Nostalgia Strikes!

My old TI-86 calculatorMy OU courses involve a fair bit of maths, so I’ve been looking for my old TI-86 over the past couple of weeks. I literally haven’t used it since my final exams at college, so knew it could have ended up anywhere. I had one quick go, then a much more sustained look which turned up nothing. I just had a brainwave, however, and found it at the back of my camera cupboard. I obviously decided that since it was vaguely technical that was where it belonged, or something šŸ™‚ I can’t get it working yet. The batteries are obviously a good 32 months old, but they have the duracell pressy-button-lighty-uppy tester which shows all of them to be about half-depleted. I remember that last time I used it there was a crusty build up* on the battery terminals, which is still there, so I wonder whether that could be the problem.

There was a group of us with such cool calculators and we used to have great fun, particularly once I got the data-cable and used it to transfer programs from this site as well as the seemingly now defunct ti-philes. We had clones of mario and tetris; there was space invaders, 2 player (via the link cable) asteroids, a very primitive 3D-shooter and even a wav player that streamed unamplified barely-discernible sounds through the data port via an uncommon headphone adapter I managed to get hold of. But by far the best game, in my opinion, was Vertigo, which was really quite stunning. The aim was to roll a ball around a 3D map, without it falling off the edge, in a certain amount of time. It was greyscale and must have had a primitive physics engine and all sorts. I seem to remember the second level taking me weeks, though Ben and Ed managed it in about a day. Gits. I’m not bitter. This was all in 8K too. There was even a pc-based level editor!

As well as games there were all sorts of ‘useful’ programs. You could draw serpinski’s triangle in about 30 seconds and factor very large numbers pretty damn fast. You could get picture viewers…Unlike some on the ticalc forum, I didn’t actually use these for dubious reasons, but the surrealism of using a calculator to view porn was extremely amusing – 55378008 eat your heart out!

I seem to remember one particular 1st April maths lesson where I copied a ‘useful’ program to all the other TI-86s in the class, then told them to press a certain key combination. Their keys were then remapped, which I found terribly funny. There was a combination to fix it, which I was going to let them know at the end of the lesson, though I think Ben discovered it before then. Unsurprisingly, not much learning took place that half-hour!

Such games and programs were written in asm, which is without a doubt the most loopy programming ‘language’ I have ever attempted to use. You’re only a couple of steps away from directly using 1 and 0 at this level and while I have every respect for people who can write programs in asm, they’re sometimes of a certain mentality. Though I might just object to this guy because of his name, which doesn’t evoke fond memories. Actually, no. Anyway, there was also a version of BASIC built into the calc, so you could program wherever you happened to be. Somebody actually came out with an asm compiler for the calc, but that was risky as it was easy to get into a loop which required a memory reset to exit.

Oh yeah, you could draw graphs of functions with it too. But what fun’s that?

*a google groups search for ‘battery terminal crusty’ turns up a post from Intrigued as I am, I don’t think i’ll read that.