TI-84 calculator becomes Python

Python goes everywhere, but a calculator? The classic TI-84 has been almost the standard graphing calculator since its introduction in 2004, and you can now program the latest model using Python – yes Python …

You might have used a TI-84 calculator in school and maybe even on an exam – I know I did. You can do amazing things with just the basics and the TI-BASIC language done where possible for writing custom calculators, demos, and teaching aids. We could also program some models in C and Z80 assembler but it was for serious enthusiasts. Yes, the processor is a Z80, possibly the last mainstream use of the venerable processor. You can also point out that this shows how little the calculator has changed over time as it is still a Z80 in the new model. However, stability and a limit to what the calculator can do is part of the device’s success in the education market.

The new model offers Python, which means students can use general programming knowledge rather than something specialized i.e. TI-BASIC. However, you can still use TI-BASIC if you want.

You can write some pretty convincing Python programs on the device. For example:


The version of Python used is Circuit Python which is a fork of MicroPython implemented by Adafruit.

TI-Python is based on CircuitPython, a variant of Python 3 for teaching coding. It was developed by Adafruit and adapted for use by TI. The interpreter of your Python program is executed in this TI-Python environment. , separate and different from Calculations in the CE operating system.Calculations may also differ from other versions of Python due to number type storage in the Python version.

As a user of MicroPython, I can say that most of the time you won’t notice the difference between this one and Python 3. I don’t know why TI chose to use CircuitPython over MicroPython, but it doesn’t there is no real difference in the language level. To run CircuitPython, there is a Cortex M0 ARM coprocessor, so no need to recompile the interpreter to work on a Z80.

Some time later in the year TI plans to release some sort of interface to the MicroBit, so the choice of CircuitPython may have been down to that – we’ll have to wait and see.

If you’re wondering why graphing calculators are still a thing, surely tablets, laptops, and even phones are powerful enough to do the same job? Yes, but they can also do a lot more. The advantage of a well-defined graphing calculator is that students are limited in what they can do – no checking with Google to answer a question. In fact, calculators, the TI range for example, are certified for different types of exams, making it easy for supervisors to verify that everything is allowed and that no cheating is taking place.

“..the TI-84 Plus CE Python Graphing Calculator is approved for high stakes exams, including the PSAT / NMSQT *, SAT * and ACT® university entrance exams as well as the Advanced Placement * and IB® that allow or require a graphing calculator. “

Yes, graphing calculators have a long life ahead of them.

More information

Texas Instruments New TI-84 Plus CE Python Graphing Calculator Introduces Students to Programming

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