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Welcome to Cemetech! Since 2000, Cemetech (pronounced KE'me'tek) has been teaching programming and electronics and developing software and hardware. Among Cemetech's specialties are TI, HP, and Casio graphing calculators like the TI-84 Plus, TI-Nspire, HP Prime, and Casio Prizm, embedded and DIY electronics, and computer and web programming. Cemetech provides a safe, friendly space for people to learn, show off projects, and share knowledge and expertise. Our staff of friendly volunteers hang out on our forum and IRC and SAX chatrooms, and are happy to help.
Projects of the Month: July 2018
Published by _iPhoenix_ on August 12, 2018 at 4:28:20 PM CST | Discuss this article (5)

This month featured a ton of amazing projects from lots of amazing creators. There were also several releases that have been years in the making! Here are your projects of the month for July 2018:

  • Agenda CE [ICE]: Starting off our (alphabetical) list, we have Agenda CE, from SM84CE. Agenda CE is a program to help organize your classes. He doesn't seem to have much code done yet, but if he finishes the program it will be a great tool for students. Go show SM84CE some love and support!
  • Attack of the Snails: _iPhoenix_'s project "Attack of the Snails!!!" is a port of an unreleased TI-BASIC game into Assembly! It is his first actual Assembly game, and it features fun sprites and an epic font. It looks cool, so go check it out!
  • BasicNote CE Progress Thread: This month, Cemetech user Michael2_3B made a lot of progress on his "fully functioning text editor for the TI-84+CE"! The features include line wrapping, copying and pasting, autosaving, and much more. After much anticipation, we finally received a release! More information and the much-awaited download can be found in the thread.
  • Chip-84 Ports: As seen in the title, Chip-84 Ports is a series of Chip-8 ports created by ckosmic! This month, he ported it over to several new platforms. It looks fun, so go check the thread out!
  • Fsh Shell: pixiys has been trying to complete his shell for the TI-84+CE, written in ez80 Assembly. It already has loads of amazing features, with much more coming soon! You can find more information in the thread.
  • Gateway to Legend: 123outerme's project "Gateway to Legend" received several improvements this month. He added all kinds of fun abilities, fixed some bugs, added some menus, and more! Go check the thread out!
  • KhiCAS, a full-featured CAS for Casio CG50/Graph 90+e: Cemetech newcomer parisse kicked things off well by unveiling a very intriguing CAS for the Casio CG50 and Graph 90+e models. It has more features than I can expound on here, so go check out the thread!
  • MD5 in TI-BASIC!: As seen in the title, MD5 in TI-BASIC! is a implementation of the cryptographic hashing function MD5 in TI-BASIC created by SopaXorzTaker! For a simple TI-BASIC program it is very impressive. We would love to see more of this project!
  • NOS - An alternative shell: LAX18 has been trying to complete his shell for the TI-84+CE. He got a truckload of things done this month, even if he still has a massive to-do list. It looks like LAX18 is making lots of progress!
  • Pi Practice Program: From Legoman314, Pi Practice Program is a program to help you memorize digits of Pi. He's completed a lot so far, but there's still quite a bit left! It looks sweet, so go check the thread out!
  • SnailFont: _iPhoenix_'s font "SnailFont" is a self-described "perfectly imperfect font face". He took the partial font he is using in his other project, Attack of the Snails, and turned it into a complete font that can be used practically anywhere! You can find more information, a demo, and a download in the thread!
  • TI Monopoly: Kydapoot made a lot of progress on his project this month! He fixed some bugs, created others, and is working on adding quite a few features. You can find more information in the thread.
  • TI-Boy CE Progress Thread: calc84maniac's project "TI-Boy CE Progress Thread" received numerous improvements this month. He fixed several major bugs in this update. It looks like calc84maniac is making lots of progress!
  • TiQR-B, a QR Code encoder written in pure TI-BASIC!: As the title suggests, SopaXorzTaker created an intriguing QR code encoder in TI-BASIC! Simply input some data, wait a little bit, and you have a functioning QR code that can be scanned by practically every device with a camera. Go check the thread out!
  • TPT3D - a 3D falling sand game in JavaScript!: SopaXorzTaker has created an awesome game similar to The Powder Toy, but in 3D! It's very cool, and uses a fully custom 3D rendering engine to do all of the math. Go show SopaXorzTaker some love and support!
  • TwoStep - The challenging, multiplatform puzzle game!: Muessigb's project TwoStep is a challenging and addictive puzzle game written in Axe! After several years of waiting, he finally released it! More information can be found in the thread.
  • Village: _iPhoenix_ has been working hard adding improvements to Village, an esolang that feels like a game. He added quite a few features this month, way too many to list here! We cannot wait for new updates!

