As I announced earlier, the HHC 2022 videos are released on YouTube (here). To date – yes, they issue them one by one – the best one, hands down, is Gene Wright‘s two-part TI-88, The best that never was. If you are not in the calculator ring, you don’t know that the TI-88 is a sea serpent that many have heard about, a few have seen and touched, and possibly less than 50 happy collectors own. You may also wonder how that is possible, as you can find a buttload of TI calculators in your supermarket, and you likely used one at school.
In 1982, Texas Instruments announced the imminent release of the TI-88. It was the potent successor of the TI-59/58/c and a fierce competitor to the Hewlett-Packards of the time. Every descent publication relayed the news, and we, naïve readers, were salivating at the idea of a new modern and – beautiful – programable TI calculator. At the time, I remember looking for an upgrade for my SHARP PC-1211. I was torn between the HP-41 and the PC-1500. My dad, traveling in Singapore, tried to buy the TI-88 and got a TI-59 instead. No one could buy a TI-88, and it rapidly disappeared from the radar screens. In the October 1982 panorama of pocket computers, L’Ordinateur de Poche got it right stating “TI-88: ici encore, il faut prophétiser, faute d’avoir des machines réellement en exercice.”. In English and the short: vaporware!
Like many, I hoped this calculator would hit the stores. I reassure you – hence the post’s title – that I picked the SHAPR PC-1500 instead. The best choice ever. Even more, as Gene is revealing why TI culled the TI-88: it is a turd! Excuse my French. After spending more than $100M in developing this floater, TI canceled the program. Gene got access to a treasure trove of TI internal memos from a passed TI engineer. So, he got it directly from the horse’s mouth. He is giving a lot of detail, and I encourage you to watch the two sessions’ recordings I linked at the end of this post.
But it gets even worst. In the second part, Gene shares his experience using and programming the TI-88. Based on his description – and my understanding of it – the TI-88 was an awful calculator. As a happy owner of one of the few models, he seems satisfied with having one in the end. When you know that a TI-88 can cost a few thousand bucks, I will definitively give up trying to get one and want to thank TI’s management of the time for killing the turd. The world indeed turned out to be a better place without the 88! I dodged this one!