TI-99/4a FAQ

Initially I will be cutting and pasting the FAQ from the atariage forum. I’ll be updating this one then referring people here from the forum in the future once it’s complete. – Greg

TI-99/4a and related Web pages:

 

Users Groups:

User meets/festivals:

USA:

  • Chicago TI Fest: November 2, 2019 – Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
    • Chicago TI Fest Companion Gathering: https://atariage.com/forums/topic/287013-chicago-ti-friday-2019-companion-gathering-to-chicago-ti-world-faire/
  • TI Fest West: sometime in 2020 – TBD
  • Vintage Computer Festival Pacific Northwest – http://vcfed.org/wp/festivals/vintage-computer-festival-pacific-northwest/ March 21-22 2020 – Living Computers:Museum+Labs in Seattle, Washington
  • Portland Retro Gaming Expo: Portland Retro Gaming Expo  https://www.retrogamingexpo.com/admission.php

Europe:

  • The German group will meet in Vienna (Austria) for 2020. It will take place from October 2nd to 4th (Friday to Sunday).
  • The Dutch group will meet on 14th March 2020 in Den Haag, Netherlands.
  • The British group will meet for their AGM on 17th and 18th April 2020 in Loughborough, England.

More info: https://atariage.com/forums/topic/299877-ti-europe-events-2020/

Emulation Section

Windows Emulators:

Linux Emulators:

DOS Emulators:

Multi-platform Emulators:

Web Browser based Emulators:

JS99er.net: http://js99er.net/

Vendors:  

http://www.dsapsc.com/what-is-sid.html – SID99 add a SID soundchip to your TI

http://codehackcreate.com – F18A vga VDP replacement

https://shift838.fwscart.com/ – Geneve keyboard adapters, drive select boards, geneve scart adapters and more

https://www.arcadeshopper.com/ – Software, Hardware, Cables and adapters. Flashrom99, SAMS, USB Keyboard adapters, Extended Basic 27 suite, RXB and much more.. new games, multi-carts etc

FAQ:

 

 

 

  • I don’t have a cassette cable to store/load programs how do I get one?

  • Can I use any cassette drive/audio source?
    • In short Yes you can. As long as the volume is loud enough.
    • There is an official TI program recorder but it is a standard audio cassette player, any player with the proper connections (mono audio out, mic in and remote) will work with the TI. Good tips on that link for setting up your recorder with the correct volume etc..
    • I have had success with a stereo to mono splitter on my PC and playing WAV files out using VLC to my TI as well.
    • Need some software?

 

  • What are the best games for the TI-99/4A?

    • The best games are usually run in 32k from disk or use a large rom cartridge such as the 512k cart or the FlashROM99 or FlashGROM99 cartridges. Expansion RAM (32k) is a requirement for most modern home-brew games/demos.
    • The TI Gameshelf contains a database of all kinds of games including games that run from TI-Basic, Extended Basic and Assembly Language games that require a disk system and 32k. (see website links at the top of the FAQ)
    • There is a great game high score contest on the atariage forum that we showcase some of the best games for the 4/a every month and the winner of the high score contest usually wins TI software or hardware donated by the last month’s winner.
    • Rasumus and Sometimes99er are the most prolific home-brew game makers as of late and their software is featured here in the development forum. Cartridges for most of these are available at arcadeshopper.com.

 

 

 

  • What is 32k ram expansion and how do I get one? Are bigger memory cards available?

    • The 99/4a came with 16k VDP ram on board. This is memory shared with the Video Display Processor and Basic.  It can not be used for running assembly language or GPL programs. They run from cartridge or expansion memory.
    • 32k ram expansion gives you additional memory for Extended basic, assembly language programs and GPL programs. It also is required for most of the utilities and fun 3rd party/homebew stuff.
      • Editor Assembler requires 32k ram expansion.
      • The 32k can not be duplicated in multiple cards/expansions so if you want to use another device that provides 32k you must remove or disable the existing 32k device.  (this is a issue with the nanopeb/cf7 device as they can not easily have their 32k disabled and so therefore can not share the buss with other 32k ram expansion easily)

How do I get 32k ram expansion? 

 

 Can I get bigger memory cards than 32k?

