I Just Got a TI-99/4A Like I Had When I Was A Kid

As any casual reader of this blog surely knows, I have lots of different hobbies. I have found it’s good for me to have many differing interests so that I don’t get too obsessive over any particular one of them. Over the summer, I got back into vintage handheld gaming systems (more posts about this to come). I’ve been keeping a regular watch on Facebook Marketplace for good deals on cartridges. A few weeks ago, I really hit the mother lode: a boxed Texas Instruments TI-99/4A home computer.

As the TI-99/4A was the very first computer I ever owned, picking one up was a serious nostalgia bomb. Thinking back, I believe I was 8, maybe 9 years old when my parents bought one. I remember it was at J.C. Penneys and it was on sale. In fact, the TI-99/4A was on its way out of the home computer market at the time, and the system is seen as something of a failure now. Back in 1980something, and now in 2020, it was and is the farthest thing from a failure in my view.

The computer was in excellent condition, and though the box was a bit beat up, the paperwork and manuals inside were in great shape. That blue Beginner’s BASIC book really hit me hard; I spent hours and hours going through it as a kid, teaching myself to make simple programs. The seller had modified this TI-99/4A with a composite output, so I was easily able to hook it up to one of the monitors I use for my current PC. I wrote a little program saying “I LOVE DEANA” infinite times to show off to my wife. She rolled her eyes, but also smiled, so I guess that’s a win!

Within hours of my purchase, I ordered an adapter to connect my Atari joysticks to the TI-99/4A, as well as a small lot of games, most of which I remember having as a kid. The best of these was The Attack. Or maybe Parsec? Both of them are really good games. Perhaps my quirkiest purchase was a cassette player adapter. The TI-99/4A could read 5.25″ disks with that peripheral, but I didn’t have that back in the day. What I did have was a tape player, and I could use that to save the programs I wrote to tape for safekeeping. What I’d give to have one of those tapes back today, so I could plug in my new/old tape player and load it into memory…

Using a video capture card, I was able to get a short video of my first few minutes with the TI-99/4A recorded. I uploaded it to YouTube, and you can view it below. It’s cool to have the capability to do this; I will probably make another post soon with some videos and pictures of the games I picked up. Maybe it’s not of interest to many people, but it makes me feel like I’m 9 years old again, and that is a feeling I really treasure these days.

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