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4. Calculator to computer connectivity

4.1 The TI Connectivity cable

The TI Connectivity cable (also known as the TI-Graph Link™ cable) is used to connect any TI calculator with a data port to a PC or Mac computer to transfer files and programs back and forth. The Connectivity cable comes in four versions: the grey serial cable, the black serial cable, the "silver" USB cable, and the USB to mini USB cable for the TI-84 Plus, TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, and TI-89 Titanium.

The silver USB cable [Camera] is the type of Connectivity cable primarily sold by TI as part of their "Connectivity Kit". It is also included with the TI-83 Plus Silver Edition and the Voyage 200. It is supported by the Macintosh Graph Link software and by TI Connect. However, TI Connect for Windows does not support the TI-82 or 85.

The old grey serial cable [Camera] uses a PIC microcontroller to convert the calculator signal to the RS-232 serial protocol. This allows for compatibility with the Macintosh serial port. One end of the grey cable plugs into the calculator, the other end is a 25 pin serial plug which can be changed to other serial plugs using the proper adapter. It can also be run through a serial to USB adapter for use with USB connections on the PC or Mac.

The black serial cable [Camera] does not have the PIC microcontroller, the linking software on the computer makes the serial port duplicate the calculator's linking protocol. Since it does not have the PIC microcontroller it is cheaper and transmits data faster, but since it is more recent TI only supports it under Windows 95/98/NT4 and above. One end of the black cable plugs into the included five inch calc to calc link cable which itself then plugs into the calculator, the other end is a 9 pin serial plug.
[Historical note: This black cable is not to be confused with the original black TI-85 Graph Link cable, which was produced way back when the TI-85 was the only calculator with a link port. However, the construction of the two black links is probably very similar, since the original black link was only replaced by the grey link for the sake of Mac compatibility.]

Note that all calculators all come with a calculator to calculator link cord [Camera] that looks the same on both ends. That is not a Connectivity cable and will not plug into a computer.

4.1.1 Getting a TI Connectivity cable

The silver USB cable is about $20, and is common in retail stores wherever TI calculators are sold (Best Buy, Target, Office Depot, etc.) as well as TI's on-line store. The black cable is also $20, though anymore you can probably only get it from TI's on-line store. The grey cable full package [Camera] costs around $55 and can be also purchased from TI's on-line store. Some of the Instructional Dealers sell the cables for slightly less. The TI-83 Plus Silver Edition and the Voyage 200 include a silver USB cable in the package. The TI-84 Plus, TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, and TI-89 Titanium include a USB to mini USB cable. See also: 4.3.

4.2 TI Connect and the Graph Link™ software

The DeviceExplorer portion of the TI Connect software is used to send files to the calculator via the Connectivity cable. The Windows version works with most of the calculators, while the Macintosh version works with all the calculators. TI Connect can be found on the CD-ROM that comes with the Connectivity cable, but it may be an older version than what is on TI's web page, so it is best to download the latest version.

The old Graph Link software is still available on CD-ROM and for downloading from TI's Graph Link web page. The Graph Link software is not a part of TI Connect. Since the Windows version of TI Connect does not support the TI-82 or 85, owners of those models must use the Graph Link software instead of TI Connect for transferring files. Owners of other models may also use the Graph Link software if they wish, but only with a serial type Graph Link cable since the Graph Link software does not work with the USB Graph Link cable. There is a different version of the Windows Graph Link software for each model calculator.

The old Mac Graph Link 2 software works with all silent linking enabled calculators. Even older versions of the Macintosh Graph Link software may require TI's AutoType program to read calculator files that originated on a PC.

TI does not support Linux at this time, but one of those intrepid hackers has created a program called TiLP for linking with a Linux system. They also have Windows and Mac versions of TiLP, and it's meant to link to any calculator using any link cable. For instance, there is no software from TI to use the USB Graph Link cable with the TI-85, but using TiLP you should be able to. However, TiLP is unsupported software and may crash the computer at times.

