Personal Computer Museum, Canada's Videogame Museum

Texas Instruments TI 99/4A

Texas Instruments TI 99/4A

Speed3 MHz
Memory16 KB

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Texas Instruments

TI 99

Release Date: 1/1/1979
Manufacturer: Texas Instruments
Original Retail Price:
Adjusted Inflation Price:
$700.00
$2,302.27*
 
This very successful computer produced a large number of cartridge games and even had a large expansion system with a disk controller (very uncommon, but shown here). Launched at $700 US, this computer used a TI TMS 9900 microprocessor (the world's first single-chip 16-bit CPU). Many interesting add-ons such as a speech synthesizer were also available. The TI had other cousin machines but the 99 / 4A was by far the most popular. Near the end of its life it was repackaged in a beige casing. This cost reduced version failed to catch on as more powerful computers came onto the market.

 

This computer is currently interactive in the Museum.
 

TI Speech Synthesizer Module

TI Speech Synthesizer Module
Release Date: 1/1/1979
 
In the early 1980s, TI was known as a pioneer in speech synthesis, and a highly popular plug-in speech synthesizer module was available for the TI-99/4 and 4A. Speech synthesizers were offered free with the purchase of a number of cartridges and were used by many TI-written video games (notable titles offered with speech during this promotion were Alpiner and Parsec). The synthesizer used a variant of linear predictive coding and had a small in-built vocabulary. The original intent was to release small cartridges that plugged directly into the synthesizer unit, which would increase the device's built in vocabulary. However, the success of software text-to-speech in the Terminal Emulator II cartridge cancelled that plan. (Most speech synthesizers were still shipped with the intriguing door that opened on the top, although very few had the connector inside. There are no known speech modules in existence for those few units with the connector.) In many games (mostly those produced by TI), the speech synthesizer had relatively realistic voices. As an example, Alpiner's speech included male and female voices and could be quite sarcastic when the player made a bad move.

User Comments
Lloyd Lindsay, CPA, CA on Monday, January 04, 2016
I loved my TI 99/4A. It was a great machine, and I belonged to a TI 99/4A club. I bought a desktop TV for my monitor and justified its cost to my wife by telling her that she could watch her TV programs on it as well. The computer was well ahead of its time in many ways. It used 16 colours, not just a single colour on a black or blue screen. I used a US accounting program that was written in "Extended Basic" and I was able to modify it to accept Canadian postal codes. Of course, I could play games on it too, and my wife did not get to use the TV very much. This wonderful device had only one problem. TI required programs to be inside cartridges that were unique to that computer while other computers could run programs recorded on magnetic tape or floppy disks. Because of this, programmers began selling their programs recorded on the more universal media that other computers could run.
Terry Ritchie on Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Back in 1982 when I was clicking away on my TRS-80 Model III a friend of mine received a TI994/A from his dad. Wow, this computer was cool! He had the expansion box, TI monitor and voice synthesizer. It wasn't long until I was spending more time on his computer than mine! I was amazed by the color, true sprite engine built into it, sound and 16bit processor. It didn't take us long to write our first game, a BattleZone clone. I wish I still had the diskette we saved it on.
Kevan on Monday, August 04, 2014
This was the FIRST computer I ever owned, and it's always had a special place in my heart. As a middle aged man, I'm reliving my youth by getting back into the real thing. I found a group of friendly people online waiting to welcome back current and former users. Drop on by and say hello at this url: atariage.com/forums/forum/119-ti-994a-programming/
Jim Oblak on Thursday, January 24, 2013
I got one of these when they were being cleared out for $50 in the early 1980s. One can find an emulator somewhere on the internets to run this system on Windows. The one thing I remember from this is "Shift-838", which is apparently a similar memory for others, as indicated in a Google search.
C.B. on Saturday, January 07, 2012
I also had a TI 99/4A in the early 80's. Wrote several programs in Basic to understand fuel pricing at retail facilities? Great to play with. Recently purchased two more for accessories and now have a Speech Synthesizer with Parsac and Alpiner Cartridges. Do I need anything else to program my speech into my TI? Thanks in advance. CB
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* Inflation data courtesy of www.inflationdata.com. Values are approximate using our own calculations.