Keyboard Enhancement

The RAVE99 Keyboard Enhancement allows the replacement of the TI-99/4A's 48 keyboard with an 84 or 101 key IBM style keyboard. Installing the board is not difficult, but a bit work intensive as you need to disassemble the console and trade this board with the existing keyboard.

The above is a picture of the RAVE board. For a large view of the RAVE board go here

The above shows the keyboard cover

Here is a view of the installed RAVE keyboard board in the TI-99/4A console.

The completed installation.

You can downlad the RAVE Keyboard manual here.

(pdf 2.55 meg)

Keyboard Streamlines Operations
MICROpendium December, 1986


This keyboard has been aptly named. After an hour’s use, I was sold.

For those who have not heard of it, the RAVE keyboard is a full-sized keyboard which attaches to the T199/4A console and is used in lieu of the regular keyboard. I used the Model 99/101, so named, I guess, because it has 101 keys. One hundred and one keys? Replacing a 48-key keyboard? How can one use 101 keys? Very easily, I assure you. After the first hour I felt so at l?ome with this keyboard, I wondered if I ever could go back to TI-issue.

Although there is a FUNCTION key, on the left side of the keyboard, you won’t find much use for it. There are 11 separate FUNCTION keys, labeled Fl through Fl 1, located at the top of the keyboard (just above the number keys), which now provide the same functions formerly obtained by pressing FUNCTION and one of the numeric keys. Pressing Fl is equivalent to pressing FUNCTION and 1 (which is still available if desired). Fl 1 is our old friend of ill repute, FUNCTION/=.

Existing overlay strips can be used with the function keys as the key spacing is nearly identical. Although there is room on the keyboard housing, no holder for overlay strips is provided. It should be possible to transfer the one from the console to the keyboard.

Operating modes: The keyboard can be operated in any of four distinct modes, numbered from I through 4. Perhaps it should have been named the 101/4. On power-up the keyboard is placed in Mode 1. The current mode may be checked at any time text can be displayed on the screen by pressing the SET UP key located in the upper left corner. Modes can be changed by pressing SET UP/SHIFT. Each such press will change the operating mode to the next higher mode. Mode 4 is followed by Mode 1.

Mode 1: I call this the programmer’s mode. Features are the same as in Mode 2 except that the Quit feature is disabled on the Fl 1 key (you can still quit with FUNCTION/=), and the frequently used double quote (“) is available without pressing the shift key. The single quote (‘) becomes the shifted character.

Mode 2: This mode most closely emulates the old keyboard. All editing keys are active for use with Editor/Assembler.

Mode 3: TI-Writer mode. This is where the keyboard really earns its keep. All of the functions available with TI-Writer by pressing FUNCTION and a number key are, except for FUNCTION/O (line numbers), available as separate editing keys on the keyboard. Since the keyboard’s function keys would be redundant, they have been redefined to act as CONTROL/n keys, i.e., Fl is the same as CONTROL/i (OOPS), etc. The Fl 1 key provides line number display changes normally called with FUNCTION/O. Nearly all TI-Writer editing commands are available as single keystrokes.

The following single-keystroke commands are also available:

HOME = Home Cursor (CONTROL/L)
ESC = Command/Escape (FUNCTION/9)
BREAK = Left Margin Release (CONTROL/Y)
Delete to End of Line (CONTROL/K) is also available with SHIFT/LINE DELETE.

Although SHIFT/CHAR INSERT is documented to provide the Beginning of Line function (CONTROL/C) in Mode 3, this is apparently a documentation error as the function is available with SHIFT/LINE INSERT.

Mode 4: Multiplan Mode. Another heavy hitter. Again, nearly all Multiplan commands are available as single keystrokes. Call pointer is controlled with the four CURSOR keys and scrolling by the ROLL, shifted ROLL, WINDOW and BACK TAB keys.

The keyboard’s FUNCTION keys (Fl through FlO) have been defined to provide the functions normally accessed by pressing FUNCTION or CONTROL and a number key. Keyboard: The beige keyboard housing is a little wider than the T199 console but not quite as deep, measuring 16 1/2 by 7 1/2” and sloping from a height of 3” at the rear to l 3/8” at the front.

