In Part 1 of this Back-to-School Guide, I helped you decide whether to buy a TI-83+, a TI-84+, a TI-Nspire, a Casio Prizm, or a TI-89. Part 2 of this Back-to-School Guide taught you how to download programs and games for your calculator of choice and load them onto your handheld. This third and final installment will briefly introduce a concept dear to the hearts of many of us here at Cemetech: learning to program, using graphing calculators as a springboard. In the modern work, programming is an increasingly vital skill, to the extent that some schools are even beginning to integrate programming classes into their curricula from an early age. Calculators are a great way to get started with programming:
1) They teach all of the problem-solving and critical thinking skills you need to program in any language.
2) They're portable, and in most cases you can write and test your programs directly on your calculator.
3) With immediately-visible results, like math programs that help you check your work or fun games to entertain you during breaks, calculator programming is rewarding.
Here at Cemetech, we have created, compiled, and curated a thorough collection of tools to learn calculator programming. Every calculator model is slightly different, but there's a great deal of overlap between each. The TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus series are programmable in TI-BASIC or z80 assembly, as well as some third party languages such as Axe. The Casio Prizm is programmable in Casio BASIC, Lua, C/C++, and SH4 ASM. The TI-89 can be programmed with a different TI-BASIC variant, C, and 68k ASM. The TI-Nspire is programmable (mostly) only in Lua. Some of the prime resources:
:: For the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus, learn TI-BASIC with my just-released book, "Programming the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus". It will be hitting stores in a week or two, and is already available for preorder on Amazon. The book introduces everything from the basics to advanced optimization, graphics, and data manipulation techniques, and provides a gateway to the larger world of programming. For additional advanced optimization tips, read the brief 1337 Guide to TI-BASIC.
:: Learn z80 ASM for the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus via community member Sean McLaughlin's excellent "Learn TI-83 Plus Assembly in 28 Days" tutorial. However, we strongly recommend that instead of the outdated and hard-to-use TASM/DevPac8x toolchain the tutorial recommends, you try the Doors CS 7 SDK.
:: Casio Prizm BASIC doesn't yet have any complete tutorials, but Casio's electronic Prizm manual has a surprisingly complete command reference. For C and Lua programming, Cemetech's WikiPrizm has a Prizm Programming Portal with tutorials, reference materials, and the PrizmSDK for C programmers.
Other calculators have either more sparse or more obscure toolkits and toolchains for programmers to use and learn from, but even the TI-89, TI-Nspire, and older calculators like the TI-86 and fx-9860g have plenty of tutorials available to help you develop for those devices. If you have any questions, feel free to post in the attached thread, and we'll do our best to help you find what you need.