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Texas Instruments angers hobbyists with limits to calculator programming support



Texas Instruments has removed the ability for some of its most popular calculators to run programs written in assembly or C, Cemetech reports. Hobbyists are not happy with the changes. In addition to being used as educational tools, TI calculators are also relatively simple and cheap programming devices.

According to a customer support email posted on TI-Planet (via Linus Tech Tips), affected calculators include the popular TI-84 Plus CE, as well as the TI-83 Plus CE-T, and the TI-83 Premium CE. The functionality is disappearing in the devices’ latest firmware update, and there’s currently no way to roll back the software.

The change is being made to try and stop students from circumventing the calculators’ exam mode restrictions, but in the process it also removes a key avenue that hobbyists have used to run their programs. Although the calculators still support other programming languages like TI-BASIC and Python, these languages are reportedly far slower, with implications for what kinds of programs can reasonably be run.

TI enthusiasts contend that determined cheaters won’t be stopped by the change. One forum poster on Planet Casio points out that people can still modify the calculators’ Exam Mode notification LED, for example. It’s also rare for exam moderators to check that students are running the most recent firmware on their calculators, so cheaters could theoretically run an older firmware version as a workaround.

No one is forcing hobbyists to upgrade their firmware, so it seems likely that many will hang on to their outdated software for as long as possible. However, the changes are a big blow to the community as a whole, which will no longer be able to buy new calculators with support for the more powerful programming languages.