Also available as an alternative linking software for Windows is FastLink.

4.2.1 Viewing program text

A TI Connectivity cable is not required to use the Graph Link software. The File - Open command in the software can be used to view and print TI Basic program source code so you can manually type it into your calculator. (Refer to the Programming chapter of your manual for details on inputting a program by hand.) You can also use it to type programs into your computer for posting in program archives.

If the special calculator characters do not display, make sure the TI font installed along with the Graph Link software. For example, the store arrow appears as ü on TI-8x programs and » on TI-89 family programs if the TI font is not being used. If you think it's too hard to read the small text in the Graph Link program, copy the program text and paste it into a word processor. Change the font to the TI font and increase the font size to something easier to read.

The Windows version of TI Connect will not display program code at this time, although supposedly that feature is planned for a later version.

An alternative is TI-Edit, a basic program editor for the 89 family.

Note that this will not work with assembly programs, in general you can only get those via a link transfer. There is a roundabout way of typing in assembly programs by hand, however. There are two forms the assembly programs can be in, ASCII storage and HEX storage. HEX storage takes less space, but only ASCII storage can be viewed and entered by hand. As ASCII storage, the code takes the form of a long sequence of letters and numbers that represent hexadecimal (base 16) digits. You can use Hex Viewer for the 86 or Hexert for the 83 to view the codes that you need to type in. Afterwards, the ASCII stored assembly program can be converted to HEX storage with the AsmComp( command. There's a demonstration of AsmComp( on TI's site. Of course it's far easier to just get a TI Connectivity cable than to go through all this long and error prone typing.

4.2.2 Edit locking programs

The Graph Link software for all but the TI-85 can edit-lock programs. The TI-89 family can also edit-lock files from the VAR-LINK screen. has some other hackers' programs and methods to edit lock and unlock programs. Some methods even claim to self-destruct the program if it is viewed. Read about how they work in TI's FAQ or the Calc-TI FAQ (section 4.6).

4.2.3 Text files

You cannot view or edit a TI-89 family text type file in current version of TI Connect. The Graph Link software will edit them, to create a new text file select "Data File" from the new file box. Also, the TItools programs from Frank Westlake's page will convert them to and from PC text files, which can be edited using Windows Notepad, Wordpad, or your favorite word processor.

Files for TI's NoteFolio Flash Application for the TI-83 Flash family and the TI-89 Flash family can be imported and exported from Microsoft Word.

The TI-Reader Flash Application for the TI-89 Flash family also has converters for computer file types.

4.2.4 Image files

TI Connect's ScreenCapture program will display calculator image files and convert them to and from .bmp and .jpg file formats. John Hanna's IVIEW program for Windows 9x allows you to edit calculator image files and supports a wider range of graphic file formats for converting to and from calculator image files. Macintosh users, the Graph Link 2 software allows drag and drop for image files, or you can get Pic<>PICT from TI. Though Pic<>PICT does not have TI-89 support at this time, the 89 will accept TI-92/V200 image files and use the upper left area of the image.

4.2.5 Group files

Calculator files ending in g are grouped files and contain several other calculator files. TI Connect's DeviceExplorer can be used to send them straight to the calculator. Under TI Connect 1.5, the contents of group files can be viewed and changed using Windows Explorer. With older versions of TI Connect, the GroupExplorer program is used to do so.

Using the Graph Link software, go to File - File Utilities - Ungroup File... or Tools - Ungroup File... to ungroup the files. These grouped files can also be sent straight to the calculator using Link - Send..., where they are ungrouped automatically.

4.2.6 Zip files

Most files on the internet are distributed in the form of a zip file which contains one or more compressed files. TI Connect version 1.5 will extract the calculator files directly from a zip file and send them to the calculator.