    • Yes you can get bigger memory cards such as:
      • Myarc 128k and 512k memory card
        • These include the 32k expansion ram and use a proprietary method to address/bank in the additional ram.
        • They also include DSR routines to do print buffering, ram disk etc.
        • With the Extended Basic II DSR ROM installed you can use 128k of this memory in Myarc Extended Basic II.
        • Myarc Extended Basic II is a software package that comes on diskette and requires a compatible Myarc or Foundation 128k/512k memory card, a cartridge with ram at 6000 (supercart) and a disk drive to load the program.
        • EBII is significantly faster than the TI Basic and Extended Basic interpreters and also provides additional functionality such as bitmap graphics and other features.
          • More info: https://www.ninerpedia.org/wiki/Myarc_Extended_BASIC_II
      • Foundation 32k/128k memory card – also includes the 32k expansion ram, These are basically identical to the Myarc card in fact there’s a ROM swap to make it 100% compatible and work with Myarc Extended Basic II (there is also a hack for these to make them 512k) (roms available at https://arcadeshopper.com)
      • AMS – Asgard Memory System cards were available in 128k-512k sizes. These set the standard for AMS memory and were quite expensive when they first came out. (discontinued – rare)
      • SAMS – Super AMS supporting up to 1mb of ram. 32k expansion is included and the rest is only compatible with software that works with AMS (discontinued rare)
      • Ksarul SAMS – The latest incarnation of the SAMS with 1mb or 4mb ram capabilities. Currently only the 1mb version is available.  32k expansion ram is included.

 

What about the NanoPEB and CF7 sidecars?

    • NanoPEBs are available periodically on ebay and arcadeshopper.com a limited quantity is produced and sold without any regular schedule.
      CF7+ - 32k, Parallel port and Floppy Emulation

      • Includes 32k ram expansion, floppy disk emulation off a proprietorially formatted CF card and a single DTE 9pin RS232 port. This port is not software compatible with most original serial programs
        • TIMXT
        • TI Web Browser
        • TELCO has been patched
        • MassXfer has been patched
        • TE2 works out of the box
        • Any program that uses DSR access to RS232 should also work as long as it enables the port.
    • CF7’s are also available on Ebay and arcadeshopper.com randomly..
      CF7+ - 32k, Parallel port and Floppy Emulation

      • Includes 32k ram expansion, floppy disk emulation the same as the NanoPEB and a single IBM PC cable compatible Parallel port on a 25 pin connector.
      • The parallel port is not software compatible with programs that do not make DSR calls. Using the PIO device works fine in basic and other utilities that use that DSR.
    • Both the NanoPEB and CF7 file system on the CF card can only be read and written using the software on the author’s site, TIDIR from Fred Kaal or the java application TIImageTool.

 

What is TIPI?

