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Newsletter - May 2003

The ticalc.org Newsletter
May 2003 - Volume 5, Issue 1


Letter from the Editor
The Future of Calculating
Review: TI-Keyboard
Ask ticalc.org
Humor: Intern trips over Ethernet cable
Interview with David Coz


Hey everybody! I'm glad that so many people subscribed to the revival of the newsletter. If you're wondering why you received this, it's probably because you signed up long ago and then forgot about it. This is the first release of the ticalc.org newsletter in more than two years. When Eric Sun retired, it was put aside for awhile, but I've picked it back up. I intend to keep editing it as long as people still read it.

Thanks largely to the hard work of Morgan Davies, ticalc.org had its 30000th screenshot added in April. See the "Ask ticalc.org" section below if you want to help out with screenshotting the archives.

This month we've got an interview with extremely popular programmer David Coz, a guest editorial by Michael McElroy (lord_nightrose), and more. Enjoy, and send any feedback, positive or not, to newsletter@ticalc.org.

Joey Gannon


Over the past few years, the development of the TI calculator community seems to have stagnated. With such little new technology to work with (the V200 and M68 K AMS 2.08 being the most notable), programmers are beginning to either run out of ideas or repeat the work of others before them. Even the new technology wasn't very innovative; the Voyage 200 was little more than a modified TI-92+, and A MS 2.08's most revolutionary feature was a clock. However, I'm sure that there is more to this problem than what is happening on TI's end. What, then, is the re as on that so little change has come to the community recently?

One possibility is that semi-recent world events are having an impact on people's creativity. Though I doubt that the threat of terrorism has a direct effect on whether someone programs or not, there is still the possibility that the situation we're in now has depressed people to the point that they simply don't feel like doing enjoyable things. However, this probably holds true for so few people that it' s the least likely cause.

Another possibility is that we have become too de pendent upon the programs provided for us by others. If we do nothing but base our programs off of someone else 's code, then of course the programs will begin to appear similar. Generally, people depend far too much on modern technology. There are simple tasks that could often be done easier by hand (for example, writing an editorial) than by machine, and yet we continue to use them anyway. Since somebody has already written a program, we figure that it'd just be easier f or us to use something that exists than to write our own. The problem with this is that this breeds laziness in programmers, and kills off innovation. Nobody ever came up with a brilliant invention by using something someone made for them over and over again.

Personally, I think that a lot of the stagnation is a result of TI's apparent la ck of interest in the calculator field as of late. Their recent contributions have been mediocre at best, and any time I've heard of someone contacting them about a possible innovation, they are either told that the message will be forwarded to their developers, or that information regarding it is confidential. Why is this? TI certainly must know they have a huge following, why not give us something new to work with? I'm not simply talking about adding color or sound to a calculator, either. Sure, that would keep programmers entertained for a while, but the excitement would die down rather quickly once the novelty wore off.

The future of TI calculating looks mighty grim. There is little more TI can do with a calculator. We already have calculators that can do complex algebraic mathematics. all that remains now, as far as I see, would be for them to create a science-specific calculator - one for physics, one for biology, and so on. However, since the functions provided in their latest calculators cover much of those subjects, it's very doubtful that they would do so. A combination of creative stagnation on our part and lack of new 'gadgets' on theirs is having a huge impact on what we will do with our calculators in the future. As far as I'm concerned, we've done pretty much all that we can do with them. Most of the things I see to day tend to be variations upon the same general themes: puzzle game, eBook, graphics program, highly specific science app, and the like.

What can we do as TI programmers? As a whole, we need to begin depending less up on the work of others. We need to come up with something totally new, something that boggles the mind. So what will it be? I don't know. I leave this up to you. Now, more than ever, is your time to shine.

