Adafruit Interviews Texas Instruments Education about Python on Calculators and more! @TICalculators #TICodes

Ti84

In May of 2021 we saw that there was a fork of CircuitPython reported to be running on the new TI-84 Plus CE Python Graphing Calculator by Texas Instruments and we had to get one (and did!). We reached out to the folks at TI Education / TI Calculators and asked if we could send over some questions to their team(s) and they said YES, here they are! Special thanks to Jennifer Kass, Global Marketing Communications and Web Manager for Education Technology at Texas Instruments and Phoebe Francis at GOLIN. It’s amazing to see all the calculators out there that support Python as core feature, and specifically we’re thrilled to see a fork of CircuitPython, on a physical chip in the TI-84!


Adafruit: For the folks out there that do not know about TI’s calculators, what are the TI-83 and TI-84? How and where are they used? How many are used in schools, by students, etc. USA and worldwide? Standardized testing organizations have approved the TI-84 Plus; what’s involved with that? (looks like the TI-84 can be utilized on the PSAT®, SAT® and ACT® college entrance exams, as well as IB® Diploma Programme and AP® exams that allow or require a graphing calculator).

TI Education:

Texas Instruments (TI) graphing calculators are designed to help students visualize concepts and gain a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Starting with the introduction of the TI-81 graphing calculator in 1990, we listen to teachers and students to understand their needs and make improvements to our products. You can see how our graphing calculators have evolved over time in the history of the TI calculator timeline.

More than 90 million graphing calculators have been sold worldwide since 1990. TI technology prepares students for success on their high-stakes exams. Testing providers determine which technology they allow on their exam, and teachers and students can see which TI technology is accepted here.


Adafruit: It looks like all the major calculator makers are adding Python as a programming language, including TI; why is that?

TI Education:

Coding skills are a basic literacy these days, and introducing students to one of the fastest-growing programming languages in the world gives students knowledge they can apply to future STEM careers. By adding Python to our TI-83 Premium CE, TI-84 Plus CE and TI-Nspire CX II graphing calculators, students can learn to program using the same dedicated, distraction-free tool they are already familiar with from math and science classes.


Adafruit: We covered the TI-83 Premium CE calculator, which supported a fork of CircuitPython; what is the difference between the TI-83 Premium CE calculator and the upcoming TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator?

TI Education:

The main Python app and the implementation are identical with both calculators.


Adafruit: What are the new and best features of the upcoming TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator?

TI Education:

The TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator has everything you know and love about its predecessor – the TI-84 Plus CE – and now comes pre-loaded with Python. Some features include a full-color screen, lightweight design and rechargeable battery that can last up to one month on a single charge. The TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator also comes in fun new colors: Infinitely Iris and Positive Coral-ation.


Adafruit: The TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator uses a fork of CircuitPython; why was CircuitPython selected?

TI Education:

CircuitPython meets our need for Python functionality in a constrained hardware environment.


Adafruit: Is there any chance of TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator forked-code changes being added upstream?

TI Education:

We have filed bugs and provided test cases to MicroPython on some of our changes.


Adafruit: What are the accessories specific to the TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator, and how can they be used with Python?

TI Education:

The TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator can be used with Vernier sensors, as well as with TI-Innovator Hub and TI-Rover. The TI-Innovator Hub is a programmable microcontroller accessory designed to introduce students to coding and physical computing from their calculator. The TI-Rover is a programmable robotic vehicle that can be used in math and science classes, as well as in STEM clubs to provide an easy on-ramp to robotics.

The software for the calculator includes Python modules to interact with TI-Innovator Hub and TI-Rover.

We also have a Python module that enables programming the BBC micro:bit from the calculator.


Adafruit: The specs for the TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator are here – Is the TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator running the CircuitPython fork on the main processor or a co-processor (such as the TI-Python adapter that used a SAMD21?).

TI Education:

The TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator runs on a co-processor.

Samd21e

After confirming this, we took apart the calculator and there is! Photo, and larger. The fork of CircuitPython is running on a ATMEL (Microchip) ATSAMD21E18 (same as our GEMMA M0, TRINKET M0, and many TRINKEYs).


Adafruit: Are there additional or possible future TI products which may use Python?

TI Education:

Preparing students for the future is important to us, so we are always exploring new ways to innovate our technology for the classroom. We continue listening to teachers and partner with them to bring new Python and STEM opportunities to their schools.


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2 Comments

  1. Interesting that they literally added a microcontroller just to run python. I don’t remember what cpu the 84s have, must be wimpier than the m68k that’s in the 89. I would imagine an m68k embedded python port would be easier/cheaper than adding to the BOM for a single capability. On the other hand, it does show how important they see it. Shame the answers got filtered thru marketing, but cool that you got one and got answers!

  2. Adonis P. Cabriles

    Very informative & useful..

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