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Math Science Technology

TI-84+C-Silver Edition: That C Stands For Color 198

skade88 writes "Do you remember those large TI-8X line of calculators with a BW display from when you were growing up and learning all about math? Yeah well, you can still get them because TI has yet to update or change their line of TI-8X calculators from their 96x64 display, processors designed in the 1980s with just a few kilobytes of user accessible memory. They still cost in the $100.00 to $150.00 range. That is all about to change now that the TI-8X line of calculators is 22 years old. Their new TI-84+C-Silver edition will come with a 320x240 16-bit color display, 3.5MB of flash ROM, and 21KB of RAM. Ars has a good preview of the device along with speculation on why it took so so so very long for TI to finally bring calculators up to a level of technology that could have been delivered a decade ago."Last month some photos and a few details of the new TI-84+C were leaked.
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TI-84+C-Silver Edition: That C Stands For Color

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  • Ti-84 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sheehaje ( 240093 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @01:36AM (#42345003)

    Seen the ti-84 mentioned a lot lately... The only thing I remember was I could program it, and my professor let me for my Calculus 1 class. I still don't know a lot about Calculus, but I know more about programming... Makes me think if calculators are good for learning the subject, or for learning how to program the subject.

  • Specs, still (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @01:55AM (#42345079)

    A couple years ago I bought an LG Thrive on a prepaid plan - so undiscounted - for about $150 I believe. The phone was not great, but it had 256 megs of useable RAM, a 320x480 color screen, and a 600MHz processor... not to mention the hardware one expects from any smartphone (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, low-end camera).

    So how can TI get away with charging almost that much today for a single-purpose device that doesn't even compare favorably with a low-end smartphone from two years ago? Does it serve as an espresso machine too, or maybe as an electric razor?

  • I mean, I build embedded systems and we have problems _finding_ components so archaic. Where do they find them, I wonder.
  • by sgunhouse ( 1050564 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @03:44AM (#42345517)

    I was teaching when the original TI-83 came out - the earlier 81 and 85 came out while I was in college. At the university I taught at, we actually required students to have a graphing calculator for certain classes.

    At the college level. it isn't hard for a good teacher (or textbook) to ask questions that actually test the student and not the calculator - at least, unless they have one of those algebraic calculators. Even then, things like word problems require them to identify the right formula and set it up properly (which is more important than actually being able to grind out the numerical answer from there).

    Having said that, I'm not sure how some elementary school teacher is supposed to teach fractions when even fairly basic calculators can handle fractions these days (some even displaying the result as you'd write it on paper). Require students to have a specific level of calculator for each grade? I'm sure that would go over really well with parents ...

    Of course, I already have one of the Casio CG-10 calculators.

  • Re:Approved lists (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Radak ( 126696 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @03:46AM (#42345523) Journal

    This is exactly right. The reason the TI-8x line has been around unchanged for so long is because school systems find it sufficient, but not too much, and teachers know exactly how to reset its memory. If you let kids start using whatever software they want on their smartphones, cheating would become much more widespread than it is now. When I was in high school, I used a HP 48S (still do from time to time) and I could have cheated my pants off with that if I wanted to, as the teachers didn't have a clue about it. (I didn't, but easily could have--more important to have things like Ant in my RAM!)

  • Re:Specs, still (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @04:10AM (#42345581) Homepage

    I've never managed to kill a calculator (graphing or otherwise) and it was definitely put through some abuse during high school. I wasn't exactly throwing it against walls, but I wasn't terribly careful about throwing it in a backpack containing thirty pounds of textbooks either. There were a thousand or more of them at the school as every student had one, and I can't once remember overhearing someone complaining about a cracked or otherwise damaged calculator. Yet at least a third of the iPhones I see are cracked in some way (oddly, this doesn't seem to be the case with many Androids, but I see far fewer of them so that might just be selection bias)

  • by Zero_DgZ ( 1047348 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @08:23AM (#42346339)