After you've checked out the appropriate topics, please vote in the poll above for your favorite project within the next ten days! There were so many impressive releases this month from quite a few authors!

Back to School 2018: The Best Graphing Calculator to Buy?
Published by Alex on July 9, 2018 at 9:29:15 PM CST | Discuss this article (6)

For the eighth year in a row, Cemetech is excited to bring you a Back to School guide, helping you figure out the best graphing calculator to get for school and how to use it. In both 2011 and 2012, we published trios of guides, showing you which calculator to buy, how to get programs and games onto your calculator, and how to learn to program your calculator. In 2013 through 2017, we held your hand through the process with Which Graphing Calculator Should I Buy?. This year, we once again present a guide helping you select from the baffling array of graphing calculators now available to high school and college students. We'll help you figure out which calculator is right for primary school, high school, or college students, whether you're buying for yourself, your child, or researching for your students.

The landscape of available graphing calculators in 2018 is largely the same as in the prior years, but we updated our democratic vote from 2015 with a new democratic vote for 2018, tempered with our two decades of graphing calculator experience. In that poll, we asked our members to vote on the best calculators in three categories: (1) High School Math and Science; (2) CAS (College); (3) Programming. As you'll see in the discussion below, the TI-84 Plus CE released in 2015 (which as since been updated in a palette of colors including gold, white, gray, mint, coral, and blue) was a very popular contender. The TI-Nspire CX CAS and HP Prime also earned high marks. All three of these calculators are accepted on standardized tests like the SAT, and of these three, only the TI-84 Plus CE is allowed on the ACT. We stopped recommending the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition and TI-84 Plus Silver Edition in 2015, as both of which have been effectively made obsolete by the TI-84+CE (although each is a great calculator by itself). While the TI-Nspire CX is a fairly popular high school math and science calculator, we feel that the TI-84 Plus CE is a better, easier-to-use choice, and the general student, teacher, and programmer consensus appears to overwhelmingly agree.

:: Math and Science: The TI-84 Plus CE remains TI's latest entry to the 19-year-old TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus line, offering a bright color screen and a rechargeable battery. Introduced early in 2015, the interface is nearly identical to the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition released two years earlier in 2013, but the processor is faster, the RAM is larger, and the case is slimmer and lighter. The interface is also very similar to the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, but with a higher-resolution color screen that can fit more math and higher detailed graphs. The color screen makes it easier to graph and explore multiple functions, and it introduces a few new statistics features (as detailed in Chapter 12 of "Using the TI-84 Plus"). Its greatest strengths lie in how it reinforces already-proven TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus features, but its underlying CPU and memory do improve significantly on the older calculators, giving programmers more flexibility to create powerful programs and games. Cemetech and community leader ticalc.org's download statistics indicate that most students buying new calculators have welcomed the TI-84 Plus CE with open arms, and we recommend that you do too. The TI-84+CE has a 48MHz ez80 processor, 154KB of user-accessible RAM, 3.0MB of user-accessible Flash memory, a 10-hour rechargeable battery, and an MSRP of $129 (plus, it comes in 8 fun colors). To recap, the TI-84+CE is the quintessential calculator for high school (and some college) math and science, updated with better specs, a high-resolution color screen, a slim, light case in fun colors, and a rechargeable battery.

Learn to use your TI-84 Plus CE with Using the TI-84 Plus, from math and graphing to statistics and programming. Learn to program your calculator with Programming the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus.