You can also use a zip utility to extract the calculator files to a folder on your disk. These include PKZip and WinZip for Windows users and Stuffit Expander for Macintosh users, but there are many, many others to choose from. It is usually a straightforward procedure, but if you need help, consult the help file of the zip utility. Zip files usually also contain documentation and source code files that cannot be sent to the calculator. If you are using an old version of TI Connect, you must extract the files to disk in order to send them to the calculator.

4.2.7 Sending different file types

The TI Connect software eliminates any confusion by automatically detecting the file type when you use it to send a file.

If using the Graph Link software, different menu choices are used for transferring different file types to the calculator. The file extension indicates the file type. File extensions ending in u are Flash calculator operating system files, and are sent using the Link - Send Flash Software - Operating System menu item. File extensions ending in k and q are Flash Applications and certificates respectively and are sent using the Link - Send Flash Software - Applications and Certificates menu item. All other file types including file extensions ending in p (program), g (group), i (image), and z (assembly file on the TI-89 Flash family) can be sent using the Link - Send menu item. Link-Send is the only way to send assembly programs, since only Basic program files can be opened with File - Open or by double clicking the file name in a Windows File Explorer window.

Source code files such as those ending in .asm can be ignored, they cannot be sent to the calculator. Documentation files ending in .txt or .doc cannot be sent to the calculator either, but you should read them in order to learn details of how to install and run the program.

TI-83 Plus note: The TI-83 Plus version of the Graph Link software allows you the option to send to RAM or the Archive. It's up to you, but the TI-OS won't run programs that are in the archive. If you archive them, they can be unarchived later from the MEM menu. Programs can be run from the archive if you use an assembly shell that includes that feature.

Read the Graph Link documentation or help file for more information.

4.3 Homemade link cables

Various link plans constructed by hackers can be found at a whole bunch of places. You can build these for about $5 worth of parts from an electronics store such as Radio Shack. (I'm told that the required 2.5mm stereo plug can be hard to find. In that case, get a 3.5mm plug and a 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter.) The serial homemade links are apparently compatible with TI's Graph Link software under the black cable setting, but for the parallel links you must use hacker-written link software.'s file archive has such software for several different operating systems. One hacker designed his PICLink to be compatible with TI's Graph Link software under the grey cable setting, though he admits it is not entirely stable. There are several web pages out there that sell these homemade links for around $10-15.

These links do work when built correctly and used with the proper software, but most people still prefer to use the genuine article.

Disclaimer to keep me out of trouble: TI would be happier if you bought their Graph Link, and their FAQ tells you why you shouldn't build your own (though to be honest, that document was written when the grey serial Graph Link was the only one available and doesn't entirely apply anymore). I do not specifically endorse the use of homemade links as I have not used one myself, and cannot comment on their reliability.

4.4 Getting the Connectivity cable to work

Documentation for the Connectivity cable is available in Adobe Acrobat format both at TI's website and on the Graph Link CD-ROM. There are also help files in the Graph Link software and TI Connect that provides instruction on use.

4.4.1 Plugging it in

Quick reference: The illustrated guide to connecting a Graph Link [Camera]

For PCs:
The USB Connectivity cables plug into the USB port.

The grey and black serial Connectivity cables plug into one of the serial ports on the back of your computer. (The serial ports are male, that is they have pins instead of holes. You cannot use a PC's parallel printer port for a TI Connectivity cable. Even if you use a gender changer, it's still the wrong kind of port.) If your computer does not have a 25 pin serial port and you have the grey serial Connectivity cable, use a 9 pin port with an adapter [Camera], which you can buy from a computer store. The opposite is also true: if you have the black Graph Link and the only free serial port is 25 pin, an adapter will bridge the gap.

For the Mac:
The USB Graph Link cable plugs into the USB port.

The grey serial Graph Link cable uses a modem cable [Camera] (the similar looking printer cable won't work) to plug into the printer port or external modem port. On the newer Macs that only have USB ports, a serial to USB adapter is required to use the serial cable. Considering the cost of such adapters, it is far easier to buy the USB Graph Link cable. The black serial Graph Link cable cannot be used with a Mac.