Michael McElroy


TI's most innovative device as of late is the TI-Keyboard. I was lucky enough to receive one for Christmas, and have been testing it extensively for the last few months.
Ease of use: 10/10
Usefulness: 8/10
Implementation: 8/10
Design: 9/10
Cost: 7/10
The keyboard is so self-explanatory that it can literally be set up in seconds. Snap the calculator into the cradle, plug the link into the keyboard, and you can start typing. It requires that you have OS v1.15 for the TI-83+, or AMS v2.08 for the 89, 92+, and Voyage 200. For 68k users, installing 2.08 may mean sacrificing some games, but the trade is worth it. The keyboard will type anywhere that the normal keypad will, including the home screen, program editor, and the Note folio app. The keys are full-sized, which makes typing easier, but the size of the keyboard is somewhat prohibitive. If you slide it into your backpack, odds are that a key will get held down and waste your batteries. Also, the 92+ and V200 don't fit into the cradle. Despite all of these factors, I have thoroughly enjoyed the increased speed of programming and the ability to write essays (and ticalc.org news articles) on the go. If you have $40 to spend, go to the TI online store and buy one.

Joey Gannon


Q: I want to add some screenshots to one of my files. Should I go update the whole file?
A: No. Instead, email the screenshots in a ZIP file to morgan@ticalc.org. The t itle of the screenshot should be: -1.gif for the first pic, [fileid]-2.g if for the second, etc. Remember, screenshots must be in GIF format, or they wil l be rejected.


(Author's note: This was a pseudo-article that I wrote in an AIM conversation with Morgan when we first discovered the recent server downtime.)
Intern trips over Ethernet cable - SOLLENTUNA (AP)
19-year-old Bjork Magnusson inadvertantly tripped over the Ethernet cable at Sol Net, disconnecting the internet for all of eastern Sweden. Mass panic of frustrated calculator nerds ensued. Confused, thousands of people frantically wrote "First post" on little yellow sticky notes and applied them to their monitors. Michael Vincent, unable to delete these heinously off-topic posts, slowly went insane. Sources were unable to confirm if there was any connection between this event and Steve Whittaker's former 0wn4g3 of ticalc.org.

Joey Gannon


Email: coz.hubert@infonie.fr

Interview Log
Joey How old are you, and what level of education do you have?
David I am 18 (19 in May) and I am in the first year of preparatory classes for engineer schools (classe 'prépa' in French).
Joey Where do you live?
David I live in the Brittany region of France, in a little village called Guingamp.
Joey What calculators do you own?
David I own a TI-80 (my first programmable calculator), a TI-89, and a Voyage 200. My sister has a TI-83+, so I borrow it sometimes.
Joey What was the first program you ever wrote?
David I think the very first was a stupid thing that computes the sum of the numbers between 0 and 100. Then the first game was the famous "guess the number".
Joey What do you use your calculator for the most?
David I use it for programming and testing my programs (though there is VTI for that). However, I use it a lot in physics and math work: derivatives, integration, curve visualization. It's really a great tool when you know how to use it properly, and I still don't know all the possibilities.
Joey How did you get into programming calculators?
David It was because of my dad. When I was little he showed me a little program running on his Casio and since then I've always wanted to make things myself. I started to program on my TI-80 at the age of 15.
Joey Are there any programmers you admire?
David On the calculator scene, I appreciate greatly the work of Thomas Nussbaumer. More generally speaking, people like John Carmak and Jordan Mechner are like idols to me as they have achieved something by themselves alone.
Joey Do you have any plans for future programs?
David First I would like to finish all my on-going projects: Gran Tourismo, Bust-a-Move, and Edit3D. Then I'm working on the adaptation of a great game, "Prince of Persia".
Joey What do you see for the future of the TI community?
David I think there should be a new calc released soon, because there are currently few big projects and general improvements. When you see a TI forum, there are a lot of people who "talk" about calculators, who wants this or that, but there are less and less real programmers who achieve big projects and not only little demos. I think there must be a new thing on the market soon, or else the community will die slowly but surely.


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