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The TI-83+ Got Me Through High School

Nov. 10, 2007, midnight

I don't know where I had gained the knowledge that somehow graphing calculators could play games, but somewhere along the line I did. Oh how I wanted one. Playing games during study halls at school and the teachers thinking I was just doing math homework. You couldn't make that excuse with a GBA or GBC, whatever was the most recent when I learned about these things.

10th grade

So I went through math and study halls without a graphing calculator through 9th grade and into 10th. In 10th grade I had a study hall with Mr. Harmonas. I was half decent friends with Paul and through him met Ricky and Shifty. Ricky and Shifty were also in my study hall with Harmonas. And one day I saw they both had it:

Memory: 128k, 1.5mb flash rom
Screen size: 96x64 pixels, 16x8 characters
USB link port
15 Mhz Z80 processor

A TI-84+ Silver Edition. Two of them. I asked if they had any games on it hoping they'd be informed, and while they were unaware of copying programs onto the thing, it did come with one built-in program with 4 games:

The Puzzle Pack was a staple for them all throughout high school, and while I would never get it on my calculator, it was still a ton of fun when they'd let me play if they had no math or chem homework to be done.

Dino Puzzle - I have never figured out how to play this one. I think it was like Yoshi for NES.
Block Dude - This was the one Ricky and Shifty loved. You'd pick up blocks and drop them to allow you to get through a level. You'd build stairs out of them and shit. The blocks were like Weighted Companion Cubes I suppose.
Puzzle Frenzy - This was my favorite. I'd play for an entire study hall and have to kill myself since class was over. It's a clone of Tetris Attack (Panel de Pon) which prior to this I had never played. Tiles would scroll and you'd have to switch them into groups of 3 to make them disappear. Even more awesome was the game's puzzle mode where you'd have to clear the screen in X number of moves. It had 60 levels and we got through about half of them only.
Pegs - This was a sokobon clone kind of. Except instead of pushing boxes onto certain tiles, you'd push two of the same pieces into each other to make them disappear. Some would instead turn into solid walls. It was a pretty fun puzzle game.

Anyways the neat thing about Puzzle Pack, is that it was actually just a game some amateurs made. Texas Instruments thought the game was so well done they asked them to clean it up and send it to them and they'd include it on their new calculators. I thought that was pretty awesome.

Nearly all of my study halls had Ricky or Shifty in them so I'd be playing these games a lot. Eventually a combination of wanting these games and hating Algebra 2 led to me remembering my brother having a graphing calculator from when he was in high school. So I went into his room and stole it rescued it from the dust it was covered in.

Memory: 24k, 160k flash rom
Screen size: 96x64 pixels, 16x8 characters
link port
6 Mhz Z80 processor

The first thing I did when getting this thing was press the Apps button only to find nothing but a program to calculate interest. No puzzle pack. How disappointing. I did not give up hope! Surely Ricky and Shifty each had cables which would allow me to transfer programs from their calculators to mine.

They did not know where they put the cable. :(

There was one thing left to do, learn TI-BASIC. Google showed me TI Calc, an excellent site for programming the calculator. I had no cable and all code had to be typed out by hand on the calculator itself, but slowly I learned. Soon I could write variables, pick random numbers, and write "PAUL IS GAY" on the screen. But my true masterpiece was yet to come.

Simon.8xp
My first game. You've played Simon, hit the arrows and test your memory. Well, I didn't know how to get key input yet, so mine was a little bit off. It would spit out a number from 0-9, clear the screen, and you'd have to type it back. It would then take the old number, multiply it by 10, and add a random number from 0-9. So you'd get a longer string of numbers. Beating the game meant getting it to have a number so big it had to put itself into scientific notation. Whoops. Regardless people were amazed that I made it.

Aside from the whole miserable attempts at games thing, the calculator also proved to be a godsend in Algebra 2. Oh, you want me to memorize some random things? *stores in junk program*. Draw a graph of that equation? Let me see how the calculator does it first.

Copying code
Through some luck I managed to find TI83+ Bios online so I could use an emulator. This let me download games and view the source code meaning I could copy code. I'd love to say this was helpful, but fuck if I could understand the code I was copying.

AAMice.8xp - Attack Acrobatic Mice or something. It was Snake. Played in text mode meaning an 8x16 screen. You'd eat mice (does not equal signs) and get longer. I have no idea why, but we found out if you get like 50 points, the game would glitch and your snake would break off leaving a dead body and your new 1 character long head moving around. You could still play the game, I always wanted to fill the screen, but never pulled it off.

Acid.8xp - Alex's Acid Rain. This one was pretty neat, but like most realtime 83+ games it was too slow. Islands would randomly appear and disappear letting you run around on them to collect stars for points. If you stepped off an island you'd lose health in the acid. You could also jump. It used an overhead view and was pretty fun, but kind of slow.

BJ21.8xp - Black Jack. This goes without explaining, however it was one of the first programs I modified to make it better for me and my friends to play. The betting used to be in increments of 1, but I added the ability to move the bet +/- 5 instead so it wouldn't take forever.

After copying all of these and messing around with more code myself, I made another, 1 or 2 player game, Pizza War. Pizza War was a ripoff of Yo-Noid!'s bosses where you'd pick from your cards how many pizzas to eat and whoever ate the most got points for it. Players would cards with 1-5 pizzas on it and see who could get the most points.

