ScuzzBlog: Diaries February 2021

Entry 10th February 2021: Post 1: Texas Instruments TI99/4a - Business is war.

Texas Instruments TI99/4a - Business is war.

Jack Tramiel at Commodore had a philosophy of business being like
war and nothing demonstrated this ruthless view more than what
happened between Commodore and Texas Instruments. Sadly for Texas
Jack never forgave them for the way they pushed him out of the
calculator business.

Texas Instruments had already had a failure with their first
venture into the computer business with the 99/4. The cost alone
was enough to put buyers off. However in late 1983 Commodore
recognised the threat if Texas Instruments with the release of
the TI99/4A.

Sadly the computer ran into immediate problems with the transformer
and was taken off the market for six months. During this time Jack
instructed his sales to offer users to turn in their old machines
and they would get a C64 at a discounted price. Suffice to say a
lot of the computers handed over to Commodore were the TI99/4A.

Texas Instruments used the TMS9900 processor. Like Commodore the
company produced all its own chips and the 16bit processor was the
weapon of choice. Sadly the chip was not supported by many and to
make it work with the machine had to slow the processes down. Texas
also had a policy of only using their own software and games. Jack
Tramiel discovered that Texas were losing money on the processor
and so in a bold move immediately cut their software and peripheral
costs. Texas could not compete with Commodore on price for these
items and because of losses in excess of $450,000,000 pulled out
of the computer industry.

This cute little computer was not the last in the line, there was
a later model in grey plastic which failed even worse. Both of the
machines have the single expansion port with the idea of daisy
chaining peripherals to one side... literally like a train. What
was really bonkers was Texas Instruments unwillingness to use and
entertain third party software and games.

And so the TI99/4A was a short lived little computer that nobody
really wanted. I believe that over a million were sold so not rare.
I have a couple in boxes and this one that sits there on top of my
Win 95 machine. The most frustrating thing with all these machines
is the way they all used different power connectors. The one on
this computer is particularly troublesome. Don't buy one if it
doesn't come with a power supply.

I will finish on a positive note. I have to give credit where credit
is due and so any computer that provides a place for me to sit my
tea cup gets a thumbs up from me. It's not the worst of its generation
I think that honour goes to the Aquarius.

Texas Instruments TI99/4a - Business is war.

My shelf with three of these silver things on

My SONY in the store always gives way
better images than the big Toshiba

The computer was working when I first
discovered her so looking good so far

Also found a goodly amount of docs

First thing to connect is the modulator
or TV connector. The DIN connects to the
one rear port on the back of the machine

A TV PAL Encoder

Next up you need the special power supply

With the very strange connector

Then you are good to go

Maybe should have stuck to calculators.

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Last updated 10th February 2021

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