“What the EFF should I play?” – TI – 99/4A
When it comes to games, I don’t really ‘collect’ everything I see. I usually stick to 2600 cartridges as my ‘system’ to collect for bypassing rows upon rows of SNES, N64, and Genesis carts at a flea market, but actual systems? Those are a weakness. Same goes for the older 8 bit
gaming computer systems. I’m lucky enough to be able to have a game room setup (which sees far less use then you’d think) in the house, along with a fiance’ that enjoys gaming and permits this little fun den. The shelves in the room are stocked with most mainstream US consoles from the Atari 2600 onward. a A few weeks ago I stumbled around one of those flea markets doing ‘the walk’. You know ‘the walk’, right? That slow shuffle as you gaze on tables upon tables of knick knacks, doilies, pots, pans, old DVDs, and stereo systems that were lousy 20 years ago. Once in awhile though, you find a gem buried under something.
The prize was a TI-99/4A. I don’t have one, and I had to have it. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I heard the port of Star Trek S.O.S. on it was pretty good. Last year at PAX East there was a retro vendor who had a system for sale, box and all, for $50. At the time I figured I’d grab it on the way out. Would you want to carry a box the size of a small flatscreen TV around with you all day? When I went back it was gone, sold to some invisible gamer/collector. C’est la vie. When I saw this boxed setup being sold by a guy who looked like he was in his late 20’s for $40, I had to have it.
The ‘TI’ is actually from Texas Instruments. It’s a computer system similar to the Atari 8 bits and Commodores of the day. It came out in 1981 to the suggested retail price of $525. Yikes. Clearly this held it’s resale value. They sold pretty well initially, but I think Commodore outsold them since they were cheaper and Texas Instruments wasn’t really open with their systems the way everyone else was, so the whole DIY hacker thing never really materialized at the time. I had now seen two in the wild over the past 15 years, at PAX East, and here. I got home with my prize along with the requisite stinky cardboard box of games. What fantastic games did I obtain? Multiplication. Division. Subtraction. Not only are these mathematical operations, they are ‘game’ cartridges. Educational games. Yay! I also got a Q-Bert. Now I have it on what, five systems? There’s a game that looks something like Oregon Trail that I need to try, “Chisholm Trail”.
I probably should power it up, right? I haven’t. It’s all here. I have the box, manuals, cables, and everything needed to run it. I also got the lousy joysticks this computer uses. Luckily, Atari 2600 sticks work, but still. Maybe I’m jaded, or just busy right now. When I write ‘The Fair Shake‘ and ‘What The Eff is On This Disk‘ I do try to spend a little time (or a lot of time) playing whatever the topic of the week is. This week? Meh. I opened this up, took a picture for all to see on Twitter, then promptly closed the box. I should look for some other games or at least a flashcart of some sort for this, but yeah, meh. Am I burned out? Do I really need every console? They look nice on the shelf but….
TI makes some good stuff. I have my TI-82 graphing calculator that I still use from time to time. While I sit here typing this, the 99 is to the side of me. I’m staring at it. Did I make a mistake? Could I have spent my money better elsewhere?