    I remember back when the TI-83 "boom" was happening in public schools around here and math textbooks were starting to show up with content in them tailored to TI-83 calculators. Suddenly, it was required that students have "a graphing calculator" for math courses, on pain of automatic failure. I'm not sure how this happened but I imagine it involved large sums of money changing hands: Somehow, every single published textbook was chock full of key-by-key instructions on how to solve problems that applied ONLY to TI-8x series calculators, and none other. Never were the concepts behind the button presses explained, it was just a matter of "press this button, then this button, then enter your value, then press this button..." So, while the schools were not able to admit that what you really needed was a TI-83 calculator and none other without exception, that's really what this new policy meant. In the early days, most primary school teachers didn't have much experience working with these "newfangled" calculators and were not able to offer assistance or background explanation about any of these button-pressing procedures, so the lucky ducklings with non-TI calculators (like me!) were basically shit outta luck. I had, and still have, a Casio CFX-8950GB Plus, which was at the time and still is superior to the TI-83 line in every possible way. It also has a color screen, but owing to the times it can only do four colors. Even still.

    However the heck this twisted situation came about, it meant that TI wound up with a near-monopoly on the graphing calculator market, considering the lion's share of that market is mandatory primary education, most of it in public schools (this is in the USA, mind you). So, they've been able to churn out basically the same calculator pretty much without change or improvement and charge the same price for it at retail. I'll bet you a nickel it's a shitton cheaper for TI to manufacture a TI-83 now, with it's tiny simple processor and chunky low-rez monochrome screen than it was back in the early '90's. I'll bet the damn thing prints money for them.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the market (and the world) innovates, improves, and moves on. This move to stick a 320x240 screen and a "whopping" 21k of RAM would be a bold and exciting one if it happened 15 years ago. Somehow, I picture today's students failing to get excited about a machine that's considerably less capable than a low-end current smartphone. Hell, I have a first- or second-generaton PocketPC PDA that's more powerful than that.

    I predict that this machine will cost just as much if not more than the old calculators, the old style calculators will stay on the market as a "budget" option for poor kids but their price will not drop much or at all (especially if the zooty color model costs considerably more than the current price point), and nobody who isn't forced to buy one as the particular calculator for a particular math course will care; From a functional standpoint, as opposed to your specific "press this button" classroom requirements, better tools are already available elsewhere and will continue to be.

  • by NJRoadfan ( 1254248 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @08:28AM (#42346363)
    My college Calculus and Pre-Calculus courses prohibited calculators of any form. You really didn't need them as the courses were geared towards problem solving and not pure arithmetic.
  • Re:Ti-84 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @09:13AM (#42346577)

    Actually, you know more about calculus than you think you do. In order to write a program, you must understand what the algorithm does that you're using.

    Unfortunately, the algorithms I used on my TI-81 were more like, "crude text adventure parser" (stereotypical DnD dungeon) "parametric equation of a side view of a boob" (boys will be boys) and in later years when I had a HP-48 I wrote a pretty decent 68hc11 simulator using an array as memory and variables as the registers. Welcome to state machines! The '48 had pretty good hex math capabilities and I never implemented the whole instruction set, but I certainly had the basic load, store, add, branch type stuff and a crude debugger UI that could show contents of registers and memory and single step etc. My microcontroller instuctor was somewhat impressed. Also in high school I did learn a fair amount of trig on my own as I finally got a working 3d cube render-er which was a pretty stereotypical 80s home computer BASIC challenge. Basically you store the 3-d cube as an array of the corners coordinates and then plot them ignoring the Z coord, then execute a transform on all the points (there are several ways to implement this), replot, run the transform, replot, you end up with a little controllable rotating cube. Without double (triple?) buffering the flashing as it redraws is almost unbearable and you have to have a strategy to depend with floating point rounding (like not rotating the existing cube by 1 degree each time, you rotate a unit cube by a continuously varying angle (like 41 degrees X rotation this time, 42 the next etc). Its quite slow on a TI-81 but watchable and interesting from a demo-scene perspective.

    I learned calc in my senior year of HS anyway, but it was much more despite having a graphing calc than because I had a graphing calc.

    So this is what kids do with their "valuable educational math tools" instead of whatever curriculum the PR firm releases. Its more or less the college prep kids equivalent of when the shop kids make bongs in class instead of birdfeeders.

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @09:45AM (#42346817) Journal

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