:: College (CAS): The TI-Nspire CX CAS has a color screen equal in size to that of the TI-84 Plus CE, a mouse-based interface, and support for Lua programs. The TI-Nspire's operating system is based around the idea of Documents, in which you type calculations, enter equations, and draw graphs. It has templates for linear, parabolic, circular, elliptical, and hyperbolic equations in which you can enter coefficients and graph the result. The OS has a "Scratchpad" for quick calculations, and like the TI-84 Plus series, variables are shared between the calculation and graph modes. It can perform all of the trig functions you need for math classes. You can name your own variables, and are thus not limited to the A-Z variables of the TI-84 Plus, and variables are "linked" with graphs so that when you change a variable, a graph that uses the variable will be updated as well. The TI-Nspire CX is $150 or $130, for the CAS or non-CAS models respectively. If you have an iPad, consider the TI-Nspire Apps for iPad, an App version of this calculator. The TI-Nspire CX CAS is physically identical to the non-CAS model, but allows students to perform symbolic computations, great for calculus, physics, and other advanced courses. With the CAS, you can integrate, differentiate, and simplify symbolic expressions. The TI-Nspire CX CAS has a Document-based interface, like its non-CAS sibling, and is generally available for about $10 to $20 more. Both the TI-Nspire CX and the TI-Nspire CX CAS are allowed on the SAT, while the non-CAS model is permitted on the ACT, but some teachers will not allow a CAS calculator to be used on school exams. To summarize, the TI-Nspire CX CAS is a computer-like color-screen calculator with a symbolic CAS. Good for some high school students and for college students, especially STEM majors.

The HP Prime is also a very powerful CAS calculator, albeit with a few growing pains like a smaller support community. It offers a multitouch screen, a very powerful arbitrary graphing features, and CAS features similar to those on the TI-Nspire CX CAS. When it was first released, the Prime's OS was buggy, but has been substantially improved in the interim, and with a beautiful design, powerful hardware, and an extremely fast BASIC programming language, the HP Prime promises to continue to improve into a great tool for college students and professional engineers. Given the traction that the HP Prime has gained in our community, we were surprised that our members voted the TI-Nspire CX CAS as the superior calculator for engineering and college. In short, the HP Prime is a sleek, powerful, and improving touch-screen calculator with a symbolic CAS that makes it a great choice for college students, especially STEM majors, and for professionals.

:: Programming: For the fourth year in a row, we are recommending the TI-84 Plus CE for programming as well as for high school math and science. In the past, we have recommended the Casio Prizm as our top pick for programming: it offers a BASIC language and can be programmed in C. However, C, ez80 ASM, and TI-BASIC are all now possible on the TI-84 Plus CE, with its 48MHz ez80 processor and 154KB of RAM. While we can't create Apps on the TI-84 Plus CE, the available C SDK/toolchain in its many forms, including online in the SourceCoder 3 IDE, has grown rapidly. In 2015, the tools for TI-84 Plus CE were less complete than the tools for the Casio Prizm, but C programming for the TI-84 Plus CE continues to be very popular, and the TI-84 Plus CE C programming toolchain is now mature.

The Final Verdict:
If you need a new calculator, here's what you should consider:
  • If you (or your child) are a middle or high school student, your teachers may recommend a TI-84 Plus CE or a TI-Nspire CX, in which case you should follow their advice. For high school students getting a new calculator, the TI-84 Plus CE is our favorite choice.
  • If you're looking to take college classes in higher math, science, or engineering, the TI-Nspire CX CAS or the HP Prime are the calculator for you.
  • If you're a programmer, or you want to encourage your student to be a programmer, the TI-84 Plus CE is the best option. It allow BASIC, ez80 ASM, ICE, and C programming. The HP Prime also has a very fast BASIC language, and the Casio Prizm (fx-CG20 and fx-CG50) was the original C-programmable calculator.
Good luck with the hectic rush that is Back to School, and I hope this guide helped make at least one decision easier. If you need help picking a calculator, getting games and educational programs for your calculator and onto the device, or you want to learn to program, just stop by Cemetech and chat with us. We're always happy to help.

Notes about the ACT:
Remember, all models mentioned herein are accepted on the SAT, and most on the ACT, so there are no winners or losers on that count. Don't forget to double-check the SAT calculator policu or the ACT calculator policy to ensure your calculator is permitted! In particular, note that the TI-Nspire CX CAS is not allowed while the non-CAS version is acceptable.

