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Really impressed by the TI E/A binder/package!


AMenard
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Hi,

 

As a new TI-99/4a owner I'm really surprised by the quality and completeness of the E/A kit. They even included a commercially released game (Tombstone City), with source, as an example! That's something Commodore would never have done, especially during the Tramiel years...

 

Of course the price of entry on the TI was a bit high since you needed a disk based system to use it and the price for the PEB was out of my reach anyway (so was the computer) in the early 80's.

 

Hey, but at least I can enjoy it now! I should receive my PEB this week (I hope) and will be able to lean and practice coding on the TI.

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Yes. The whole EA package is brilliant. It's a mini-computer system. Wait until you get into the concept of having multiple different programs in memory at the same time (E/A loader option #3). It was years ahead of anything in the home computer market. Going back to those crappy Commodore and Atari machine code monitor programs is total torture! So primitive.

 

Enjoy the ride!

 

Ask if you get stuck. We're here to help!

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Amazingly also, the E/A manual is very complete. It has nearly everything you need to know, except maybe some stuff on the hybrid graphic modes. The problem is it's target audience was engineers looking for refresher information, not beginners trying to learn things.

They do say this in the intro, recommending that people first read a book or two on other processor assembly language before tackling this one.

 

But, I'm kind of their target audience :)

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Yes. The whole EA package is brilliant. It's a mini-computer system. Wait until you get into the concept of having multiple different programs in memory at the same time (E/A loader option #3). It was years ahead of anything in the home computer market. Going back to those crappy Commodore and Atari machine code monitor programs is total torture! So primitive.

Enjoy the ride!

Ask if you get stuck. We're here to help!

Will do!

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It's fascinating even for me that back in the 80s, I actually managed to learn assembly programming with the E/A manual. I remember I thought it was just complicated by nature. I tried to get hold of any more information, and there were some few magazines that had assembly language content, and in particular the books from Apesoft.

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I found my assembly baby steps on some disk images; everything is still there. I started with things like screen output ("Hello world"), learning about VMBW and related, then KSCAN etc. Next was 40-column mode, then I wrote my first program, a prime number finder. Then I tried to get sprites running and so on.

 

I was lucky that my parents supported me and bought all these peripherals and cartridges, even though my dad already lost interest for the TI and went for some Commodore stuff (VC-20, C64, C128, Amiga).

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One of the thing I find bizarre though, is why do you need the cart to run assembled program?

 

In other system that I know, once assembled the code is a self executable but on the TI you seem to need the E/A cart to run them, or did I missunderstood?

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You're lucky! I had to learn it from the mini-memory and line-by-line assembler!

 

Luckily I already knew some Z80 and 6502 so I already understood things like registers.

 

Having 16 16-bit registers was such a luxury! Assembly is so simple on the TI!

 

I also learned on MiniMemory and LBLA. At that time I did not have 6502 experience so moving from 9900 to 6502 felt strange, but since I had only done minimal 9900 programming and I was doing far more advanced 6502, the 6502 became my standard. That said, I definitely missed 16 word-sized registers compared to only three 8-bit registers, as well as the inability to just stash a register set whenever I needed to (changing workspace) instead of pushing and pulling them from the stack. Mind you, I do rather like the 6502's stack.

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So the commercial 3rd party developers basically either wrote in GPL and had GROMs masked by TI or hacked their own GROM like adapters to normal mask roms?

 

-Thom

 

TI engineers left one way open - you could create EPROM-based cartridges that got an 8K address space which could contain machine language. This was the way for 3rd party contributors like AtariSoft. However, near the end, they created consoles ("quality improved") that removed the ROM-only cartridge support (by commenting out the part in the console that looked up the entry points into those cartridges).

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