Tiger Learning Computer

From: Jim <jim_at_calico.litterbox.com>
Date: Tue Jun 3 23:54:39 1997

Okay, let's see if I can include the file this time. Sheesh. :)

Ok, this isn't exactly a classic computer. It's more the rebirth of a classic
in a slick new case (looks like a laptop, but isn't) with a slick new desktop.
If you don't think it's appropriate here, I won't be upset if you hit delete. :)

I got my Tiger Learning Computer (hereafter TLC) from Pennys today. The
outside box was smashed beyond all recognition, but the inner box, which only
touched the outer one in two spots, was intact, and the computer undamaged.
Inside the inner box was the actual retail box, with the pictures on it, the
"Apple Technology" symbol on it and so on.

It's an eerie feeling opening a brand new computer in retail packaging like
that. I haven't done it since I got my Commodore 64, after weeks of waiting
for it on backorder at LaBells (aka Best, now extinct) we picked one up at
KMart. You C=64 collectors probably experience this all the time, opening
a box to find *a computer* inside, ready to plug into the TV and compute.
For me, it'd been 13 years.

So what does $179 bucks plus shipping (box smashing was, presumably, free) get
in 1997? Well, you get a solid feeling little computer that feels remarkably
like an early power-book in your hands. You get the "wall wart" power supply.
You get 6 cartridges, one of which is your battery-ram "disk", another of which
has appleworks 4.3 on it. The rest each have a switch and two applications.
They plug (upside down) into slots on either side of the machine. But I'm
ahead of myself here.


Pretty much plug and play, although I did get a chuckle when I noticed that
this computer has no RF modulator. Now that everyone owns a VCR with video
IN jacks, it's not necessary anymore. So, white wire to audio in, yellow wire
to video in, power, flip the VCR input to line in, hit the switch. And smile
to myself as it boots up in prodos. Just for a second before the desktop and
sound effects load.

First annoying thing: The voice that says "Please select an activity" every
time you boot. I'm finding I boot a lot. I can tell this is going to irritate
me in the long term.

I'm not enough of an Apple 2 wizard to know what video mode it came up in. It
looks like about 16 colors, and about the resolution of CGA. Not as fine as
my old '64 was capable of, but much faster.

Using the thing.

Ok, I've owned it for about 4 hours now and I have a horrible crick in my neck
from lying on the living room floor looking up at the TV, so I haven't
even tried all the apps yet. If anyone's interested, let me know, I'll follow

Loading programs is almost exactly like running them off a floppy, except that
you can never boot from the program disk. You have to go to the disk icon
on the desktop and tell the tiger to run the program. Not very intuitive, but
I'm sure kids will figure it out as fast or faster than I did. Especially if
they read the instructions. :) I just expected them to load automatically.
My bet is in the next ROM version of the tiger they will.

Appleworks 4.3 looks remarkably like it did on my friend's 2E all those years
ago, except of course that it's not as sharp on my TV as it was on his apple
monitor. I suspect a newer TV directly connected instead of through the VCR
would perform better. That failing an old Commodore 1782 monitor should be
something to see. Wish I hadn't given mine away.

My nostalgia for Apple2 is limited here, like I said, I was a commodore 64
geek. WE didn't have to have disks to boot. (In fact, for the first 3
months I had my 64, I had no storage device at all, so my first programs
were short, enjoyed to the point of boredom, and then utterly lost when the
computer was powered off.) On the other hand, the odds of the '64 making a
comeback like this are slim and none. They never had the educational following.

So all in all, it's been a weird experience for me with this little computer.
Objectively, it's not a bad little machine at all. The keyboard bites -
although it may get better as it gets used/my hands adapt back from Microsoft
wave keyboard. The sound is first class - even better than my '64s old SID
chip. Graphics are about as good as can be expected on an 8 bit apple 2,
except in color. Software is still a little weird - nothing beyond what it
came with. Of course, if I can get my hands on a copy of "Kermit, a file
transfer protocol" and type in the 83 line basic Kermit so I can communicate
with the rest of my systems, I hopefully will be able to run all kinds of a2
software on it.
The weird part isn't objective though. Part of me is rejoicing at the idea of
this little throwback to the early 80s. I got a little piece of the excitement
I had unpacking my 64 the first time unpacking the Tiger. And seeing it abuse
my TV into pretending to be a computer monitor, even though it is a little
fuzzy, made me smile. This, for me is how computing was. Part of me sits and
scoffs at the tiger - and my '64 for that matter - when in the next room I have
a lan full of reasonably modern PCs with orders of magnitude more power. Even
my quasi-classic GS is head and shoulders above the tiger as a computer. But
the tiger has something none of my other machines do. I'm not sure what, to
be honest, maybe just nostalgia, maybe not.

Anyway, I'm keeping it. Even if I do keep expecting the flip top to have a
screen in it. (at least it comes off. :)


Jim Strickland
"...It tells me that goose stepping morons like yourself should try reading
books instead of burning them."
                                   -Dr. Henry Jones Sr.
                                    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Jim Strickland
"...It tells me that goose stepping morons like yourself should try reading
books instead of burning them."
                                   -Dr. Henry Jones Sr.
                                    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Received on Tue Jun 03 1997 - 23:54:39 BST

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