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Hey kids, why does the screen turn green?


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Because it does. Seriously. Extended BASIC doesn't have the same "feature".


Well, it is documented in the manual that a running TI Basic program defaults to that color. (Hey, Kids, RTFM.) And...of course, you can change it by making the first line of a program CALL SCREEN(8).



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  • 4 weeks later...


When I first started playing with BASIC years and years ago, it made me feel like I was "doing something". =) Obviously I wasn't doing much. hehe

Hehehe - I can relate: felt like I was doing something, but in reality, I probably wasn't doing much at all. (Although it could be argued that any type of horsing around, no matter how silly, can still be heuristic - remember Mr. Bojangles? :D).

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A reply from Dr. Science:


That's a wonderful question, Timmy, and since I know more than you, you came to the right person. Please excuse this unusually-lengthy answer, but I am am excited to add to the history of the TI by addressing this topic. Although I didn't work on the 99/4(a) projects, I have learned a lot from exclusive access to documentation from the company.


There was no specific reason for the green-screen on the 99/4. However, extensive research

took place back-in-the-day to determine if it was worthwhile to keep that feature on the 99/4a. The 4a was actually ready in 1980, but was delayed a full year because TI wanted to spend more time investigating colours.


I know that TI engineers didn't have Masters degrees in science, like myself, but I still applaud their efforts. In test machines, programs that started with a different shade resulted in undesirable activity from many people. For example, red stirred up feelings of anger in some subjects (much like the bull -- which, in reality, gets irritated more over 'fulvous brown'). Blue was discounted because it contributed to depression in susceptible people. Others could handle seeing the shade, yet had to deal with the agonizing "Blue Christmas" song mysteriously being stuck in their head regardless of the season. Imagine how more irritation there would have been if "Eiffel 65's" BLUE (DA BA DEE) from 1999 was around in 1981!


Yellow was studied the most and was quite problematic. A yellow screen had some people (kids and adults) believe their computer was insinuating that they were chicken. With others, yellow had the bizarre effect where it made them believe that they needed to tinkle although they didn't! This would have caused the affected user to not be able to spend as much time with their machine if they were at the toilet too-often due to urges. As well, time would be lost if there were smelly accidents which occurred when a person couldn't tell if an urge to relive him/herself was real. TI had to deal with a stinky environment at times and the abundance of maids to clean things became more expensive. Needless to say, yellow was out.


No company wants their products to be identified as being a contributer to increased urination, depression, or anger (with the possible exception of "Microsoft", which is used to customers getting p'od with their bug-laden products). Even though it's known that someone at Texas Instruments discovered the trick where placing a sleeping person's right hand in warm water can cause them to wet the bed --- and that many TI employees were pranksters and even WANTED the relatively non-threatening yellow screen as a gag --- it was ultimately rejected.


TI wasn't blind to possibility that some colours could result in lawsuits. They considered that if a kid became despondent over seeing blue during a program, a parent could complain. They also realized that if anger was increased from the viewing of the color red, the person might destroy their machine and buy a different computer. It is true that a couple greedier employees felt that if a person ruined their machine from anger induced by an automatic BASIC red screen, he/she

might have felt bad about being immature...bought another 99/4(a)...perhaps another when they destroyed that one...and the profits would skyrocket.


Despite the discoveries, it was decided that no potentially 'dangerous' colours would be removed from usage in programs on 99/4a. Lawyers determined it was safe to allow them since it would always be the person's choice to have the screen change the shade; there wouldn't be frivolous lawsuits. This is America, though, so I don't know what they were thinking. I guess times were simpler and more innocent in the early 1980s.


This 99/4(a) user still thinks there should have been a disclaimer in the documentation regarding the possible effects of any of the colours. I say that just in passing -- not that I actually had any incidents playing 2009's new LEMONADE STAND game that ruined my clothing or furniture from when I computed in the buff.


