TI-990 recollections

Steve Jones classiccmp at crash.com
Thu Mar 3 10:40:04 CST 2005

I'm in contact with two gents who worked on TI-990's back in
the 80's. Since this platform doesn't get a lot of traffic on
the list, I thought I'd share their recollections of working
on these systems.

======== Gentleman N

[ Referring to the pictures/links posted a few days ago of a
[ TI-990 in L.A. ...

The disk drives for this computer is actually a pair of drives in one 
enclosure.  One removable and the other "fixed" internally.  They both 
have the same capacity (5MB I think).

The funky terminal is just that.  It's a great monochrome terminal with 
addressable cursor and it is fast for its day when compared to 

The OS seemed decent from what little I used it but I never did any 
programming with it.  In 1986 I helped out Bryan with an old client in 
Honolulu who had a rack mounted version with three DS10's where two of 
the unit (four drives) had failed with head crashes (don't move packs 
between drives after those funny scrapping sounds begin).  The service 
guy had the system already repaired and I helped get the their 
accounting system going again.  I went back 1987-89 and wrote a new 
version running on i386/AT&T Unix System V Release 3 so they could have 
more modern hardware.

It was a nice system...but not an IBM 1401 (or CDC 8090)!


======== Gentleman A

Wow, that's a (nice) blast from the past.  And to help connect the dots,
I am a friend of Bill's who handed over a customer with one of these for
Bill to provide software support. 

I had a 2 person company (sales guy and me) that developed business
applications for a chain of radio stations, and we needed a system that
we could resell 1) quickly; 2) with no cash upfront; 3) that was
reasonably powerful for a multi-user terminal based application.

This was around 1980, and we talked to all the usual suspects, DEC, Data
General, HP, maybe Wang... It's been a while.  Anyway the TI folks
basically sold us a machine and delivered it, no cash down, 120 days to
pay, lots of support, etc.  I had the thing in my living room of my
bachelor-pad apartment for a few months of development and testing, then
we delivered it to the client.

The application was in Fortran (is that correct Bill?), but I remember
writing a few little assembler tools and twiddling a few bits here and
there.  Once we delivered it to the customer my access was somewhat
limited to bug-fix and enhancements during evenings and weekends, so I
didn't get to play with it as much as I would have liked.

The coolest thing  I remember from the OS was a near real-time display
of in-memory processes.  Sort of a graphical version of 'top' mapped
onto physical addresses.


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