4.4.2 General troubleshooting

If your calculator is compatible with TI Connect, you should use that instead of the Graph Link software as TI Connect's DeviceExplorer attempts to automatically detect your TI Connectivity cable. Always make sure you have the most recent version of TI Connect or the Graph Link software from TI's website. The CD-ROM that comes with the cable is usually out of date. The computer may need to be rebooted after the installation of TI Connect, even if the installer doesn't ask you to.

If you are getting connection-related error messages, first make sure the cable is pushed into the calculator all the way (push hard!). To test your setup, try to get a screen capture from the calculator. This will eliminate the possibility that you have the calculator itself set wrong. If the screen capture works, make sure you have the calculator on the home screen to transfer files (except for the TI-82 and 85, which must be in send or receive mode when transferring files). Also check your batteries, if they are low the link can still work with small transfers like a screenshot but might not with larger transfers like a program. Another reported cause of nothing working but the screen capture is having an out of date OS on the calculator. You can update it using TI Connect's OS Downloader even when DeviceExplorer can't find the calculator.

If the calculator's cursor starts blinking very slowly when the link cable is plugged into it, it probably means the link port is not connecting fully to the cable. Often the cable just needs to be pushed in farther, but sometimes no amount of effort will solve the problem. I suspect that the link port on some calculators is sunk too far into the case. If you are using the black serial Connectivity cable, one thing to try is to use the calculator-to-calculator cable that came with the calculator in place of the 3 inch one that came with the Graph Link. Otherwise, it might (and I say might because I don't really know) help to shave down the plastic around the metal plug with an exacto knife so that it can fit farther into the calculator's link port.

It's been reported that Norton Internet Security Professional 2004, when activated, will prevent TI Connect from recognizing a calculator. It may be a good idea to disable any programs running in the background just to make sure they aren't the cause of any problems you may be having.

Windows XP users may encounter a "The system file is not suitable for running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows applications." error message when attempting to run the Graph Link software. Microsoft has a support page to address the issue.

Note that if you cannot link with another calculator of the same model either, the link port itself is broken and your calculator needs repair, but this is far less likely than a set up problem on the computer side. You can also e-mail TI for tech support if you want their opinion on something or have an issue with not being able to run TI Connect or the Graph Link software.

For help specific to the type of TI Connectivity cable you are using, read onward to the appropriate section below.

4.4.3 USB troubleshooting

Under Windows, the USB Connectivity cable must be used with TI Connect. The Graph Link software will not recognize the USB cable. Be sure to install TI Connect before you plug the cable in. If your USB Connectivity cable doesn't work go to the Windows Device Manager. It is found in Start - Settings - Control Panel, then System. Make sure you have working USB ports installed at all. If the Graph Link cable is listed with an error symbol, delete it from the list to uninstall its drivers. Then uninstall TI Connect, unplug the Connectivity cable, and reinstall the most recent version of TI Connect.

If you have other USB devices plugged in, try it once with only the Graph Link cable plugged in. If you are using a USB hub, try it once plugged directly into the computer. These should not be problems for most people, but they have been known to happen.

A setting that may cause problems is in Device Manager, uncheck "Allow this computer to turn off the device to save power" for your USB ports and devices.

One person in TI's discussion groups suggested that insufficient voltage can prevent the USB Graph Link cable from working. He described two things to try. The first is to uninstall the USB ports from Device Manage and allow Windows to reinstall them upon a reboot. The second is to use a powered USB hub.

4.4.4 Graph Link software issues

Windows users:
If the Graph Link software won't run and gives you the error message "Cannot load procedure" or if it gives an error saying you have to reinstall it to use the black cable, this indicates a conflict with a particular version of a Windows .dll file. E-mail TI and they will fix you up with the proper .dll file. Also consider using TI Connect instead if you have a compatible calculator.

