The TI-83. Chances are if you’ve been in high school or college sometime since 1996, you’ve had at least one experience with it or one of its TI-80-something siblings. But the question is, “Why?” Why is it that in America, especially, Texas Instruments graphing calculators are so ubiquitous? And why do they still cost a hundred dollars or more in an age where apps and websites outperform them? Well, the answer lies back in 1985. The large scale calculator wars of the 1970’s were over, but the biggest players were still competing for the niche markets of science and education. It was in ’85 that Casio released the first commercially-available graphing calculator, the FX-7000G. The appeal of the graphing calculator was its capability of plotting graphs — go figure — in addition to the scientific functions of competing devices. It was also programmable, letting users create their own automated calculations and detailed graphs. In 1986, Sharp released their own version of the graphing calculator: the EL-5200, and, that same year, the scientific calculator wizards at Hewlett Packard did the same with the HP-28C. But, curiously, Texas Instruments didn’t get into the graphing calculator game until 1990, with the TI-81. And there’s a good reason for that, too. So, here’s the setup. Texas Instruments basically invented the handheld, four-function calculator in 1967 and continued to innovate throughout the ’70s, so they were well-known in the United States for being the go-to calculator company. But it wasn’t until 1986 that something changed the course of education history. The State of Connecticut submitted an order for 10,000 TI calculators, all at once. Well, that got TI to stand straight up and take notice, but more on that in a moment. Because, simultaneously, there was a growing debate over the use of calculators in the classroom, especially with the advent of graphing calculators. Those opposed to them assumed they would result in lower-quality learning, with the students simply calculating the results and ignoring key concepts. Those in favor saw graphing calculators as eliminating the need to waste time with paper and pencil computation, and instead focus on developing real, conceptual understanding. As the debate continued, the Calculator and Computer Precalculus Project, or C2PC, began at Ohio State University in 1988, designed to provide professional instruction for educators on how to integrate calculators into the classroom. C2PC proved successful in turning the tide in favor of graphing calculators in schools, expanding to other college campuses and even a yearly national conference, renaming themselves to Teachers Teaching with Technology, or T3, in 1992. And guess who the largest financial backer of the program was at that point! You guessed it! Texas Instruments. So, let’s go back to 1986 and that massive order of calculators. Well, you see, at that time, the folks in Texas decided to look into the educational market hardcore because, obviously, there was a huge demand. But, the debate over whether or not these things could even be allowed in the classroom had them waiting until the right time to even release one. The right time quickly became apparent in 1989 with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics proposing the “Curriculum of Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics.” This called for the national standardized use of classroom calculators from four-function calculators in kindergarten to graphing calculators in high school. With this set to go into effect in 1991, it was time for TI to take action. At that point, Casio’s machines were the most common graphing calculator in schools, so, Texas Instruments based their TI-81 design on the existing Casio design, while tweaking and expanding on its capabilities to set themselves apart. So, that helped ease people into these new machines, but the truly brilliant move was that they already had the influential T3 program on their side. Texas Instruments in turn used this influence to push their own products in the name of education, with T3 becoming known colloquially as “the church of TI.” They also had a highly-circulated newsletter, online news group, scholarship programs, workshops, and a hot line called “1-800-TI-CARES,” that proved hugely effective in making TI machines the most comfortable choice. They also used this influence to get their products shown in tons of school textbooks, with steps on how to solve problems exclusively showing TI calculators on the pages. This influencing of teaching standards has also ended up creating a resistance to change in the following years, because a generation of students and teachers are so used to using TI calculators at this point, that switching to something new seems downright disruptive. The result was a near-monopoly on the graphing calculator market, with many schools adding TI hardware to their supply lists, and standardized testing boards using TI calculators as one of the few sanctioned devices. Not only that, but due to the larger marketing presence, competing calculators became thought of as cheaper, inferior devices, even though they were often more capable than TI’s offerings. And, even in the current day where apps and websites can easily one-up a graphing calculator, the fact is that most schools and testing places don’t allow these during tests due to concerns of cheating and the like. So, the domination of TI continues. Of course, this is all rather simplified, but this is basically why a calculator with hardware that’s barely changed in twenty years still costs a premium, why schools require them even when it shuts out some lower income students, and why there’s just one brand that, as of 2014, controls 93% of the market. So, apparently there’s something to be said for money, influence, and marketing, and Texas Instruments is a prime example. You know the best part about these calculators was just putting games on there. I put Tetris on mine, and Snake, and all that stuff. I need to do a video on that sometime in the future. I mean, you can do it with Casios, too, but it was the TI stuff that had the most programs, which was another bonus if you were like me and liked hacking these things and whatnot. But if you enjoyed this video, then, well, thank you very much! I enjoyed you enjoying it, somehow. And there’s also more here, if you’d like to click them, as well as other videos coming around every Monday and Friday here on LGR. There’s also Twitter and Facebook and Patreon for doing social stuff and supporting the channel and seeing videos early. And, as always, thank you very much for watching!