    • TIPI is the TI to Raspberry PI connection. This leverages the cheap storage and internet connectivity of the PI for use on your TI-99/4a computer. In a nutshell, you get an equivalent to a hard disk, floppy drive emulation and internet connection as well as access to peripherals on the PI (such as the mouse, ports etc)
    • The raspberry PI is connected to the TI-99/4a via a sidecar or PEB box TIPI card.
      • The sidecar TIPI card requires the sidecar 32k card with 44pin connector and external power supply to operate.
      • The PEB card plugs directly into the expansion box.
    • For updated/more info see: http://ti994a.cwfk.net/TIPI.html
      • TIPI
        (Pronounced tip-ee)
      • A File system and network access device for TI-99/4A
      • TIPI is a device for the TI-99-4A that allows communication between service scripts on a
        Raspberry PI and the TI-99/4A with DSR support to act as a filesystem, expose TCP and
        HTTP access through the Raspberry PI, and enable extensible PI services to the TI such as
        a mouse, or network gaming protocols.
      • TIPI is currently out in the wild, available from ArcadeShopper.com
      • TIPI sidecar prerequisites:
        • 32k sideport with stacking header expansion such as my memory card.
        • Powersupply for sideport 32k card.
        • 32k sideport set to use ‘ext’ instead of ‘ti’ power.
        • Suitable separate power supply for your Raspberry PI.
        • Your own Raspberry PI (model 3, 3b+ or zeroW supported)
        • SD-card with TIPI SD-Card image flashed
      • PEB version of TIPI is available now! Prerequisites:
        • Suitable separate power supply for your Raspberry PI.
        • Your own Raspberry PI (model 3, 3b+ or zeroW supported)
        • SD-card with TIPI SD-Card image flashed
      • TIPI Features:
        • DSR for file READ support:
          • INTERNAL/DISPLAY, FIXED/VARIABLE, PROGRAM, DIRECTORY
        • Write support:
          • INTERNAL/DISPLAY, FIXED/VARIABLE, PROGRAM
        • CATALOG support.
        • Sub-directory support.
        • Native file support:
          • /b99 /bas /xb files can be LOADed or SAVEd as PROGRAM files with automatic transformation to/from ASCII native os files.
          • /txt /a99 /b99 /bas /xb native os ascii files can be OPEN and READ as DISPLAY VARIABLE 80 files.
        • other native os files can be OPEN and READ as DISPLAY FIXED 128 files.
        • Partial long name support
          • CATALOG shows shortened names only
          • Long names and short names supported for file access.
        • DSR devices:
          • TIPI.
          • DSK0.
          • DSK1.
          • DSK2.
          • DSK3.
          • DSK4.
          • DSK.
          • PI.
          • URI1.
          • URI2.
          • URI3.
        • Special files:
          • PI.CLOCK – reading a DISPLAY 24 record returns asctime (time & date as string)
          • PI.STATUS – virtual D/V 80 file with list of network device info on PI. (mac addresses, and ip addresses for each network device )
          • PI.HTTP://… – GETs an HTTP url and let you access it like a normal file.
          • PI.TCP=hostname:port – open a socket, write opcode supported to write, read to read…
          • PI.STATUS – virtual D/V 80 file with version and network information.
          • PI.CONFIG – virtual D/V 80 file for configuration of TIPI services.
          • PI.UPGRADE – open and close (D/V 80) to trigger upgrade of TIPI services.
          • File name transformation:
          • Devices are mapped to unix filesystem locations:
          • TIPI. – /home/tipi/tipi_disk
          • DSK0. – /home/tipi/tipi_disk ( alias for TIPI. for disk unit 0 support )
          • DSK1. – /home/tipi/tipi_disk/DSK1
          • DSK2. – /home/tipi/tipi_disk/DSK2
          • DSK3. – /home/tipi/tipi_disk/DSK3
          • DSK4.
          • DSK. – /home/tipi/tipi_disk/
          • DSK1-4 are managed as symlinks, and can be configured with the TIPICFG program.
        • Raspberry PI transforms TI device-filenames with the following rules:
          • ‘.’ in file or path names become ‘/’
          • ‘/’ or ‘\’ in file or path names becomes ‘.’
          • linux filenames with more than 10 characters can be referenced with either the long name, or the short hashed name
          • as listed in the CATALOG
          • there is no shortening support for directory names
          • capitalization is observed ( the host os provides a case sensitive filesystem, as is the TI FS )
        • Software currently available for the TIPI includes (but not limited too) or more info see http://atariage.com/forums/topic/278913-tipi-enabled-software-listing/
          • TELNET – native TI telnet application with 80 column color ANSI support (with f18a VDP) also does 40col and 64col modes for 9918a stock TI (32k,TIPI, with internet connection req)
          • CHATTI – native TI chat program that allows people to chat on the internet with other TIPI owners (32k, TIPI and internet connection req)
          • RPS – TI basic program that lets you play rock, paper, scissors with another TIPI owner over the internet (TIPI required)
          • FTP – native FTP client
          • Jedi commander – Disk operating system for copying files to/from TIPI easily

 

 

How about the Speech Synthesizer

    • Just plug it in to the sideport of your TI-99/4(a) and it is available to any program that supports it.
    • Technical information http://www.unige.ch/medecine/nouspikel/ti99/speech.htm
    • General Information
      • Extended basic will only say the words in the included vocabulary in the Extended basic manual. Make sure you enter them in UPPER CASE ONLY if you use lower case it will say “UH OH” for every letter..
      • Terminal Emulator II will do “text to speech” and say any word spelled in the format documented in the manual.
      • Speech Editor will also do “text to speech” but they are pretty rare!
    • What about the little door on the front?
      • Originally when the synthesizer was designed, it was programmed with about 300 words and phrases (the ones you can get from CALL SAY in Extended BASIC). TI’s intention was to sell add-in modules that went into this compartment that would add additional words to the resident vocabulary. TI then figured out how to do unlimited text to speech through software, added that to Terminal Emulator II, and then there was no need for the add-in modules. So none were ever sold and very few of the speech synthesizers even have the connector inside the door for these to plug into.
    • I hear there are a couple lines that aren’t passed through the speech synth? (these can be jumpered across the board to resolve)
      • 5v on pin 1 (Jedimatt sidecar32 requires this OR an external power supply)
      • Sound through (SID99 requires this to play sound from the PBOX)
    • Can I put the speech synth in the console?
      • If you are handy with a soldering iron: http://www.mainbyte.com/ti99/speech/speech_console.html
    • Can I put the speech synth board in the PEB?