Mac users:
Macintosh users, AppleScript must be enabled for Graph Link 2 to install. Also, make sure AppleTalk and any fax software that might be monitoring the modem for incoming faxes are turned off. See TI's KnowledgeBase for further aid.

Even when your setup is correct, the Graph Link can still act flaky at times. The best thing to do is reboot. Some people suggest changing the COM port setting and then changing it back. If your TI-89 Flash family calculator suddenly stops working with larger files, read about the checksum error. Sometimes a calculator will stop working with the Graph Link due to some unknown random glitch and resetting its memory fixes the problem.

4.4.5 Serial port troubleshooting

The serial Connectivity cable is notoriously difficult to set up. Make sure the software is set to the color cable that you are using. The cable must be set to an unused COM port to work correctly. TI Connect attempts to figure out which COM port to use automatically, but it can be set manually. When using the Graph Link software to transfer files, the COM port must be set manually.

If your mouse plugs into a round PS/2 style plug, then the primary 9-pin serial port on COM 1 is left open for you to use. If your mouse uses that serial plug, you must use the secondary serial port. That is usually COM 2, assuming that the dial-up modem is set to COM 3 or 4. (You can find out which COM port your dial-up modem is using from the Windows Control Panel.) This is a typical set up for a current system with a plug and play modem.

For older computers with internal dial-up modems (which usually use COM 2), the secondary serial port may have been reset to COM 4. External dial-up modem users should unplug the modem and use the port it was in, usually COM 2. Computers with no dial-up modem at all can use COM 2 on the secondary port.

Note about Graph Link software error messages: "Cannot open communications port" means that the COM port that is set in the Graph Link software is disabled or in use by something else. "Communication time-out" or "Link transmission error" means the COM port works, but is not configured to the same place where you have your Graph Link plugged in. (If you hear your dial-up modem doing something when you try to connect to the calculator, you've set the Graph Link to the COM port the modem is on.) The COM port you use also must not share an IRQ with an active device. This often means you cannot use the Graph Link at the same time as your dial-up modem. IRQ settings can sometimes be changed from the Windows Control Panel to avoid conflicts.

If you have another serial port device, a Palm Pilot hotsync cable for example, your best bet is to use the same port and settings as that device. However, you must be certain to completely disable the software associated with the other device to use the Graph Link. For example, deactivate the Palm Pilot software by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the Close Programs box, highlight hotsync, and click End Task.

If you cannot quickly locate a free COM port to use, read on.

4.4.6 Serial port troubleshooting II

Get a listing of your COM ports to see which ones are active. Use Windows system info (Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager-Ports). Another good listing of the COM ports is the modem diagnostics (Settings-Control Panel-Mdoems-Diagnostics). If you still use Win 3.1x, use msd.exe instead (File-Run-msd.exe). Utility programs like Norton Utilities also do this.

If your mouse has a trapezoidal female plug, it is serial and almost certainly uses COM 1. If the mouse has a round male plug, it is PS/2 style and does not use a COM port. (Mice these days are almost entirely PS/2 or USB, leaving the serial port that is COM 1 unoccupied.) Though not very common, mice with trapezoidal male plugs are bus mice, which also do not use a COM port. Legacy (non Plug and Play) dial-up modems are usually installed on COM 2, though that can be changed by moving the jumpers on the modem circuit board and setting the Windows Control Panel to match. Plug and play modems let Windows choose its COM port, but once again you can often change what it uses from the Control Panel. In this way, you can hopefully get COM 1 or 2 freed up for the Graph Link.

If not, you can still use COM 3 or 4. Usually COM 4 is easier to get to for this purpose. If your computer is very old and you have COM 3 but it doesn't work with the Graph Link and you can't get COM 4 active, download PortInfo and the CTS Serial Port Utilities. Unzip the file and run the diagnostic program. It may ask you to run bios_fix, do so. Pull the COM port list back up and check for COM 4. If that works, you must run bios_fix.exe before running Graph Link every time (you can put it in your autoexec.bat file if you want to). This is because some older BIOSs renumber COM 4 to COM 3 so the ports will be in numerical order with no gaps. Unfortunately, this prevents the renumbered port from working correctly. The bios_fix program undoes this. Windows 9x users may have to run Add New Hardware (specify I/O ports) to show the existence of newly enabled COM ports in system info. Hitting the Refresh button in the Device Manager might help, too.

