Choosing a Retro Computer
Over the past year or so I’ve been finding my self drawn to retro computing and gaming lately. Of course emulators are and easy first step. For the video gaming side, I’ve got RetroPie up and running and even went out and got a real Nintendo 64 since it doesn’t emulate as well on a Raspberry Pi, plus is was probably my favorite console. I may have played a lot of NES and SNES as a younger kid, and they made quite and impression, but the N64 hit me in those really impressionable middle school years and has had a special place with me ever since.
But moving on from gaming, I’ve started looking into retro computing. This is a weirder one for me, because a lot of these old computer platforms are things I didn’t use in their own day. I did get to experience the Apple II when I was in elementary school before they school computers became PCs, but my first computer at home was a Macintosh Performa 410, and the first PC, where I really cut my teeth, was a 120Mhz Pentium based PC running Windows 95. So there’s the classic Macintosh that I have some nostalgia for and on the PC side, I still played a lot of old DOS games on that relatively newer Windows PC. I’ve already got a lot of DOS games running on DOSBox, and for now I’m happy with that setup. While I’ve played around with Mac 68k and Amiga emulators, and I find that era of computing really interesting, I think what I really want to live(not relive since it was mostly before my time) is that 8-bit BASIC home computer era. There’s a lot of options out there, but two that I have used. I mentioned the Apple II from early childhood, though I did own one much later in the late 90’s at the same time I got an old TI 99/4a. The TI 99/4a is actually where I’ve done the most BASIC programming, even though I had a real computer with real compilers for real languages at the same time. It just seemed simple and fun to feel like you’re more directly programming the machine. So while the Apple II and Commodore 64 may be far more popular and have larger communities, that popularity is also turning into high prices on the secondary market. So unless I can find one at a garage sale or thrift store, and Commodore 64 for Apple II are probably going to be emulator systems for me(I wish would have had a place to store my old computers when I was in the Air Force, but I had to leave them at my Mom’s and my Apple II along with some others, notably a Mac Plus, got thrown out). So I decided on the TI 99/4a, which seems to fit in a nice little niche where systems, software, and parts are still pretty available, but the prices aren’t too bad. I took a gamble on and tested one for $13(but $27 shipping, oof that’s where retro computers on eBay really bites you), so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve also ordered a composite cable on Amazon for $6 since I have nothing that will work with the already flaky RF A/V adapters the things came with. The cable itself would have been easy enough, but getting a 5-pin DIN connector shipped would have cost just as much. Hopefully I’ll have some fun updates in the next week or so, or at the very least some frustration-based updates on getting the thing to work.