 

What is this Peripheral Expansion Box you speak of?

    • TI released two versions of the PEB (Peripheral Expansion Box)
      • 99/4 which has a push button switch
      •  99/4a which has a rocker switch
    • There was a beige colored box in advertisements for the QI models but it was never manufactured or released to the public.
    • The expansion box connected to the 99/4 and 99/4a with the Flex Cable
      Interface card which included a large black ribbon cable and a large connector that connects to the expansion port on the right side of the console. This was dubbed the “fire hose” by TI owners.
    • Yes the fan is very loud, here’s instructions to put in a quieter fan: http://www.mainbyte.com/ti99/peb/peb_box_project.html
    • Great write up with photos here: http://mainbyte.com/ti99/hardware/peb/perf_box.html
  • What cards are available for the PEB?

 

Can I hook up a PC keyboard to my TI?

 

What Joysticks and controllers are available for my TI?

 

Can I hook up a modem to my TI?

    • Yes but to hook up a modem you need a RS232 serial port
      • with a PEB and a RS232 card
      • with a sidecar RS232
      • with a NanoPEB
      • with a UberGROM board with the serial interface)
    • What is the pinout of the TI RS232 serial port?
    • What is the pinout of the NanoPEB?
    • What Terminal Software is there for the TI
      • Terminal Emulator II is a cartridge that will allow you to connect to RS232/1 or 2 at 110 and 300 baud. This software has it’s own “terminal protocol” that allowed for changing character definitions and other cool stuff. Runs on a stock console without memory expansion.
      • FastTerm was a popular terminal program that gave you basic terminal functions and xmodem transfers. 32k and disk system required.
      • Telco is the most full featured terminal program for the TI, it included multiple terminal (including ANSI but no color) and transfer protocols, phone book and auto dialer and many other features. 32k and disk system required
      • Term80 allowed you to have an 80 column terminal on your 99/4a with the stock VDP, hard to read but amazing! 32k and disk system required
      • Mass Transfer was a terminal program that worked well to send multiple files between computers. 32k and disk system required (included in XB27 suite)
      • TIMXT is the latest terminal released allowing for up to 38000 baud full color ANSI terminal on a NanoPEB or TI rs232 card and 80 column text with the F18a VDP. 32k, rom load or disk system and F18a required. http://atariage.com/forums/topic/265573-timxt-terminal-emulator-dev/?do=findComment&comment=3761846

 

Can I hook up a printer to my TI?

    • Sure with the following cards/addons you can hook up a printer.
      • TI RS232 card has two serial ports and one parallel port. You can order a TI parallel cable here: http://www.cabledepot.com/05MCOlderTI.html
      • NanoPEB has a single serial port that is the same as a PC serial port. 9 pin
      • CF7 has a single parallel port that is the same as a PC parallel port 25 pin
      • There was a cartridge based program that included a cartridge based parallel port, these are relatively rare.
    • If you don’t have a printer, you can use the program TI PRINT from Fred Kaal to use your PC’s printer with your TI. You just need a serial port (same as the HDX set up) and this software: www.ti99-geek.nl/Projects/ti99print/ti99print.html

 

Disk drives?

    • TI made a stand alone disk controller and a PEB card that supported up to DS/SD diskettes. There is an 80 track modification available from hummingbird eproms to add 80 track drives to this controller.
    • Corcomp made a PEB disk controller and a sidecar “9900 Micro” that supported up to DS/DD diskettes. http://mainbyte.com/ti99/hardware/9900_micro/9900_micro.html
    • Myarc made a PEB disk controller that supported up to DS/DD diskettes.
    • Myarc also made a HFDC (hard, floppy disk controller) for the PEB that will support up to 80 track DS/DD disks on a 4/a and fully format 1.44mb HD disks on a Geneve (with the appropriate drive).

 

Hard drives?

