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    Texas Instruments

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    Texas-based manufacturer of semiconductors, electronic equipment, and calculators ranging from the simple to scientific and graphic. They also produced two models of home computer for a short time.

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    Texas Instruments, a major manufacturer of electronics and electronic equipment since 1951, entered the home computer market with the TI-99/4 in 1979. In June 1981, it replaced that model with the greatly improved TI-99/4A, which featured a full-travel keyboard, an upper and lower-case character set, bit-mapped graphics, and a much lower price ($525).

    The 99/4A was at first a reasonable success in the home computer market. It was relatively powerful compared to its competitors (indeed, it was the first home computer with a 16-bit processor), and had ahead-of-its-time features such as plug-and-play support for add-on hardware. However, TI was determined to control the publishing of all software for the machine, even adding lock-out hardware to later revisions to prevent the use of third-party software cartridges. Coupled with a deliberate lack of documentation for hobbyist or third-party developers, the software base for the TI-99/4A was tiny, only consisting of about 100 titles, mostly focused on educational software rather than games.

    Another problem with machine was its hardware complexity, probably a result of a late-term switch to the 16-bit TMS9900 CPU after a planned 8-bit CPU specifically designed for the system was dropped. This made the system costly to produce. Commodore pursued a very aggressive price-war strategy with the VIC-20, forcing TI to repeatedly drop its prices despite the VIC's inferior design. TI could not continue to profitably manufacture the machine as prices dipped to $100, and discontinued production in October 1983.


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