For a lot of geeks, the Texas Instrument Scientific Calculator was their best friends during classes in high school. Not so long ago, I remember programming a Space Invader game in TI-Basic during a Maths lesson. But as a downside to growing up: a lot of us had to leave our precious TI at the bottom of a drawer. Thanks to emulation and our favorite OS, it is possible to use a TI again with nostalgia. Two programs are available for that purpose, both with their advantages.
Let’s start with the hardest emulator to master – TilEm. This software is designed to emulate only the TI using the chip Z80. If like me, you have no idea which one was using which processor, TilEm can emulate the TI 73, 82, 83, 83+, 83+ SE, 84+, 84+ SE, 85, and 86. It is not packaged for Ubuntu, so the only way to get it is to compile from the sources. You can download it here. For the installation, you can use the traditional
./configure make sudo make install
Note: You will need to have libgtk2.0-dev and libglib2.0-dev installed first.
Now that you are done installing, you should know that you also need to configure the emulator yourself. To get it to work, TilEm will need the ROM of the TI that you want to emulate. As a legal notice, a TI’s ROM is under copyright, and to use one you have to possess that model of TI yourself. To get the ROM from your TI, you can use the very good software tilp2. To install, use the command
sudo apt-get install tilp2
TiLP is an interface to connect with your TI and transfer files. But in “Tools,” you have the option to dump the ROM. If you do not have your TI with you at this time, Google can help you find a ROM. But remember that if you do not have a TI, do not download a ROM.
Once you have your ROM, place it in the appropriate sub-folder under “/home/username/.TilEm/”. The emulator created folders corresponding to the model of calculator you want to emulate. As a TI-83+ user, I placed my ROM in the “/home/Adrien/.TilEm/ti83p/” folder.
You can now launch the emulator via the console and the command
Your TI should pop up on your screen.
It will react like a normal calculator to your mouse: a bit confusing at first, especially if you are not using emulators very often, but fairly simple and stable. A right click will create a very useful menu that let you save the state of the calculator, load one, simulate linking, etc.
It is interesting to notice the graphical debugger feature which will satisfy those with the patience to master it.
Compared to the installation and the configuration of TilEm, TiEmu is very simple to put in place. Simply open a terminal and type
sudo apt-get install tiemu
to install it on Ubuntu. As a side note, a skin editor is also available via the package “tiemu-skinedit”. However, unlike the previous emulator, TiEmu only works for the models TI 89, 89 Titanium, 92, 92+, and V200PLT.
At launch, TiEmu will let you configure the ROM you want to use. You can use a PedRom (a replacement ROM under GPL license), your own dumped ROM, or even extract one from your TI via TiLP. After that, the TI behaves like previously.
The only difference is the right-click menu which is a bit more furnished. Besides the classic load/save states and the linking simulation, TiEmu proposes a more complete graphical debugger, screen shot feature, and skins configuration.
If you want to use TiEmu to its maximum, you should remember that the skins can be found at “/usr/share/tiemu/skins”, the GPL ROMs at “/usr/share/tiemu/pedrom/”, and the screen captures at “/home/username/tiemu/”, with the custom ROMs.
You have now the power to emulate your favorite TI calculator on your computer. Feel it, enjoy it, and use it with caution. It can become useful, especially if you want to try TI apps but forgot your calculator. We saw two programs to do the job, both can crash without warning, but what really makes the difference in the end is the model of TI that you want to use. After, if you really are into programming, the quality of the debugger may also matter to you.
Which emulator would you use? TilEm or TiEmu? And Why? Do you have any other questions? Please let us know in the comments.