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Texas Instruments TI-Nspire

Date of introduction:  July 2007 Display technology:  LCD dot matrix
 16-level greyscale
New price:  $149.00 (SRP 2008) Display size:  240 * 320 pixels 
Size:  7.9" x 3.9" x 0.85"
 200 x 100 x 22 mm3
   
Weight:  9.8 ounces, 278 grams Serial No:  2011007371 (Base Unit)
 2011005964 (Alpha KBD)
Batteries:  4*AAA Date of manufacture:  mth 05 year 2007
AC-Adapter:   Origin of manufacture:  China (S)
Precision:  14 Integrated circuits:  CPU: TI-NS2006A (L9A0702)
 SDRAM: HYB18L256160
 Flash: SST 39WF400A, ST NAND256R3A
 Display: Novatek NT7702H, 2*xxx
Memories:      
Program steps:  20M Bytes, 16M Bytes Flash-ROM Courtesy of:  Joerg Woerner 

In Germany is a saying "Good things take time", we assume in Dallas it is "and better things even longer". But the long-awaited TI-Nspire™ arrived finally in the store shelves and it was worth waiting for! Don't miss the protoype of the TI-Nspire labeled TI-XXXXXXXXXXX and learn more about the Five Engineering Stages.

PLT-SHH1_EP.jpg (145829 Byte)Texas Instruments filed already October 24, 2003 in  Europe a patent application for a stylus based calculator and since the publication of  the granted patent EP1424626 in June 2004 there are rumors about a new graphing calculator. The patent itself describes a then novel method of entering data with a stylus into graphing software applications. The sketch of the suggested design of the new calculator reminds us immediately to a failed development project nicknamed PET by the marketing department of Texas Instruments. We discovered in 2007 one of the rare prototypes labeled TI-PLT.

The TI-Nspire obviously lacks a stylus and seems to trace back to another root than the “PDA-based graphing calculator”, a hype started early in this millennium with the Hewlett Packard Xpander. This Windows CE based calculator looked like a PDA with a 240 * 320 pixel gray-scale touch screen, a small numeric keypad and the stylus. Hewlett Packard cancelled the project February 2001 with just a few prototypes left to the disappointed market. Dismantling one of the prototypes revealed a design centered around a Hitachi SH3 RISC-Processor, 8M Bytes of SDRAM and 16M Bytes of ROM.   

Japanese calculator company Casio was more successful and introduced in 2002 the ClassPad 300 with a 160 * 240 pixel gray-scale touch screen supporting a lot of stylus based operation like drag-and-drop. This design makes use of the Hitachi SH7291 - a SH3 based RISC-Processor, 0.5M Bytes of RAM and 4M Bytes Flash-ROM. 

The ClassPad 300 Plus introduced in 2005 makes use of a much improved display with higher contrast and better readability under low lighting conditions.

The TI-Nspire is not just a calculator, it is a complete family of products based on:

The TI-Nspire handheld, priced comparably to the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition and
    delivered with a snap-in TI-84 Plus Keypad
The TI-Nspire CAS (Computer Algebra System) handheld, priced comparably 
    to the TI-89 Titanium
The TI-Nspire computer software with the same capabilities as the TI-Nspire
    and TI-Nspire CAS handheld
To reduce theft of school-owned TI-Nspire's a "school bus yellow" edition 
    is available.

TI-Nspire_Back.jpg (106964 Byte)TI-Nspire_Base.jpg (122996 Byte)At first glance the TI-Nspire looks like the successor of the TI-84 Plus calculator family, actually a design based on technology from 1996 (TI-83) to 1999 (TI-83 Plus). Nevertheless states the TI-Nspire website in May 2007 clearly in the FAQ's:

Is TI-Nspire technology meant to replace any current TI educational technology?

No. The TI-Nspire handhelds and software join our current line of leading graphing calculators to provide educators with additional options to meet the differing needs of classrooms. The TI-73 Explorer™, TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus families of graphing calculators, and TI-Navigator™ classroom learning system are research-based technologies that will continue to be a strong solution and for math and science classrooms. These products will continue to be supported with professional development, classroom activities and other resources.

http://www.ti-nspire.com/tools/nspire/resources/faq_background.html#1

The TI-Nspire Lab Cradle requires the new Operating System 3.0 (introduced in May 2011) or higher.

TI-Nspire_PCB1.jpg (442096 Byte)TI-Nspire_PCB.jpg (481700 Byte)Architecture: Dismantling the TI-Nspire reveals a modern architecture based on the ZEVIO architecture introduced by LSI Logic early in 2006. The ZEVIO architecture is ideally suited for consumer electronics products such as GPS navigation systems, electronic toys and edutainment applications, personal media players, and handheld products. The System-on-Chip (SoC) approach of the ZEVIO is centered around Intellectual Property blocks from ARM (e.g. the 90 MHz ARM9 32-bit RISC processor), LSI Logic's 200-MHz 16-bit ZSP-400 Digital Signal Processor, 16-bit SDRAM memory controller, NAND flash memory controller, USB-2.0 (including USB On the Go), IEEE 1394 Firewire, and Secure Digital I/O and a LCD controller for TFT displays. We noticed this approach already with the PLT-SHH1 prototype based on the sophisticated POMAP1509E, a design based on the OMAP™1510 series dual-core processor.

TI-Nspire_SOC.jpg (735941 Byte)Processor: The current (May 2007) chips with the TI-NS2006A-0 / L9A0702 identification are designed in a 0.13um process and manufactured in any of LSI Logic's foundries, which include Semiconductor Manufacturing International, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and United Microelectronics.

