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Newsletter - November/December 2004


Hello, and thank you for subscribing to the latest installment of the bimonthly ticalc.org newsletter! As 2004 draws to a close, it's only appropriate that one last newsletter should be published before the year ends. So, without further adieu, here is a little recap of what happened this year.

Throughout 2004, big gains were achieved by both Texas Instruments and the ticalc.org community. TI expanded further into the calculator market by releasing three new calculators: the TI-84+, the TI-84+ SE, and the TI-89 Titanium. These calculators brought new opportunities for programmers, but at the same time new challenges, since a few compatibility issues loomed overhead. However, that did not stop people from creating programs for the new calculators that took advantage of their new features, such as the built-in clock.

However, even with the new hardware from TI, the ticalc.org community also experienced some big gains. Several milestones were reached, such as the community reaching 50,000 registered users, or the 10 terabyte data transfer barrier being broken. A big project, specifically the great screenshot project, helped to add over 21,000 screenshots to the website, which helped to greatly increase the depth of the archives. A new system was implemented to allow users to review files submitted to ticalc.org, and has grown rapidly since its inception in late January, prompting the hiring of a new staff member (Namely myself :-). We also saw some very high quality programs submitted to the archives this year, some of which show how powerful these calculators can be.

With all these big gains in 2004, who knows what can happen in 2005? In 2004, I saw an increase in the number of complex games and programs being added to the archives, and it makes me wonder how much higher the bar will be raised. I hope 2005 carries over the momentum that has been started in 2004.

I hope everyone who has celebrated a holiday had a very nice one, and I wish you all the very best for 2005.

Jonathan Katz


Last month in the newsletter, Morgan Davies announced a contest to guess the total amount of screenshots that were added to the database since he and Joey first started working at ticalc.org. I'm happy to announce that we have a winner: Andrew Conachey! Andrew's guess was 35,156, which was the closest guess to the actual number of 32,822. For winning, Andrew was offered a @ss.ticalc.org of his choice that would forward email to him. Congratulations again, Andrew, and thank you to everyone who participated in the contest!

Jonathan Katz


Last Month's Question: How much do you think the role of the standard TI operating systems play in the development of your programs? Do you think they help developers or hurt them?

"I would say that overall the TI Operating Systems help developers, although they do often have certain annoying limitations or compatibility problems that programmers have to work around. The TI-BASIC language, though limited, can be quite powerful and flexible (as evidenced by the recent ticalc.org news articles), and help new users get started with programming. Additionally, it was generous of TI to allow ASM programming on its newer calculators and supply documentation and access to some TI-OS routines that can be helpful in programs.

"Without the operating systems, programmers would have to do everything on their own--display routines, file management, etc. With the operating system and the included routines, beginning programmers don't have to go through so much work for common tasks, which makes ASM or C programming easier for them to get the hang of." - Travis Evans

"I think that the TI operating systems aren't the best operating systems for general development. The 83/84 series operating systems were not designed to be used with a lot of add-on programs; just look at the asm( function or the extra token problem of "Omnicalc." The operating system, in this case, hinders developers when writing programs, and they sometimes need to re-implement basic things because the operating system doesn't implement in a reasonably efficient way. Although, I think that a lot of programmers wouldn't start programming without basic functionality for displaying strings and reading key presses. The operating systems on the 68k series calculators are a lot better and support a lot of add-on like functionality, but since I haven't developed anything significant for those calculators, I can't comment on how they are as a programmer." - Martin Warmer

"I think that the role the standard TI operating systems plays for developers is mostly beneficial. The TI-OS allows for beginners to get a feel of programming without having to go through the extensive process of compiling, and adding all this mandatory code for languages like Z80 ASM, and C. Look at the number of TI-BASIC programs on the web, and all the good programmers that started with it. On the other hand, I think a compiler that's as easy to use as TI-BASIC itself would certainly be a good improvement." - bencwyu@hotmail.com

This Month's Question: How important do you think graphics are in the development of programs for the TI calculators?

E-mail your thoughts to newsletter@ticalc.org, and your response may appear in the next newsletter!

Jonathan Katz


Question:What is a good strategy to get a review approved??
Answer:First, try not to just restate what the file you're reviewing does. The purpose of writing a review is to give an opinion about the program you're writing about, and to let other people know whether or not you think it's worth downloading. Just restating what the program does doesn't exactly give an opinion. It may help to start of writing a review by discussing what the file is, but go on and give reasons why it might be good or bad. Also, justify your opinions! It's not good enough just to say "This program is the greatest thing ever, download it now!" because nobody knows why you think that! Your review doesn't necessarily have to be long to do all this, but it should definitely talk a little about what the program does, and then give an account of your experience using the program.

