The year was 1983. Mom wouldn’t let us get an Atari 2600. She thought that video games were the devil or something. Well, actually I guess she figured she’d never be playing video games. So, we had to suffer. Ironically, every time I see her presently, she’s playing the crap out of “Simpsons: Tapped Out”. Anyway, back in the 80s we could only get something that would be educational as well as entertaining. So, my family got our first home computer, the TI-99er.
Mom bought into Bill Cosby’s hype. I was only 5 years old at the time, so I had no idea how much the thing cost. But, a quick search finds that the TI-99er/4A retailed by $525. That’s a pretty hefty cost in 1983. The Atari sold for $125 at that time. So, my folks actually spent more on a computer that would be more “educational”. But, to be honest this thing was the start of my fascination with computers.
I learned how to “program” on this thing. There was simple little programs that you’d type lines & lines of code to run. I swear you’d write 500 lines of code to see the screen change 5 different colors and beep. Then you’d save the program onto a cassette tape. That was weird. You’d literally have a cassette player hooked to the computer. You’d type a command to load the program, then hit play on the cassette player. The noise it made was similar to dial-up modem sounds.
Once we got a speech synthesizer for the thing, you could make it talk. And of course being a 5-6 year old, I would get my friends over to heard the computer say curse words. It sounded like the old speak and spell machine.
It had tons of Atari rip-off games for it. Instead of Pac Man they had Munch Man, Instead of Space Invaders, they had TI invaders. However, I played the crap out of these games. The cool thing about Munch Man was every level had a different bad guy. Also, instead of eating a power pellet, you ate a Texas Instruments Logo.
I believe this was the last computer made by Texas Instruments. After this, they went back to making calculators. Surprisingly this thing did make an impact on me. I would say that this was the first stepping stone that got me interested in computers. From there I went to a Commodore 64 to a 486, and from a 2400 baud modem to high speed. And soon I went on to being a computer nerd fixing computers for a living. Thank you, TI.