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Newsletter - January 2001

The ticalc.org Newsletter
January 2001 - Volume 4, Issue 1


Letter from the Editor
Letter to the Editor
Calculator News
Ask ticalc.org
Interview with Random TI User


Hi, and thanks for reading the ticalc.org Newsletter!

We're happy to close out the year and bring in the new. Lots of cool stuff came out this year. Hope to see even more innovation in 2001 and years to come.

This year at ticalc.org we once again set new usage records. Our hits increased over 75% this year to roughly 85 million requests. We have almost 15,000 files in our archives and about 18,000 screenshots (57% of files screenshotted). We also received about 25% more comments to the news articles.

This month, instead of interviewing someone important in the community, I went for the opposite and found a random TI user, "Tommy" (not real name), to ask a few questions.

So thanks to all our readers, and Happy New Year!

Eric Sun


Where has the TI community gone?

As a veteran of the TI community (well, more veteran than most, at least), sometimes I wonder about the direction of where we're going. I "grew up" in the community looking up to people like Bill Nagel, Jimmy Mardell, and the ZShell crew. Back then, I think calculators seemed more fun because nothing was documented. In order to get something done, you had to figure everything out yourself.

Now, it seems almost too easy, with all these SDK's and built-in assembly capabilities. Thus none of the truly old-school programmers are around anymore, and we're in a new generation of TI users. I think people have gotten lazier and lazier; a few years ago, sentiment seemed like learning Z80 assembly was the thing to do, and everyone wanted to try it. Now, I think more people are willing to sit back and let a select few people do all the innovation.

Calculator innovation has pretty much reached its end, I think. Sure, there's more stuff we can do, like make more FLASH applications for the TI-89 and TI-83+, but other than that, we can't really expand that much more. I don't think anyone cares enough to do something wild (like trying to make assembly programs work on the TI-73), because why bother when you can just get another calculator? It's not the same as when Magnus and the gang made ZShell.

So what's my point? I don't expect the TI scene to continue expanding at the rate we have been expanding. We'll top off somewhere soon, I think, and then nobody will care anymore. It's already starting to happen: four years ago on IRC everyone talked excitedly about calculators. Now, in #ti, calculator talk is even discouraged. Perhaps the TI scene will eventually die away when calculators are replaced by minicomputers in schools. But now that the vast majority of high schools now use calculators, I think that we've reached the height of the community. But then again, I could be wrong. I sure hope so.

Please send any comments to this anonymous article to newsletter@ticalc.org and they will be relayed.



This has been another pretty quiet month in the TI scene. The TIGCC team was very active, however, and new versions of both the TIGCC and the TIGCC Library were released. Thomas Nussbaumer also released a host of new games, including TI-Chess v3.05, TI-Minesweeper v1.11, and TI-TiltMaze v1.0.

For the non-68K calculators, Jonah Cohen released Megacar v1.0 for the TI-86, bringing a popular TI-92 game to the Z80 processor. Alien Breed: Tower Assault v1.0 was also released by James Vernon of the TCPA.

Eric Sun


At ticalc.org, we often receive many of the same questions. In this column, we hope to address some of these questions for a broader audience. If you'd like to submit a question, please email it to ask@ticalc.org.

This month, Andy Selle takes over and addresses some commonly-asked math questions.

Q: How do I calculate the nth root on the TI-89, TI-92, TI-92+?

A: The TI-8x (excluding TI-89) all provide an nth root function. As it turns out, this function is redundant, because there is an equivalence between fractional powers and roots. In general if i is an integer you can say

      i ----
\/ x = x^(1/i)

For example... to evaluate radical 3 (sqrt(3)) you could type


Now obviously there are issues with the domain of inclusion. If i is odd, then the domain of the fractional power is over the whole real line. If i is even, however, then the domain is only when x > 0 (x positive).

Q: How do I calculate logarithms of bases other than 10 or e?

A: You may wonder why TI didn't just put a log function that took an arbitrary base. The answer is that it would be redundant. A basic result in algebra regarding logarithms is the change of base formula. It states that for a base b:

                log   x
log x = --------
b log b

where x > 0 and i arbitrary.

So if I wanted to calculate the base-2 logarithm of 10, I could type ln(10)/ln(2). What's more impressive is that I could also type log(10)/log(2), and get the same answer.

Q: How do I graph conic sections?

A: The HP calculators have a built in feature to do this, but we TI users aren't so lucky. That's all right, we are better for having to think a little harder.

In Eighty-Something (the math newsletter about TI calculators from TI) Fall '99 issue, Dileep Monie includes a program to do just this. Recall that a conic's standard form is ax^2+bxy+cy^2+dx+ey+f = 0. You can also write it in quadratic form cy^2+(bx+e)y+(ax^2+dx+f) = 0. Note this is now in the form of a quadratic in y. We just apply the quadratic formula, and we graph the two equations it provides.

You can find Dileep's program at http://www.ti.com/calc/docs/80xthing.htm.

Andy Selle


Email: newsletter@ticalc.org

Interview Log
Eric How old are you and what level of education do you have?
Tommy I'm thirteen years old and I'm a freshman in high school.
Eric Any career aspirations?
Tommy I'm thinking computer science, but don't really know.
Eric What calculators do you own?
Tommy A TI-82, TI-83+, and an old TI-81.
Eric How long have you been using calculators?
Tommy About one year.
Eric How did you get interested in calculators?
Tommy I got my TI-81 from my older brother (he didn't want it anymore because he had a better one) and when I found out it could be programmed, I loved it.
Eric What's the TI scene at your school like?
Tommy Lots of people play games on calculators but only a few program for them. Usually I give them the games because I have a Graph Link.
Eric What do you use your calculator for most?
Tommy Games.
Eric Anything else?
Tommy Well, I use it in math and sometimes in science, but most 9th graders don't have them and teachers don't require them.
Eric Do you do any programming?
Tommy Yes, I know BASIC and I'm learning assembly for the TI-83+.
Eric What do you think the TI community needs most?
Tommy I wish people would port more games to the TI-83+.
Eric Do you think this will happen soon?
Tommy It seems like there's getting to be more and more TI-83+ programs, so I hope the trend continues.
Eric Do you want to get more involved in the TI community?
Tommy Well, I like programming and releasing programs occasionally, but beyond that I dont think I have much time to do anything else.
Eric Are you having success in your assembly-learning endeavors?
Tommy It's a lot harder than BASIC and it's hard to find people to teach me. I found a few tutorials but they're hard to understand. I'm making some progress though.


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