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Thread: Is a TI-99/4A worth it?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
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    Default Is a TI-99/4A worth it?

    Hi,
    I've gotten into collecting vintage computers, and I found a TI-99/4a for sale. However, it doesn't have the power supply or any of the cables and the seller says they have no way to test it and aren't sure if the computer works.

    My question is, since I'm going to need to either find or make the casette and video cables and power supply, is this computer worth the trouble? I'm leaning towards getting it, but I'm just wondering what it can do and how fun and useful it would be. I've been trying to do some research, and I read that the version of BASIC that it came with is kind of "limited" as compared to the versions on other home computers from the time.

    I already have an Apple II and a VIC-20. The VIC-20 is pretty limited too, but I actually like it a lot. It's a "cute" little computer...lol.

    So what would you guys suggest? Considering that I don't know if this computer even works and it would be a gamble, and it needs the cables, should I get it? It's selling for fairly cheap.

    - Chris

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Portsmouth, England
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    Default

    You should be able to find a working system fairly easily and it should also be cheap, I am not sure it is worth the effort unless you have a sentimental attachment for them, they are very slow machines, most 8 bit machines are probably faster and have better graphics.
    There is a TI 99/4a forum on the atariage website where you can find answers to all your questions.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Default

    With just a console itself, you will be limited to running programs from cartridge. Well, cassette basic programs too, but as you say that is not very useful. Some of the cartridge games, however, can be kind of fun.

    Not tested kind of sucks. You could easily be getting a doorstop.

    You would at least need a power brick. You would have to make your own composite cable anyway or buy a newly made one, as people usually just used the awful RF modulators that shipped with the TI. If you just want to play cartridge games, you might not really need a cassette cable.

    Of course, to actually DO anything useful with a TI-99/4a you need the Peripheral Expansion Box, 32k expansion card, Serial/Parallel card, and floppy controller card. And a speech synthesizer and joystick for good measure.

  4. #4
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    Isn't the video cable the same as a Vic 20 one?

    The joystick is the same as the Vic 20 (and everything else like that).

    Get the speech synth, get as many cartridge games as you can, and of course a power brick.

    Don't buy one you haven't seen working, unless it's dirt cheap. See Black Screamer.

  5. #5
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    Jul 2017
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    California, USA
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    Default

    Thanks for the replies so far.

    What's kind of throwing me off is the power supply. From what I've read, it's actually AC and is just a step-down transformer. BUT it uses 2 oddball voltages...16 volts and 8 volts? So I would have to find a center-tapped 16 volt transformer? Not easy. Right now, the weird voltage requirement is kind of dissuading me. Why do these early computers have such bizarre power supplies? (The VIC-20 needs a weird combination of AC and DC at different voltages).

    I'm still kind of on the fence about this computer. I can make the power supply and whatever else it needs, but still just wondering if it's worth the hassle. I really like making my own programs and I'm wondering what it's graphic capabilities are. So far, the vintage computer that has the easiest way to work with graphics is the Apple II, with the "HLIN," "VLIN," "PLOT," etc codes in Basic.

  6. #6

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    The joysticks are wired differently to the Ti99 so they wont work.

  7. #7
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    Looking up the pinout, you are correct. Now I have to wonder why I think I've only ever used the same joystick that I've used for other computers.

    It should be pretty straightforward to build an adaptor.

  8. #8

    Default

    TI-99/4As are dirt cheap, have a pretty solid collection of game cartridges available for them, and the voice synthesizer is a neat gimmick. Once you get the joysticks and video cable sorted out, they make a fun, inexpensive vintage system -- although if you want to expand it into a disk system, the Peripheral Expansion Box is scarce and ungainly.

  9. #9

    Default

    I can't believe that the adapters are so pricey - there is currently one on eBay for $21shipped (which isn't bad, but they go up from there). I love playing with my TI99, and if you can get it for a good price, I would suggest that you go for it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    How cheap is cheap? They're doing lots of new things with the TI99 these days, even including base consoles with only built-in BASIC and cassette. But it's best to find one with a few carts, especially some flavor of Extended BASIC if you want to program. There's alternatives to the large PEB for storage/peripherals. AND a power supply so you can confirm its working.

    An unknown orphan is only useful as a parts unit once you get a working unit. In my experience, it was good to have one or several backup consoles and accessories. If a key fails or a game carts gets dirty (both fairly common problems), it was simpler to haul out the #2 TI and carry on and fix the #1 later.

    There's adapater to build or buy for all the connectors. An Atari joystick to TI99 is just a rewire. Composite monitor is available on the TV port and all the connectors are commonly stocked items.

    Now we have PI interfaces, micro-sized PEB alternatives and SD floppy drive emulation, create your own cartridges, pipeline to your PC, on and on. Your choice of programming languages. The world's your oyster!

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