In the beginning
The high school I went to required us to take a single-semester computer literacy class in order to graduate. We were taught BASICA during those so-called “literacy” classes, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the class who actually had a clue and an interest in learning more. Interestingly, when I finished high school in 1996, this bogus computer literacy class was actually dropped from the graduation requirements. I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have taken it had I not been required to do so. And if I hadn’t taken it, I wouldn’t have developed an interest in computer programming. Needless to say, I’m glad I had to take the course. My teacher, Dawes Potter, deserves a special mention.
Enter Texas Instruments
I was still in high school when the original TI graphing calculators hit the scene, and we were all required to have them for our calculus classes. As absurd as it sounds, the TI-82 calculator literally changed my life. The embedded programming language is essentially a modified form of Basic, and I spent a ridiculous number of hours writing programs on that stupid little calculator. Debugging was a tedious process because the calculator is so slow in comparison to computers these days. Each time I hit an error I’d have to wait for the debugger to scroll hundreds of lines into the code before being able to make a change and then test again. I’m pretty confident that if I had never had a TI-82, I wouldn’t be working in the technology industry today.
Aside from the various math programs I wrote to help me take tests and do homework more quickly (and yes I’m sure that the amount of time spent writing programs was a lot greater than the amount of time saved on tests and homework), my “claim to fame” in high school was actually the Blackjack game I wrote and distributed. Dare I say that even today it remains the best TI-82 Blackjack game ever written. :) Kids all around town played it during their classes instead of actually paying attention. Ironically, I still paid attention during my classes and instead chose to spend all my free periods coding on the calculator.
I was flabbergasted to recently receive an email on Facebook from a “random” high school kid telling me that he had my Blackjack program and it would get him through those boring classes. The fact that some 12 years later my TI-82 games are still circulating through high schools in the north-east is mind-blowing to say the least. And to think that this kid decided to look me up on Facebook to say hey and tell me that he’s a fan of the programs was a pleasant, albeit, ridiculous surprise.
Check ’em out
If you have a TI-82 (or TI-83, which is compatible with TI-82 programs), that’s great, but you’ll need a special cable to transfer programs to it from your computer. You probably don’t have one and don’t want to get one. The good news is that you can use your Windows computer to emulate a TI calculator with Virtual TI. No special cables required! So, if you’re feeling nostalgic, go ahead and install Virtual TI and then download my Blackjack, Poker, and Acey Deucy programs. While you’re at it, you might want to check out the rest of ticalc.org for more information on everything related to TI calculators, plus a vast archive of programs.