Idiots who ruin everything

The one problem I had with making the games on the calculator itself was that I had no way to lock them, meaning anybody could edit them. Nobody I knew would want to edit them, but a lot of times people would accidently go under edit instead of run on a program, usually in a panic they'd hit clear to quit, but that would just erase a line of code. Code would randomly get destroyed and because of it I no longer have AAMice, or Pizza War on my calculator.


11th grade

In August I had an idea for an AWESOME MASSIVE GAME I was going to make, ZOMBIE.8xp. Entirely text based, you'd navigate through a 3x3 + 1 town infested with zombies. Every action you did added time to the game's clock. You'd go into buildings and find zombies/ammo/weapons/survivors, and get out. You'd score points whenver you took a survivor to the church, each building had different odds of what you'd find. And best of all, every day there were more zombies roaming the streets. The longer you'd play the more infested the town would become and the more likely you'd be killed. Unfortunately, I lost interest since it was so big. I got walking around the town and checking your inventory done, but no combat or entering buildings. I kept it for the longest time, but eventually just deleted it knowing I'd never finish it and it was taking up space.

This year had a lot of awesome games.

HELICOPT.8xp - Helicopter. You've probably played the flash game where you hold the mouse button to move higher and fall as you let go. That's what this was, mines would randomly be placed on the screen (4*level) and you'd fly across to the end. This one had obsessive amounts of tweaking. It was originally just start at level 1 and play until you die, but over time it evolved into a lot more.

Markings - The first thing that got added were some lines on the left border of the screen to mark where the helicopter (single pixel) would show up when you started the level. This made it easier since you knew where you were starting instead of knowing the general area. Also added was the level number in the bottom left. Besides this I added a menu to the start and several haphazardly coded game modes

Mode 1: Normal. This was the regular game
Mode 2: Level Select. Pick which level to start at. I think we got into the 40s over the year, I lost interest in 12th grade but Craig kept playing and got into the 60s.
Mode 3: Endless. When you died you were sent back a level. This was dumb and a waste of me to add.
Mode 4: Custom. You could save pictures of graphs or drawings with the pen tool, so I added a mode that loaded a saved picture and you played on it. I remember making one where the level was just two horizontal lines you were trapped between with like 5 pixels to move between. I beat it because I'm awesome.
Mode 5: Practice. This was based on custom, but would generate a normal level, save it to a picture, and then allow you to replay that exact same level.

Mineswpr.8xp - This was minesweeper where you picked the number of mines. It was pretty decent, but unlike windows it didn't expand all the 0's when you clicked them meaning you'd have to reveal every single square that had no mines around it.

Keymash.8xp - Hit a key as many times as you could in X seconds. Stupid and I don't know why I copied it.

Battle.8xp - This was the one game I did make myself in 11th grade. It came out to 3k and was pretty massive. You'd generate a character with random stats for health, attack, defense, magic attack, and magic defense and fight RPG battles. You could also buy weapons and armor and it all seemed well and good, but EVERYTHING scaled. Hit level? All prices just went up. You'd go bankrupt and die pretty early on and never live beyond like level 3 or 4. I eventually deleted it.

Hilo.8xp - Higher or lower. It was basically a ripoff of a guess the number game, guess if the next number will be higher or lower, guess right, get a point, if the number is the same, get two points, repeat. Somehow it was fun. I made it.

Onefive.8xp - I liked this one, until some idiot broke it and I didn't want to rewrite my code. It was a clone of the Golf Solitaire game, just without a deck of cards. A 5x5 array of numbers 1-5 would be generated and shown on the screen, then on the bottom would be your current card, you'd have to pick a column with a number 1 higher or lower to remove it and make that the next card. I had a lot of fun with this one.


12th grade

By this point, I had pretty much lost interest in typing programs. Nothing good was coming out on TICalc, and I had no ideas of my own. We did strike gold when a friend had a cable, but not the right one. It was just a calculator to calculator cable, this did mean my friends who got their own 83+'s could have Helicopter though.

Chance.8xp - Bored in a study hall one day I decided to make the first game that came to my mind. Chance is what came out of it. It was a ripoff of the ! square in Mario Party. Three blocks would spin with what player gets points, how many points the player gets (1-999), and who the player gets the points from (himself for 0 points, the other player, or the bank). It was short and a lot of fun. Until I had my idea for my last game.

Dungeon.8xg - Beginning when I was bored in a study hall I decided to create a roguelike. How I managed to finish it I'll never know, but it dwarfed everything else I had previously made weighing in at nearly 7k and consisting of 3 seperate programs. A random 8x8 dungeon is generated containing walls, monsters, and items. The player would navigate from one corner to the other fighting monsters and getting better items trying to get as much gold as possible. The game had 8 different weapons, 8 different armors, 8 possible scrolls, and 20 different monsters to fight. All weapons/armor/monsters had semi random stats. Combat was turn based and consisted of just attacking or running. The game was disturbingly fun. I would sometimes play for a bit at home when I could've been playing ADOM. The dungeon was endless but would never go beyond D20 due to the way monsters were generated. I've been porting it to C as a nice way to learn the language. How exciting.

I think that's everything. Now at college I'm allowed to have a PSP or cell phone or DS on me, and not allowed to use a calculator. How the tables have turned.

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