Jonathan Katz


A high school math teacher was giving students their final exam. The problems all required the use of a calculator. One by one the students finished, until there was one minute left as a blonde girl furiously scribbled on scratch paper. When time was up, the teacher asked her if the test had been hard. "No," she replied, "but the subtraction took so long to do that I had to rush everything." "Didn't you use your calculator?" asked the teacher. "No," replied the girl, "mine can't do subtraction. It's only a TI-83 Plus."

Michael Vincent


Email: jfgeyelin@gmail.com

Interview Log
JonWithin the past year, you've made quite a big splash with some of the programs you've submitted to ticalc.org. What got you interested in programming?
JeanI began learning how to program because it was at first pretty mysterious to me. I would always wonder "How do people make games?" I started learning how to program using my sister's TI-82. The manual for the calculator was lost, so I had to discover all by myself what to do. All I had available to learn from was a "Mastermind" game that was poorly written. Fortunately, I already knew how to speak English, so I could figure out the meaning of the BASIC instruction from my understanding of English. The process of discovering how to program and how too solve problems was extremely interesting. My friends where pretty impressed by what I could do, so that's how I got addicted to programming. Later, a friend of my sister introduced me to some ASM games for a HP calculator. I was amazed by what I saw. At that time I was addicted to "Doom" for the PC and someone made a calculator version of it! From that point on, I got interested in programming in a language other than BASIC. However, it took me many years to finally start programming in C.
JonDo you own any TIs, if so, which ones, and which one is your favorite?
JeanI have a TI-82, thanks to my sister, a TI-83+, and a TI-89. My favorite one is the 89. Why? The 89 has incredible power. I find that it's absolutely amazing the level of games that can be made on it. I also like the Computer Algebra System and the units menu, both of which helped me out throughout high school.
JonWhere have you gotten the ideas for your games?
JeanWell, most of the time it comes from a game that I played and that I liked. For instance, "Synac" is very similar to a mini game in "Sonic Advance" on the Game Boy Advance. "Mr. Worm" is simply a clone of Uncle Worm for the TI-83+. And I think you can guess where I got the "idea" for "Bomber Dude."
JonHave you started planning any future games that you are willing to talk about?
JeanI haven't planned any future games yet. Right now, I think I am only going improve the current programs. When I look at the way I used to program a year ago, I laugh; there really are a lot of obvious optimizations that can be done to my programs. I don't know if you can say that this is a new game, but I am likely to add one more mini-game to "Orage Pack." If I finish it, it should be a skating game with very nice graphics that I have already prepared. I really hope to finish it because it was my favorite game in "WarioWare Inc," but I know duplicating the fun part will be very hard because I am not sure I am capable of programming the game with the same high frame rate.
JonAlright, so where are you in school right now, and perhaps tell me a little bit of how the education system works in France. Are you majoring or focusing on computer science?
JeanI just entered a college named UTBM. Having lived in the United States for a couple of years, I know that the two education systems are completely different. In France, there are lots of different type of schools you can go after taking the Bacalauréat. It's not easy to explain how it works when you come too think about it, and I don't even know all about it. I think that the two most popular place people go to are the "prépa"/"prépa intégrée," or in a "université." You can study computer science in both of these types of school, but the job you will end up having are different. The université is supposed to give you a theoretical knowledge, while the "prépa" aim at making you work in the industry. My school is kind of special because it is a mix of those two types of education.Right now I am not sure about what I'll be studying later, but I have three more semesters to decide, since during the first two years we do not specialize ourselves in a particular field. When I entered this school, I wanted to study electronics, but now I am getting more and more tempted into studying computer science.
JonDo you have any interests outside of calculators and computers, such as hobbies, or sports you like to play?
JeanI read a lot, both comics and books. I love listening to music, no genre in particular, and my favorite sport is by far roller. In roller, I like aggressive skating, hockey, and slalom. I used to be pretty good in aggressive skating, but unfortunately I haven't practiced in a long time. Still, I enjoy skating. I also like team sports, like soccer and basketball. I also think badminton is pretty cool.
JonIs there anything you would like to see improved with the actual TI calculators that might make them easier to program?
JeanWell because of TIGCC, it's not difficult at all to program now, but still there are some small hardware changes that could make it even easier. For me, those would be a more accurate timer system and more memory, but that's because I don't have an 89 Titanium. There is also the 64ko limit that can be bothering, but people do agree that it's programming on a limited platform that makes it fun. For me, making the calculators easier to program isn't important, so that's why I think the best improvement would be a built-in infrared port. It would allow for a whole new level of gaming.
Jonwhat do you like about ticalc.org? Is there anything you would like to see added in the future?
JeanI like the archive section and all the statistics available. I think the recently implemented file rating system is great, though it could be improved if the ratings where directly visible from an author's page.
JonFinally, is there anything else you would like to add?
JeanYes. TIGCC is an extraordinary tool. Thank you to the TIGCC team!

Jonathan Katz


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