TI-86 intro

Picture of my own TI-86 Z80 CPU Basically, the TI-86 is a calculator. However, it's not just any calc: it's got a Z80a CPU [<<] (just like your old MSX or GameBoy) running at 6MHz. Furthermore, it has 128kB RAM (of which you can use 96kB to store things, like a harddisk) and an LCD display with 128x64 pixels. So it's a quite powerful machine capable of more than just math. For example, using a Graph Link you can connect it to your PC and upload real games like Tetris and Mario to it.

At first the games may seem ugly. Especially compared to games for the GameBoy, even while it has the exact same processor. This is because the VDP (video card) ain't that good. The GB has got hardware scrolling and greyscale, while the TI has to do it all w/ software. So scrolling and sprites stuff consumes alot of CPU power, and though it does support 4- and even 8-level greyscale, it's all done by the cpu. (Just like with modern PCs: try using an old 1MB no-accelleration card....)

Also the 86 isn't made for making music and sound like a GameBoy or MSX. Some ppl have attempted this by using a 35 >> 25mm convertor to plug in normal earphones to the linkport. It does work, but it sounds very primitive, and it also slows down the calc. I did hear some beeps in the games mario and boulderdash, but it's just beeps, nothing more.

One advantage is you can store all the games you want in the memory (really, 96kB is enough; huge compared to the '85 and below) and they're all free! There's alot of TI-86 games available, and the 86 can even emulate alot of TI-82, TI-83 and TI-85 games! This really is the most powerful z80-calc available!


NPO capacitator Look at that cool thingy at the left. Using this neat-looking li'l capacitator, you can overclock a TI-86 to 24MHz, making it upto four times as fast! Another upgrade is a memory expander, increasing memory with ½Mb, although I think 96kb is sufficient. An IR-link allows you to control infrared devices (TV and stuff) and wireless linking to other calcs.

Running programs


First of all you have to get the programs on your calc. This can be done using a TI-Graph Link, a lil' cable available at some shops and online.
Then download (and unzip) the software you want at one of the many ticalc sites (for example at my own archives (recommended ;), or at the much larger archives of ticalc.org).
Finally upload the files to your calc using the Graphlink software (can be downloaded for free at TI's).

For more details, see my step-by-step walkthrough.

Running progs

On the TI-86 you can run BASIC progs just by entering their name and pressing ENTER (or you can look them up in the PRGM menu). Assembly programs (the cool ones ;) have to be run by typing Asm(xxx where xxx is the name of that program. Easy as that.


Using the right shell you can even run TI-82 and TI-85 programs on your TI-86. This means more available games!! Shells can be downloaded and uploaded onto your calc as easily as any program. Then run it and it'll display all programs currently on your calc, and you can quickly pick the one you want to play. I personally advise YAS: it's got the best 82/85 emulation. Other good shells are Rascall and ASE. Just see which one you like best.

So no TI-83 emu? Wrong; there's this program Ion86 which can run a couple of TI-83/83+ games for Ion. Remember: the '86 rules!


Remember that assembly programs can crash your calc (just like Windows does..) If this happens your calc freezes, the screen is cleared, or it coughs up "weird stuff" like random pixels, or resets, or a strange combination of these things. Crashes are just unpredictable, and alot of games have bugs that could crash your calc (since most games are still beta, and sometimes programmers have lost interest in a project (they don't get payed) so they don't fix a bug either.)

After a crash you may find your calc won't work anymore (it just froze...) To get it working again, remove all batteries and try again. In most cases it'll now work again (remember to change the contrast if your batteries are a li'l low, or you still won't see anything!) If it still doesn't, then you should remove the batteries as well as the backup battery for some time and try again. It's impossible for a game to actually destroy your calculator! Really! You should always be able to reset it. Otherwise there's something else wrong (unrelated to the game, like it got wet of you dropped it or smtn.)


You still can't run games on your calc, because you either aren't very technical, or your email address ends @aol.com? Then before sending me annoying emails, better first read this step-by-step walkthrough:

  1. DON'T EMAIL ME WITH STUPID QUESTIONS! I can't take 'em anymore!
  2. Use a TI-34 or TI-108...

Maybe I'll write a more extensive walkthrough someday...