Finally, if you prefer this information in visual form with some calming narration, here's our Back to School Graphing Calculator Guide as a video, with everything you need to know to select your first (or next) graphing calculator:

Cemetech Going to World Maker Faire 2018: Year 7!
Published by KermMartian on July 24, 2018 at 1:15:08 PM CST | Discuss this article (7)

Cemetech will once again be showing off coding and hardware hacking with graphing calculators at World Maker Faire in New York City this September 22nd and 23rd. Our volunteer team has reduced Cemetech's presence at the Faire to such a science, this article is sure to be a blatant copy-and-paste of past news articles about our appearance at World Maker Faire. Our first appearance at Maker Faire was now six years ago, with rather rudimentary displays; in the years since, we have gone through many iterations of our demos and displays, ending up with what I humbly believe is a fairly polished booth. Over the years, I've been joined by dedicated Cemetechians Alec "qazz42" Szigeti, Tim "geekboy1011" Keller, Thomas "elfprince13" Dickerson, Nathaniel "Eeems" van Diepen, Fred "mr womp womp" Desautels, Danial "Pieman7373" Leath, and Botboy3000, who have volunteered their time, effort, and money to help make our Maker Faire booth a success. We have garnered some modest press coverage, we have collected a few new Cemetech members and reconnected with old ones, but most importantly, we have introduced probably tens of thousands of Faire visitors to the fact that they can learn programming, electronics, and other STEM subjects with their graphing calculators. We're excited to continue that mission this September.

This year, we're bringing back all of our proven displays. Here's what we're displaying:
  • TI-DCC (Calculator-Controlled Model Trains): This evolution of a few-years-old project to control model trains with graphing calculators no longer requires an Arduino. Thanks to hard work by geekboy1011 and Iambian, TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition calculators can directly bitbang the DCC (Direct Cab Control) protocol, allowing the calculator to control a train through a simple H-bridge motor driver.
  • Whack-a-Mole: Built with a TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, a TI MSP432 Launchpad, and lots of RGB LEDs and light sensors, the Whack-a-Mole project was a hit at World Maker Faire 2015 and T^3 2016.
  • CALCnet Networking Demo: Four TI-83 Plus calculators connected via CALCnet, running the Flourish demo, showing how you can build and test a complex communication protocol with just the hardware your calculators provide, plus a few wires.
  • GPS Demo: A version of the GPS for graphing calculators project, allowing a calculator to communicate with a GPS module to get its latitude, longitude, altitude, the current time, and more.
  • SimpleI/O Demo: First displayed this year at T^3 2016, the SimpleI/O demo illustrates how easy it is to connect an Arduino to a graphing calculator. It shows how a calculator can read the state of pins on an Arduino to see if you're pressing a button or toggling a switch, and how the calculator can in turn control LEDs, motors, and more.
  • Sound Demo: A TI-84 Plus Silver Edition with mobileTunes and songs by Alec "qazz42" Szigeti and Thomas "elfprince13" Dickerson, plus my floppy drive music with a TI-83 Plus project.
  • Interactive calculators for games: a TI-84 Plus CE, TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, and if any of them are still working, a Casio Prizm, with games and other programs loaded.
  • "Using the TI-84 Plus" and "Programming the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus": As has become traditional, we brought copies of my books as examples of written reference material that new learners could explore outside of Cemetech. "Programming the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus" teaches programming concepts to beginners via TI graphing calculators, giving them a toolbox of programming knowledge they can bring to any programming language. "Using the TI-84 Plus" is the missing manual: a gentle guide to the vast array of math and science features available on TI graphing calculators, grounded in plenty of examples just like the ones students might see in class or on the SATs.
  • Learn to Program demo: A giant calculator emulator, with key entry from a real TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition calculator. Aims to teach visitors to write a simple guessing game in 60 seconds.

Do you have something new you want to see to refresh these admittedly time-worn examples of what we do? Please post in the attached topic with your ideas, or better, make something and bring it! What can you contribute? In addition, if you're in New York City, we encourage you to hop on the 7 train to 111th Street in Queens and come visit World Maker at the New York Hall of Science. We'll be there 10am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday, September 22nd and 23rd. See you there!

Cemetech's contingent last year: mr womp womp, Pieman7373, Kerm Martian, qazz42, Botboy3000, and geekboy

Cemetech is now on Discord!
Published by Alex on July 18, 2018 at 12:03:35 PM CST | Discuss this article (11)

13 years ago we launched our IRC Channel on the Efnet Network; a year later the first version of SAX was released by KermMartian. A few years after SAX was released, the IRC-SAX bridge was permanently brought online and helped establish instant chat as a cornerstone of the Cemetech community.

Now, after a suggestion from mets11rap, we now have a Discord server that is bridged to IRC! So, feel free to join our Discord server by clicking the image below and join in on the discussion!