Squeeze the most out of graphic calculators: games on the TI-83

Original author: Alex Beyman
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In the 80s and 90s, not every child's parents bought a Game Boy. I was one of these children, and remained the only one on the playground who did not have GB.

Instead of a console, I had a graphing calculator. My father was burning with a strong desire to prepare me for SAT from childhood . Therefore, I used TI (Texas Instruments) 83 and the Windows software needed to synchronize the calculator with the computer. It was assumed that I would use the software to download training programs and save backup copies of the results stored in the calculator.

But instead, I played games on it. Even then, repositories of low-resolution monochrome video games existed specifically for Texas Instruments graphing calculators. Most of them were sloppy (yes, Drug Warz, I mean you), but some turned out to be surprisingly good, considering the features of the platform.

For example, Zelda for the TI-83, which used sprites torn from the Zelda series for Gameboy:

However, it was a completely original game with a unique outside world and completely new dungeons. But do not really rejoice, very few games looked just as good. A more characteristic example of the quality of the games for the TI-83 was Bill Nagel's Penguins:

She was quite popular, and I actively exchanged it in high school, where he was finally not the only person with the TI-83. My classmates, who did not know that games can be run on graphic calculators, began to consider me a wizard genius for the ability to transfer games from a calculator to a calculator using my link cable. One such game was Mario83:

Like any other platform, it had a Tetris clone on it. This game was well suited to such a limited format, because it consisted of only blocks:

Another game that was ported to all possible platforms was Doom. What, Doom? Is the platform weaker than the first Gameboy? But the developers somehow managed to do this. Although the engine is much simpler, you can still recognize Doom in the game:

Gemini is another pseudo-three-dimensional game that runs on the TI-83 and features impressive textured walls. Although it was at about the same technical level as Wolfenstein 3D, for such a simple machine it was a major achievement:

Sometimes the games were surprisingly difficult. You do not expect to see a deep RPG on some lousy calculator, but there were several of them, and Desolate was considered one of the best:

What about the demo? Of course, they were. For example, “Two by Two” by Noice. The same effects that could be seen on Gameboy, albeit a little more awkward, of course:

The same author created this beautiful demo “Monochromatic”. A suitable name for a system in which true shades of gray were not even possible and they had to be simulated by turning pixels on and off at the right frequency:

This demo of the 3D engine runs on the TI-84 plus, and not on the TI-83, but I could not miss it, because it has polygonal graphics with flat shading. The demo looks like an imitation of Elite:

Although my heart forever belongs to the good old TI-83, I must admit that later graphing calculators far exceeded its graphical capabilities. Just look at the Mario on the TI-89 and compare with it what you saw above:

It is predictable that the TI-89 (which is essentially a stripped-down version of the enormous Game Gear-sized TI-92) performed much better in 3D. Take a look at Counterstrike (it still works on a Wolf3D-style engine, but it looks a lot prettier):

And on the calculators was Kirby's Dreamland. Since the TI-89 screen is larger in resolution than the Gameboy (and the TI-83, on the contrary, has fewer pixels), it has become more popular for copying graphic resources from Gameboy games and creating new single-player campaigns based on them:

Prince of Persia worked quite well on this platform. If you still do not understand, then 89 was a huge step forward compared to 83 and was the best until the color graphical calculators with backlight appeared on the market. As for me, they lost all their charm:

And you can not ignore Metroid. How can I play it on the blurry screen of the TI-89? No better and no worse than the screen of the first Gameboy. Like all other games, there is no sound in it, because the calculator did not have a sound chip. But this did not stop some developers: they implemented sound support, which was performed in the main 8-bit processor, and output it through the connection cable port compatible with some headphones:

More primitive 3D graphics. The next time we saw on a portable device polygon graphics with fill only on Handspring Visor. The fact that amateur developers managed to achieve this on a graphical calculator of the late 80s should inspire you:

King of Fighters? Seriously? Yes indeed. The game, as I believe, was ported from Neo Geo Pocket (monochrome version) or from Wonder Swan (also without color. Both consoles initially had monochrome versions). Here the sprite graphics look great:

Some of the games looked really beautiful, and they probably became the beginning of the career of many students who, after the spread of smartphones, entered the mobile games market. If you add colors, then Air Mission would look quite appropriate on an old java-enabled phone:

But we downloaded applications for portable devices and shared them long before that. In a sense, graphing calculators were the progenitors of the modern culture of smartphones and app stores. In those days, we could directly exchange applications, which is not so easy with smartphones, and all this content was free!

It was a real find. No sound, usually poor graphics, a blurry screen without backlight ... but free games! As much as you want! Half of the fun was finding new masterpieces and sharing them by cable with friends on the playground or in the school corridor. It even amazes me why Texas Instruments never paid attention to the underground gaming culture that arose around these calculators, and it never came up with the thought "oh, but we can create a real gaming portable console."

I would buy it. But we must take into account the fact that for many years I bought almost all gaming devices, including slop. If you want to know what games are available for your graphing calculator, then I recommend visiting the sites TiCalc.org and Omnimaga.

Features TI-83

Processor: Zilog Z80 with a frequency of 6 MHz.

Programming language: TI-BASIC, assembler.

User memory: 32 kB RAM.

Screen: monochrome, 96x64 pixels, 16x8 characters.

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