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In the 1990s, with the advent of TI's graphing calculator series, programming became popular among some students. The TI-8x series of calculators (beginning with the TI-81) came with built-in TI-BASIC support, through which simple programs could be created. The TI-85 was the first TI calculator to allow assembly programming (via a shell called "ZShell"), and the TI-83 was the first in the series to receive native assembly. While the earlier TI-BASIC programs were relatively simple applications or small games, the modern assembly-based programs rival what one might find on a Game Boy or PDA.
Around the same time that these programs were first being written, personal web pages were becoming popular (through services such as Angelfire and GeoCities), and programmers began creating websites to host their work, along with tutorials and other calculator-relevant information. This led to the formation of TI calculator webrings, and eventually a few large communities, including the now-defunct TI-Files and still-active ticalc.org.
The TI community reached the height of its popularity in the early 2000s, with new websites and programming groups being started almost daily. In fact, the aforementioned community sites were exploding with activity, with close to 100 programs being uploaded daily by users of the sites. There was also a competition between both sites to be the top site in the community, which helped increase interest and activity in the community.
One of the common unifying forces that has united the community over the years has been the rather contentious relationship with Texas Instruments regarding control over its graphing calculators. TI graphing calculators generally fall into two distinct groups, those powered by the Zilog Z80 and those running on the Motorola 68000 series. Both lines of calculators are locked by TI to disable use of custom flash applications and operating systems (standard applications are however freely usable), through the signing of this software, with checks in the hardware.
However, users employed brute force to find the keys and published them in 2009. TI responded by sending invalid DMCA takedown notices, causing the Texas Instruments signing key controversy. At least one of the receivers filed a DMCA Section 512 counter-notice, to which TI has not responded, and the keys are now available again. Enthusiasts had already been creating their own operating systems before the finding of the keys, which could be installed with other methods.
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