1 bit chiptune: Setting up HoustonTracker 2 on your TI-xx calculator (Linux)

In a previous blog post titled Making music on Texas Instruments calculators: 1 bit chiptune I said I would write a tutorial on how to turn your Texas Instruments calc into a sequencer, allowing you to compose the finest blip-blopy tunes ever. Well, here it is, for Linux only, but hey, the Windows version is next.

Make sure your calculator is supported

Screenshot from 2020-04-09 21-34-48

The checklist

Hardware

  • 1 or more Texas Instruments Z80-based calculators: TI-82, TI-82 Plus, TI-83, TI-84 Plus,
  • 1 TI-Graph Silverlink cable,
  • 1 2.5mm male to 3.5mm female jack adapter,
  • 1 computer running a Linux distro supporting DEB packages (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, MX Linux, elementary OS, Zorin OS, Deepin, KDE Neon, Anti X, Kali Linux…).

Software

Here is the list of the software piece we will download and install in the next paragraph:

It always start with loads of downloads

TiLP

Screenshot from 2020-04-09 21-30-31

TiLP is a linking program running on Linux, OS X and Windows used to send / get things to / from your TI. It’s free, which is good, but remember we are about to install it on Linux, so get ready for a super hard installation procedure likely to bring you on the verge of Lovecraftian madness:

sudo apt install tilp2

Done.

Now you can plug your TI-Graph Link cable both to the calc and to the computer and go in File | Change Device. Once there, select the right type of cable & calculator, then click on the magnifier to start the cable detection procedure. After a couple of seconds your cable type should get listed: click on it once, then OK.

Screenshot from 2020-04-09 21-55-31

You’re ready to exchange data with your TI.

HoustonTracker 2

Screenshot from 2020-03-27 22-38-57

HT2 can be downloaded for free from this URL: https://www.irrlichtproject.de/houston/

IMPORTANT: After installing HoustonTracker 2, your calculator will not be able to perform most of its regular tasks until HT2 is removed. Do not install HT2 if you need to use your calculator for regular work, such as in school or university.

TI82 / 82 Parcus

  1. Reset your calculator by pressing [2nd], [+], [3],
  2. Plug your TI-Graph Link cable both to the calc and to the computer,
  3. Open TiLP, make sure the right cable is selected,
  4. Put your calculator into transmission mode by pressing [2nd], [X,T,Θ], [▶], [ENTER],
  5. In Tilp, go to File | Restore and select CRASH.82B (TI82) or CRASH19006.82b (82 Parcus),
  6. Once the transfer is done, put your calc in transmission mode again and send (File | Send Files) ht2.82p (TI82) or ht2p.82p (Parcus).

TI83 / TI82 Stats

  1. Reset your calculator by pressing [2nd], [+], [5],
  2. Plug your TI-Graph Link cable both to the calc and to the computer,
  3. Open TiLP, make sure the right cable is selected,
  4. In Tilp, go to File | Send Files and select ION.83G,
  5. Once the transfer is done, press [PRGM], select ION and press [ENTER],
  6. Press [2nd], [+], [2], [7]. Highlight ION and press [ENTER] to delete it. Do the same for IONZ,
  7. Go to File | Send Files and select ht2.83p.

TI83 Plus / TI84 Plus

  1. Reset your calculator by pressing [2nd], [+], [7], [▶], [▶], [ENTER],
  2. Plug your TI-Graph Link cable both to the calc and to the computer,
  3. Open TiLP, make sure the right cable is selected,
  4. In Tilp, go to File | Send Files and select DoorsCS7.8xk,
  5. Go to File | Send Files and select ht2.8xp.

Now launch HT2 and make music

Notice: Always plug in headphones after you’ve started HT2 and unplug them before you quit.

  1. Press [PRGM] (TI82 / 83) or [APPS] (TI83 Plus / 84 Plus),
  2. Highlight CRASH (TI82), A (TI83) or DoorsCS (Plus models) and press [ENTER],
  3. Highlight HT2 and press [ENTER].

The manual for HT2 is very well made, there is even a tutorial song you can enter in a few minutes:

20200409_225229

What kind of music can I do ?

You will produce a kind of music called Chiptune, a sub-class of electronic music sounding very much like video games from the late 70s / early 80s. Is it a bad thing ?

No, it’s fantastic !

You will join the ranks of Commodore 64, Atari XL and many other legendary platforms composers. Actually, chiptune, despite having its roots in the glorious age of rotary dials phones is very much alive. Check https://www.micromusic.net and http://www.pouet.net for some fresh tracks.

You can also listen to and support the fabulous Roland Radio (1912 tracks and counting).

Instagram hashtags: #1bit #1bitmusic #chiptune

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