even a nanoPEB!

This includes an assembled and tested 32K board AND A CASE.

This is in a 3D printed case. It is fully functional AND it is easily opened to add a TIPI inside if you wish to do so in the future.

NOTE: a TIPI is NOT included, but the case is able to accept one and can be installed by the user!

 

C16 Case
C16 Case
C16 Motherboard

TI-99/4A COMPONENT VIDEO CABLE (EURO)

For connection to the Red, Green and Blue digital component video ports on most modern televisions.

OFC cable and individually screened signals. Please read full description before purchase

DATA SHEET
Connector A 6 pin DIN plug
Connector B 5 x RCA plugs (RGB + audio)
Cable Length 1.5 metres
Colour Black

MORE INFO
Requires digital component in (red, green and blue phono sockets) on your TV or monitor to be able to use this cable. Most modern TVs have them. Red Pr/Cr, Green Y, Blue Pb/Cb.

Audio connections are provided by red and white phono connectors connected to the TI-99/4A’s mono audio output. Audio is connected to both left & right plugs into the TV for the best sound possible.

ACCESSORIES
&
UPGRADES

SPARE TI-99/4A (USA) – Better Case

Due to the price and shortage of UK models, and to improve to looks of the UK model, a USA model was purchased to provide spare parts including the much better case.

TI-99/4A JOYSTICKS

Vintage Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Computer PHP-1100 Joystick Controllers guide

Used Vintage Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Computer PHP-1100 Joystick Controllers with user guide booklet.

Nearly 40 years old. I have tested them and they do work. These were not the best of joysticks even when new not very responsive, more of a collector item to add to your Ti 99 4a collection

JOYSTICK ADAPTER

Allows you to use the Standard ‘ATARI style’ Joysticks compatible with Atari 2600/Amstrad/Commodore 64/Amiga/Atari ST etc. with Your Texas Instruments TI99/4A Computer.

Texas Instruments Ti-99/4A Joystick Adapter 1 port version

The Texas Instruments TI99/4A Computer is not directly compatible with this standard. By using this converter you can use any Standard ‘ATARI style’ Joystick with the Texas Instruments TI99/4A Computer without any issues.

UPDATE: Now comes with Glossy Label inset into plastic so it won’t come off and lettering won’t rub off. It also makes it easier to know its the right way up (label up) and prevents it getting mistaken for or mixed up with other leads you may have. Also, the length has been increased a bit for ease of use.

TI99/4A FINALGROM99 CARTRIDGE SD CARD READER

FinaalGrom99 designed by Ralph Benzinger.

This Cartridge will allow you to load rom images from an sd card.

This comes in a custom 3d printed case.

TI-99/4a 32K SIDECAR MEMORY EXPANSION CARD

Functionally equivalent to TI 99/4a Sidecar or PEB 32k expansion.

It plugs into the sideport of the TI with an edge card connector. It runs off of +5v, using about 5-10mah.

There is one configuration jumper to either take power from an external 5.5/2.1mm tip-positive 5.0 VDC power supply, or the TI-99/4A sideport. It will work with your Speech Syntehsizer installed IF you use an external power supply (available separately) OR modify your speech synthesizer to supply power at pin #1.

Many of the newer home-brew cartridge titles also require a 32k expansion and will work with this board. In conjunction with a FlashROM99 or FinalGROM99 cartridge (available separately), you can play 32K games without the need for a Peripheral Expansion Box (PEB) or even a nanoPEB!

This includes an assembled and tested 32K board AND A CASE.

This is in a 3D printed case. It is fully functional AND it is easily opened to add a TIPI inside if you wish to do so in the future.

NOTE: a TIPI is NOT included, but the case is able to accept one and can be installed by the user!

TI-99/4A COMPONENT VIDEO CABLE (EURO)

For connection to the Red, Green and Blue digital component video ports on most modern televisions.

OFC cable and individually screened signals. Please read full description before purchase

DATA SHEET
Connector A 6 pin DIN plug
Connector B 5 x RCA plugs (RGB + audio)
Cable Length 1.5 metres
Colour Black

MORE INFO
Requires digital component in (red, green and blue phono sockets) on your TV or monitor to be able to use this cable. Most modern TVs have them. Red Pr/Cr, Green Y, Blue Pb/Cb.

Audio connections are provided by red and white phono connectors connected to the TI-99/4A’s mono audio output. Audio is connected to both left & right plugs into the TV for the best sound possible.

Summary

Future proofed my Texas Instruments TI-99/4A by upgrading the RAM to 32K using the cartridge expansion, added SD Card cartridge to load software and improved video quality by adding a modern cable.

Upgraded to 32K Memory Expansion

Replacement Video Out Cable

Joystick Adapter

SD Card Software Cartridge

Period Correct Joysticks

Summary

Future proofed my Texas Instruments TI-99/4A by upgrading the RAM to 32K using the cartridge expansion, added SD Card cartridge to load software and improved video quality by adding a modern cable.

Upgraded to 32K Memory Expansion

Replacement Video Out Cable

Joystick Adapter

SD Card Software Cartridge

Period Correct Joysticks