First on the “goodie” list are the four separate CURSOR keys allowing cursor control with a single key press. They work just like the old FUNCTION S D E X combination except that only a single key press is required. An ALPHA LOCK key is provided just left of the letter A. Another “goodie”: it does not interfere with joystick operation. Graphics programs such as TI Artist and GRAPHX become a lot more friendly.

The CONTROL key, just left of the Alpha Lock, functions as formerly except that it cannot be used with the number keys. Instead, Shift and Fl through F1O are used.

The following separate editing keys are provided: CHAR INSERT, CHAR DELETE LINE INSERT, LINE DELETE, BACK SPACE, DEL, TAB and BACK TAB. CHAR DELETE and DEL provide the same function except in Multiplan, where CHAR DELETE works the same as FUNCTION/9 deleting the character to the left of the cursor and DEL deleting the character at the cursor. TAB does just that in Mode 3 but acts as the Field Selector in Multiplan replacing CONTROL/A. A pleasure to use.

BACK TAB also provides its named function in Mode 3 but scrolls the screen to the left in Multiplan as with CONTROL/S.

The BREAK key will break running programs in Modes 1 and 2, same as FUNCTION/4. In Mode 3 it releases the left margin (CONTROL/Y). In Mode 4 it is documented to work as CANCEL (CONTROL/C) but did not so perform on my keyboard. Instead this function is performed by the ESC key, as logic would dictate. The ESC or Escape key will access the command line in Mode 3 replacing FUNCTION/9 and, in Mode 4, will cancel the current operation (CONTROL/C).

The PRINT key is documented to return a Print Catalog command in Modes 1 and 2 when used with software and the Myarc disk controller. This was not verified by me as a Myarc controller was not available. It did provide the double quote code in these modes, which I found easier to use than the key provided for this. In Mode 3 it accesses the Command Line so that PF can be typed and in Mode 4 slects the print option “P” of Multiplan.

A WINDOW key, horizontal arrow pointing right, causes the screen to scroll to the right in Modes 3 and 4. The ROLL key, two opposing vertical arrows, scrolls the screen DOWN or, when shifted, UP in both Modes 3 and 4.

A 17-key number pad is located at the right end of the keyboard. I found its ENTER key easier to use than the large L-shaped RETURN key. The “5” key has a raised dot to assist homing. The function keys, cursor keys and frequently used editing and command keys are colored grey with white legend; all other keys are black with white legend. Key size and appearance are quite similar to those on the T199 console. I found the key press resistance exactly to my liking, and my preference is for a slightly stiff keyboard.

They automatic key repeat takes off after a very slow start. Keys have to be held down approximately twice as long before repetition starts. It appears that after the key is held down for one second, it is repeated once; holding it down for an additional second starts the automatic key repeat.

The author, admittedly, is a pretty poor typist. A graduate of the hunt and peck school who never learned to type with all 10 fingers and who seems to be endowed with more than the usual allotment of thumbs, he was disappointed to learn that the new keyboard could spell no better than the old console. But the corrections were OH SO MUCH EASIER to make! Attempts were made to type as fast as I could, using familiar phrases such as “Now is the time” etc., to see if any letters would be dropped. None were so observed. This is not to say that rapid typists will experience the same results.


Installation, while not difficult, is not just a simple matter of plugging in the new keyboard into the console. It should be within the abilities of anyone who has spent a Christmas or two finishing up Santa’s incompleted wares. The installation was accomplished in about 30 minutes.

If you have never opened your console, your biggest hurdle will be getting over the fear of doing so. The documentation contains a simple, clear, step-by-step procedure complete with excellent drawings.

Briefly, the console is opened, power supply disconnected, old keyboard unplugged and removed, new interface board installed and plugged into power supply and motherboard, console reassembled, keyboard plugged in and escutcheon plate installed to cover hole created by removal of old keyboard and to protect the interface card.

The advance copy of the documentation did not describe the installation of the escutcheon, which requires installing two spacers between the interface and the escutcheon (screws and spacers provided). The instructions advise that a connector conversion kit may be required for certain console models equipped with a different power supply connector and that such kit will be provided free upon request.