    • TIPI provides a hierarchical file system (essentially a hard disk as far as the TI is concerned) for more information see the TIPI description above or http://ti994a.cwfk.net/TIPI.html
    • Myarc produced a Winchester Personality Card that allowed you to connect a WDS-100 SASI controller to your TI and then some MFM hard drives to the controller. This supported up to two 20meg drives. There are only three I know of in collectors hands.. Good luck on finding one!
    • Myarc produced a HFDC controller that in addition to disk drives supported up to 2 MFM hard drives as well, I have a 40mb one on my Geneve, not sure the max limit.. (rare)
    • S.N.U.G produced an excellent SCSI controller card that is compatible with the TI and Geneve. These are difficult and expensive to find for sale. http://www.s-n-u-g.de/home/index_e.php
    • WHSCSI card (Western Horizon SCSI card) Handles 7 SCSI drives and with a HP SCSI port splitter box could handle 6 more SCSI drives for a total of 13 SCSI drives (rare)
    • Therry designed a IDE controller for the 99/4a and some have been built as part of a group project among TI enthusiasts. These are not currently in production. but are open source you can build your own

 

Disk emulators?

 

RAM Disks?

    • Corcomp’s 128k and 512k memory cards are basically only usable as RAMDISK these had no battery backup so power off=blank
    • Myarc’s 128k and 512k memory cards contain a DSR routine for RAMDISK, these had no battery backup etc..
    • Horizion RAMDISK is a dedicated ramdisk of battery-backed memory. It will survive a reboot/power down as long as your batteries are good. Various sizes were released getting bigger as ram prices dropped.

 

 

A web browser? seriously?

Compatible computers?

My TI isn’t working right! help!

    • Keyboard issues
      • The keyboard is connected directly to the TI motherboard with a pin connector. This can become loose/dirty and may need cleaning/reseating. There is no logic within the keyboard is is merely shorting the keyboard lines when you hit the keys. keyboard_schematic.jpg
      • If your cable is damaged there are replacements available at http://www.arcadeshopper.com/under hardware/cables
      • Alpha Lock issue: With the alpha lock key on you are unable to use the up direction with the joysticks. Release alpha lock to play games OR do this fix: http://mainbyte.com/ti99/console/alpha_lock.html
      • What keyboard do I have? There were at least 5 manufacturers of keyboards for the 99/4a. http://mainbyte.com/ti99/keyboard/keyboard.html has good pictures/info/schematic.
      • keyboard_front.jpg
        • Mitsumi: These keyboards do not have any solder points except for the alpha-lock key connection and the ribbon cable.
        • Image result for ti-99 keyboard mitsumi
        • Alps and others: These keyboards have solder points on the back of the PCBoard keyboard_back.jpg
          • these keyboards sometimes have dirt/corrosion in the switches that can be cleaned with contact cleaner or alcohol.
      • Console just BEEPS
        • The start up routine of a 99/4a initializes the sound chip with a tone and then the rom boot routine shuts off the tone.. If it just beeps either there is a bad connection to a peripheral OR a board level issue that is causing the startup routine to “lock”. Check all socketed chips for good connection/corrosion etc and reseat.
      • Scrambled/Garbled screen graphics/text
        • 80% of the time this is VDP ram and it will need to be replaced.
          • Here is a great page on how to determine what RAM chip is bad: http://www.ninerpedia.org/index.php?title=Troubleshooting
            • VDP Ram is soldered into the motherboard and will need to be desoldered and replaced (suggest it is replaced with sockets and new ram inserted into the socket) this ram is TMS4116 static ram. Located in number 6 in this photo: http://mainbyte.com/ti99/hardware/big_mother2.jpg
            • The F18A VGA VDP replacement contains it’s own VDP ram so replacing the TMS9918a VDP in your 4/a with a F18A will also replace bad memory without having to solder..
        • On NTSC/USA machines TMS9918a VDP is the hottest component on the motherboard and this tends to end it’s life prematurely. Daily use consoles tend to have the VDP fry sooner or later. This chip is socketed so it is relatively easy to replace. It is covered with heatsync compound and there is a metal slug that sits on top of it under the RF shield on a original 4/a. On a QI model there is a metal heat-sync clipped to the 9918a.
      • Cartridges don’t work or don’t work reliably.
        • The TI cartridge port is the most used part of a console. It tends to get dirty and gummed up. Info here on cleaning carts and the port: http://mainbyte.com/ti99/minimem/cart_fix.html
        • Replacement cartridge port boards are available on ebay and from vendors.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.