TI-Nspire_Memory.jpg (554926 Byte)Memory:
The TI-Nspire makes use of three different memory chips:

NOR Flash-ROM
NAND Flash-ROM
SDRAM

Flash memory is non-volatile and does not need a battery to maintain the information stored in the chip. In the past years two different technologies emerged in parallel with some advantages and disadvantages.

The NOR Flash-ROM was invented by Toshiba in 1984 and found its way immediately as a replacement of the more expensive ROM (NRE mask costs) and EEPROM (device costs) memory. The NOR Flash-ROM's use an address and data bus to allow the random access to any memory location. Main disadvantages of the NOR Flash-ROM compared to the NAND Flash-ROM are the higher costs, larger housings and slower write speeds.

The disassembled TI-Nspire (Manufactured May 2007) makes use of one SST 39WF400A, manufactured by Silicon Storage Technology, Inc. with a 256k*16 organization. Please keep in mind that even the TI-89 Titanium used 2M*16 Flash-ROM.

The NAND Flash-ROM architecture was introduced by Toshiba in 1989 and is based on pages of typically 512 to 2048 Bytes and blocks of typical 32 or 64 pages.

While programming is performed on a page basis, erasure can only be performed on a block basis. NAND Flash-ROM's requires bad block management to be performed by device driver software or hardware. Due to the missing address bus the NAND Flash-ROM chip doesn't allow random access to the individual memory positions and therefore it can't be used for program memory of a microprocessor. Typical use of the NAND Flash-ROM memory is file based mass-memory storage such as memory cards.

The disassembled TI-Nspire makes use of one ST NAND256R3A NAND Flash-ROM with 32M Bytes size compared with 8M Bytes CMOS NAND EEPROM located in the PLT-SHH1 prototype.

SDRAM is the abbreviation of synchronous dynamic random access memory and is used as program and data memory for microprocessor systems. Each bit of data in a SDRAM is stored in separate condensator on the integrated circuit. Since these capacitors leak charge, the information eventually fades unless the capacitor charge is refreshed periodically.

Because of this refresh requirement, it is a dynamic memory as opposed to SRAM and other static memory. Its advantage over SRAM is its structural simplicity: only one transistor and a capacitor are required per bit, compared to six transistors in SRAM. This allows SDRAM to reach very high density at low cost. Since SDRAM loses its data when the power supply is removed, it is accompanied usually by a NOR Flash memory.

During power-up of the system the program content of the NOR Flash is simply copied into the SDRAM and executed from there. We assume that the TI-Nspire uses the SDRAM as workspace for user data but stores changes on them into the NAND Flash memory.

The disassembled TI-Nspire makes use of one Qimonda HYB18L256160 SDRAM with 16M*16 size compared with 8M*16 SDRAM located in the PLT-SHH1 prototype.

TI-Nspire_Menu.jpg (97989 Byte)Display: The TI-Nspire uses a high-contrast display with a resolution of 240 * 320 pixels, a huge improvement over the TI-89 Titanium with 100 * 160 pixels or the Voyage 200 with 128 * 240 pixels. The large 16-level greyscale display includes a novel split screen capability with up to 4 views.

TI-Nspire_Y_K_S0507_V254MP.jpg (141603 Byte)Texas Instruments announced on March 8, 2010 the new TI-Nspire Touchpad and Operating System 2.0. The new OS 2.0, including the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.54MP, was released for this TI-Nspire with Clickpad, too. At the very same day an optional Touchpad was introduced with for the 1st generation TI-Nspire calculator selling for only US$ 10.00.


ROM-Versions:

TI-Nspire

1.1.9253 (May 21, 2007)  
Boot1 Code Version: 1.1.8916
Boot2 Code Version: 1.1.8981
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.42

1.2.2398 (August 26, 2007)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.44

TI-Nspire_V13_OS.jpg (85490 Byte)1.3.2438 (January 8, 2008)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.46

TI-Nspire_V14_OS.jpg (102455 Byte)1.4.11653 (July 9, 2008)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.46
Boot1 Code Version: 1.1.8916
Boot2 Code Version: 1.4.1571

TI-Nspire_Y_K_S0507_OS.jpg (86719 Byte)TI-Nspire_Y_S0507_OS.jpg (91774 Byte)1.6.4379 (November 3, 2008, released December 9, 2008)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.46

1.7.2741 (May 19, 2009, released June 6, 2009)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.48

TI-Nspire_Y_S0507_V20_OS.jpg (149603 Byte)2.0.0.1188 (March 5, 2010)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.54MP

2.1.0.631 (July 17, 2010)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.54MP

3.0.1.1753 (April 2011)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.54MP

3.0.2.1791 (May 2011)
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition 2.54MP


You can check the ROM version of your TI-Nspire using the following key sequence and reading the number on your screen:

[HOME] [8] [4] (1.1 ... 1.6) OR
[HOME] [8] [5] (1.7) OR
[HOME] [5] [4] (2.0) 

Information provided by Xavier Andréani.

While using the TI-84 keyboard you can check the ROM version of your TI-Nspire using the following key sequence and reading the number on your screen:

[2nd] [MEM] [1]

TI-Nspire Computer Link Software for Windows

1.1.9182

1.2.2412 (December 21, 2007)

1.3.2439 (Trial: January 8, 2008)


Exam acceptance:

Since the TI-Nspire lacks a QWERTY keyboard it is permitted (as of September 27, 2007) for use on SAT, ACT, PSAT and AP exams.

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If you have additions to the above article please email: joerg@datamath.org.

© Joerg Woerner, May 6, 2007. No reprints without written permission.