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Review of the TI-84 Calculator – Part II

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Read part 1 – Review of the TI-84 Calculator – Part I

This is my last posting on the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition Calculator.  This thing is being wrapped up and given as a Xmas present.  The last calculator I bought of any significance was the Casio FX-7000G.  I find now that this calculator is of 1980’s vintage and of some note regarding innovation for the time.  I am going to stay with this older calculator  for now for the reasons stated at the end of this posting.

There are lots of reference information about the TI family of graphing calculators  in my original posting.  You can refer to that in conjunction with this last posting. 

One piece of software that I did not mention in the original posting, and it took me a long time to find this, is a Microsoft Windows-based program for editing TI Basic Programs.

Programming TI BASIC using  MS Windows

A strong point of this family of TI calculators is the ability to write programs in TI-BASIC.  Great.  The downside is that you have to type these programs in at the keyboard on the calculator.  This is a giant pain.  Do you think that TI would provide a PC Windows-based editor to make the job easier and provide that on the companion CD-ROM with the product?  No.  That, from a customer and usability perspective, is an oversight and omission on the part of the TI Product Manager who owns this family of calculators.  But, never fear, there is one and it dates back to 2004 but it still works.

The TI BASIC Editor will make your life easier

This Windows-based editor dating back to 2004 will run on a Win7 machine without any problem.  In the left pane are all the possible TI-BASIC command.  On the right pane is the text editing window.  You can double-click on a command on the left and it appears on the right.  Edit as you see fit.

A great feature of this program is that you import any text.  So, if you get a program off the internet or other source you can simply paste in text or use the Open file dialog to import the text.  When you are done editing and syntax checking, click an icon to send the file to the calculator and its ready to run. Very nice.

The Take

The take on this one is that this calculator will be packaged up and given as a Xmas present.  Who would use this calculator?  I think this calculator is most appropriate for kids in high school and perhaps for first year college students taking analytic geometry, pre-calculus, or a first course in calculus or statistics.  Beyond this, there are better tools.

For an adult doing anything related to finance (home budgets, investments, or planning) then Microsoft EXCEL would be the tool of choice – or Open Office if you prefer a free open source solution.  In this day and age the use of a simple $10 calculator can take care of most of your immediate ‘arithmetic” needs.  A calculator in the class of the Graphing TI family such as the TI 83/84 is way overkill for “arithmetic” and falls way short when compared to Microsoft EXCEL.  The TI Graphing calculators has a very definite niche of maximum utility and value.  Outside this niche, the value is questionable.

For kids “mesmerized by technology” the TI-84 can not only be a calculator but also a platform for Z-80 assembler development.  There does exist a home-grown open source operating system for the TI family based on Z-80 assembler.  Why does an home-grown alternate operating system with free source code exist?  Because it can, and because some young kids have the curiosity and spirit of innovation to commit their time and resources  to writing such a thing.  Good for them.  These kids could be the next generation of those engineers that develop the next great product.  So, a Z-80 development platform for $100?  Maybe, and a calculator to boot.

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Written by frrl

December 24, 2010 at 8:43 pm

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