24/09/2021

TI 99 series

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Lubbock certainly didn’t disappoint, the meetings confirmed a number of the developments were on track, and it was back to Bedford to see them through.

I still have a TI 99/4A on display in my office today, but any success was somewhat hampered by the insistence that software should be delivered via a GROM (Graphics Read-Only Memory), itself a pet TI project. But this made software slow and complicated to develop and expensive to distribute. Early hobbyist computers were low-cost and used cassette-tape software. TI was trying to push back against this tide.

I had much more enthusiasm for the TI 99/7 because this was a proven market, SMEs (small-medium enterprises) would lap up a sensibly-priced computer that could run their accounts and payrolls, word processing was just beginning to get traction, perhaps it might also do a little stock-keeping. The features and price-points were exciting.

We were breaking new ground, but I find it interesting that back then I had to hand-draw my ideas for the launch brochure – because we had no PCs! Here are two of those pages. Interesting too to see how we were stressing what a PC might do for you in 1978/9.

   

My original hand-sketched brochure

The big picture

A guy flew in from Dallas, took me to one side, and avuncularly (and unwelcomely) draped an arm over my shoulder and said I had to understand ‘the big picture’. I felt that I did of course, because I had my illicit access to others’ communications, but didn’t mention this.

Also, I had learned things from the Semi-Conductor Division, who always knew more about where the company was going than anyone in the downstream end-user divisions. Through them I had already learned that the 99/1 was unlikely to happen.

The Dallas guy went on to say that some ‘very smart guys’ in Texas could better appreciate the ‘big picture’.

These smart guys had decided to kill the 99/7 as well. I learned later that this was because a key product in another more-profitable division would have been embarrassed by its capabilities and price-points. In which HR manual is that sort of approach considered viable, he should have enrolled to take lessons from the Braniff guy!

I was looking for the TI exit before he had finished.

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