Graphing calculators have always been a fun way to get started with programming, though mostly in the form of games and cheat sheets. But now Texas Instruments is introducing a new TI-84 graphing calculator that supports programming in Python.
Available beginning this fall, the TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculator will also include features like a full-color screen and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to a month. According to Texas Instruments, the benefit of learning the basics of Python on a calculator is that the device doesn’t have wifi, Bluetooth, or a camera. As in, no distractions means no shenanigans. For now. After all, kids are wily and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing some creative applications that Texas Instruments probably didn’t intend.
Last year, Texas Instruments nerfed programming on many of its calculators when it removed assembly and C support via a software update. The news upset many hobbyists, who argued that the calculators were a perfect gateway device for budding programmers. At the time, the company explained it as a way to prevent cheating, and, technically speaking, you could still program using Python and TI-BASIC.
Hopefully, the TI-84 Plus CE Python resolves some of the issues of using Python on previous TI graphing calculators. When Texas Instruments got rid of C and assembly, hobbyists pointed out that TI calculators weren’t equipped to adequately handle Python. Namely, the problem was that both TI-BASIC and Python were slower and more power-intensive for the medium.
So long as those issues are addressed, however, emphasizing Python support is a savvy move. It’s consistently one of the most popular programming languages, and it’s a relatively low-cost way to get into basic programming. While Texas Instruments hasn’t revealed pricing just yet, it’s unlikely that its cost will be dramatically different from the rest of its calculators.
Still, color screens, lightweight bodies, a monthlong battery life, and Python? Dang, kids got it good these days.