4.4.7 Serial port troubleshooting III

COM port numbers are assigned to serial devices (both internal and those connected to serial ports) to identify them when the computer is exchanging information with them. There are 4 COM port numbers in a PC. (Don't be fooled if Windows reports a COM 5 or higher. It's a virtual COM port made by a software reassignment of something else, not an actual COM port.) COM 1 and 3 are by default set to the same IRQ (interrupt), as are COM 2 and 4. No two devices can use the same IRQ at the same time, though the IRQ can often be changed to avoid the problem.

Early on there were two serial port plugs on the back of a PC, a 9 pin male and a 25 pin male. The trend has since become two 9 pin ports or even just one 9 pin port. The 9 pin port is set up as COM 1 and was historically used for the mouse, but this gave way to PS/2 mice (the round plug). The secondary port is set up as COM 2 to begin with, which becomes a problem if an internal dial-up modem is also set to COM 2. The Graph Link will take any unused COM port in combination with any unused serial port, whether directly or via a 25 to 9 pin adapter. (The grey cable was designed when 25 pin ports were always the unused one, the newer black cable followed suit with PC makers and has a 9 pin plug.) You usually cannot use COM 3 if you use a serial mouse, as it would IRQ conflict. You also cannot use the same COM port as the dial-up modem and you cannot use the Graph Link at the same time as your modem if they are set to the same IRQ.

If you can't find your COM 3 or COM 4, it is probably disabled. COM ports can be disabled in several places. Check your BIOS setup by pressing delete (sometimes F1 or something else, depending on the manufacturer) as the PC boots. Look for the heading Peripherals or Advanced (the name depends on the manufacturer), there should be settings with choices of disabled/COM 1/COM 3 and disabled/COM 2/COM 4. These set the COM port used by the primary and secondary external serial port, respectively. The 9 pin port should be the primary, the 25 pin port is the secondary. If both are 9 pin ports, they are usually labeled 1 and 2 or A and B. Select the external port/COM port configuration that gives you a free COM port on a plug you can use. Depending on the manufacturer, it might list the memory address instead of the COM port number. The correspondence is as follows: COM 1=03F8, COM 2=02F8, COM 3=03E8, COM 4=02E8. "Auto" may also be a choice, don't use that since you need to know for sure what the configuration is.

If unsuccessful, take the cover off your PC and check where the cables from the external slots are plugged in on the motherboard or I/O card (Very old computers only, modern style motherboards have the serial ports directly on the motherboard). The red line on the cable should be nearest the number 1 or 2 on the board where it plugs in. If your computer has an I/O card the COM port configuration is controlled by jumpers (little things that make settings by connecting two contact posts) instead of the BIOS. Check that the port you want to use is set to the COM port you want and not disabled. Sometimes jumper legends are printed on the card, sometimes there is a little booklet with the jumper diagrams.

You hopefully have a free COM port available now on a plug you can use. If you still can't nail it down, download PortInfo and the CTS Serial Port Utilities. Its diagnostic is very powerful and may turn up something the other port lists didn't. Windows 9x users may have to run Add New Hardware to show the existence of newly enabled COM ports in system info.

4.4.8 Checksum error on the TI-89 Flash family

A common problem when using the TI-89 Flash family with the Connectivity cable is a checksum error. The checksum is an extra digit in a file that is used to ensure accurate transmission of data. It seems that when the batteries are low, the calculator does not properly sync with the computer and the file is not received correctly, resulting in a mismatched checksum. This often occurs even before the on-screen "low battery" indicator appears. The solution is to simply change the batteries.

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