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The Future of Calculating

Posted on 1 May 2003

The following text was written by Michael McElroy:

Over the past few years, the development of the TI calculator community seems to have stagnated. With such little new technology to work with (the V200 and M68 K AMS 2.08 being the most notable), programmers are beginning to either run out of ideas or repeat the work of others before them. Even the new technology wasn't very innovative; the Voyage 200 was little more than a modified TI-92+, and A MS 2.08's most revolutionary feature was a clock. However, I'm sure that there is more to this problem than what is happening on TI's end. What, then, is the re as on that so little change has come to the community recently?

One possibility is that semi-recent world events are having an impact on people's creativity. Though I doubt that the threat of terrorism has a direct effect on whether someone programs or not, there is still the possibility that the situation we're in now has depressed people to the point that they simply don't feel like doing enjoyable things. However, this probably holds true for so few people that it' s the least likely cause.

Another possibility is that we have become too de pendent upon the programs provided for us by others. If we do nothing but base our programs off of someone else 's code, then of course the programs will begin to appear similar. Generally, people depend far too much on modern technology. There are simple tasks that could often be done easier by hand (for example, writing an editorial) than by machine, and yet we continue to use them anyway. Since somebody has already written a program, we figure that it'd just be easier f or us to use something that exists than to write our own. The problem with this is that this breeds laziness in programmers, and kills off innovation. Nobody ever came up with a brilliant invention by using something someone made for them over and over again.

Personally, I think that a lot of the stagnation is a result of TI's apparent la ck of interest in the calculator field as of late. Their recent contributions have been mediocre at best, and any time I've heard of someone contacting them about a possible innovation, they are either told that the message will be forwarded to their developers, or that information regarding it is confidential. Why is this? TI certainly must know they have a huge following, why not give us something new to work with? I'm not simply talking about adding color or sound to a calculator, either. Sure, that would keep programmers entertained for a while, but the excitement would die down rather quickly once the novelty wore off.

The future of TI calculating looks mighty grim. There is little more TI can do with a calculator. We already have calculators that can do complex algebraic mathematics. all that remains now, as far as I see, would be for them to create a science-specific calculator - one for physics, one for biology, and so on. However, since the functions provided in their latest calculators cover much of those subjects, it's very doubtful that they would do so. A combination of creative stagnation on our part and lack of new 'gadgets' on theirs is having a huge impact on what we will do with our calculators in the future. As far as I'm concerned, we've done pretty much all that we can do with them. Most of the things I see to day tend to be variations upon the same general themes: puzzle game, eBook, graphics program, highly specific science app, and the like.

What can we do as TI programmers? As a whole, we need to begin depending less up on the work of others. We need to come up with something totally new, something that boggles the mind. So what will it be? I don't know. I leave this up to you. Now, more than ever, is your time to shine.

-Michael McElroy

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