So, in the end, TI kept the green-screen on the 99/4a when a BASIC program started. They held onto the idea that, when a kid with a lesser machine saw that a BASIC program on the 99/4a actually made the screen change COLOUR at the start of a program (unlike any other computer's BASIC), they would be 'green with envy'. The result would likely be the pestering of parents for the better computer that was seen at a friend's....and tidy profits for Texas Instruments. More 'green' in their eyes, as it were.


As for why the SPECIFIC shade of green was chosen -- when there were two others built into both 99/4 and 4a systems -- one can only speculate. I do know that no other greens were tested in the process. I suspect that -- concerning 'puke green' color 13 -- TI knew from the yellow tests that a different bodily-function would be likely and smelly keys from excessive vomit could have occurred. TI probably didn't want to spend more on testing the possibility since they reasonably suspected what the outcome would be. Now, it's well-known among the 99/4a fans that they are very resilient, well-made machines. I bet the 99/4a could take anything thrown (up) at it! As a man who loves to do science, I can't resist performing my own tests. Check back on this forum in 10 years, Timmy, when my experiments will be completed so you can learn how my 99/4a machines are functioning.


There's still MORE to tell, lil' buddy! I hope you're keeping up (chuck) [ha ha]. Although the idea of including the green-screen in the "Extended BASIC" cartridge did come up a little bit (another unplanned puke-reference -- sorry), it was learned that the automatic green-screen proved to be a factor in slowing things down. For nostalgic reasons, they kept it only in BASIC and the lack of it in "Extended BASIC" was an incentive to get the language. XB does work slightly-faster, as most users know and can see, but who knew it had to do with the screen not changing colour when a program began?


The details I've learned seem to go on and on and I bet you stopped reading a long time ago. If not, good for you! Keep learning and you'll be well on your way to getting your own science Masters.


Because the TI is no longer being made, and I received permission just recently, I will reveal a former top-secret bit of information that I received directly from an interview with a former TI employee. The cyan shade at the title screen on the 99/4 and 4(a) wasn't considered to be a type of blue and it actually was soothing to users, reminding many of a nice sky. It was always used immediately on all the 99/4(a) machines so that people would want to stay glued to the screen and its serene atmosphere. It was a business tactic and an attempt to keep people from wanting to actually move and get fresh air outside under the real sky. This is also why "Extended BASIC" stayed in cyan when a program ran!


"Microsoft" could have learned something if they did colour tests. Even today, folks

encounter the BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) from a major crash of the "Windows" operating system. The appearance is enough to make people swear at the bugginess. . .but the fact that "Microsoft" chose blue was a terrible idea of theirs (referring to the depression possibility stated above). Only TI was concerned enough to research potential, negative impacts of different colours on their products.


The real reason the TI-99/8 wasn't released ALSO had to deal with colour! In the 99/4a's later life, the company went with the beige/grey colour for the console and accessories. There was never any reason that I am aware of for the black/silver scheme and the beige/gray variety was just what the shades of the cost-cutting plastic were. People did prefer the newer colour-

appearance over the old, but it was too late and TI was losing so much money from the machines that they abandoned their 99/4a in October 1983. TI was on the right track with the grey 99/2, the precursor to the 99/4, and I think they should have always stuck with that scheme. If only they did, today we may have been enjoying the TI-99/128 or something...but I bet that would have caused confusion since the Commodore 128 is still in heavy-usage even today in 2013.


This is slightly off topic, but I was just thinking that it is interesting that movies may have special effects created using blue-screen or green-screen techniques. TI was really onto something!


In closing, for this TI fan, I appreciated the use of the green-screen at the start of a BASIC program. I don't know if it was overlooked by accident or done on purpose, but as a young lad this made me think of grass and partying -- which was all that really mattered anyway.


Lil' Timmy, take precious care of your 'elderly' computer. Remember that TI cared about you first.

Edited by GratedTopping
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"I wish I had as much free time as Dr. Science."


There was a lot of documentation to wade through and I had to get my facts straight, so it took months (with a bit done at various times).


This question left the floor open for fakes. I'm surprised that I made it in time.

Dr. Science is trustworthy.



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