All wiring changes are accomplished by unplugging and plugging connectors. You are warned that it is possible to connect the power supply connectors improperly and damage the motherboard and the interface card. Two separate drawings are provided to ensure proper orientation.

A user-installed option is described which enables Load Interrupt and Computer Reset from the keyboard. This option involves attaching two wires and a ground to the motherboard and modification of the GROM port connector. The option requires making solder connections to the motherboard, and, unless you have this type of experience, the reviewer suggests you solicit the help of someone who has. The option has not, as yet, been installed on the reviewer’s console. A kit, consisting of a precut harness with connected connector to facilitate this modification, is available from the manufacturer for $4.

The existing console power supply is used to power the new keyboard and the interface card which contains 10 ICs. No rise in temperature was observed on the console above the power supply location.

The new keyboard is attached to the console with a coiled telephone-type cord which can extend up to about five feet. When installation is completed, the console should be relocated to a new convenient location as it is still used for all non-keyboard functions.


Except for two “missing keys,” the RAVE 99/101 keyboard will not do anything in addition to what you can do at present with the T199/4A keyboard. But you can do almost everything a lot easier with the 99/101. It is similar to the difference between operating with one disk drive or two. You can do everything with one drive, but it’s so much easier with two.

The “missing keys” are key codes included in TI’s original design for which no keys were provided. These keys are available in all modes and are generated as follows:


In BASIC or Extended BASIC only MISSING KEY 1 is available. It is detected by using the CALL KEY subprogram. Both keys are available in assembly language programs and the instructions contain an example of source code for detection.

The keyboard performed almost flawlessly; no key bounces or dropped characters were experienced. On occasional power-ups, the keyboard appeared “dead” and, while one could move from title screen to TI menu by pressing any key, menu selection key presses would not be accepted. Pressing one of the function keys would “wake up” the keyboard.


The documentation consists of 20 photocopied pages and is surprisingly complete. Installation drawings were models of clarity. A chart is included which shows, for each command key, the equivalent T199 FUNCTION or CONTROL key press combination in each of the four operating modes. A few typos and omissions were noted.

Ease of use: I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily the new keyboard was mastered. I cannot say my typing improved and for a short while it appeared to deteriorate. This review was written using the new keyboard and what started out as a short memo wound up being a full report, mostly because the keyboard made it a “fun” pastime.

Most TI-Writer errors are corrected with FUNCTION/2 (for Insert) and CONTROL/2 (for Reformat). It is ever so much easier, and in my case quicker, to use the CHAR INSERT and F2 keys for this purpose, pressing two keys instead of four. Accessing the Command Line with the ESC key or peeking at the line mumbers with Fl 1 has to be experienced to be appreciated. Breaking one long paragraph into two is a simple matter of cursoring to the breakpoint and pressing F8, F2 and F8 in succession.

I find myself using the OOPS function a lot less often. No longer do I obliterate prose with braces by pressing SHIFT instead of FUNCTION when attempting cursor movement nor do I accidentally delete lines when trying to insert text. My word processor has become a lot friendlier and a pleasure to use.

I am not an Assembly or a Forth programmer, but I would imagine these features would be just as convenient in those applications as in word processing.

Microsoft designed Multiplan for single-keystroke operation. The limitations of the T199 keyboard forced the addition of double key presses to the Editing, Action and Cursor keys. RAVE 99/101 restores Multiplan operation to its original concept.

In Mode 4 I found it a lot easier moving around a spreadsheet with the cursor and scroll keys.

My most frequent error in Multiplan is trying to correct a typing error by backspacing with Function S (through force of habit), and succeeding only in entering the erroneous data and moving one column left. Perhaps with BACK CHAR now available on F4 and on the BREAK key these incidents won’t happen as often.

I believe I would have preferred scrolling left with a shifted WINDOW key instead of the BACK TAB, as then the four scroll functins would have been grouped together on the keyboard. This would involve a double key press instead of a single one and that may be the reason for the present arrangement.

The TAB key is very handy for moving through the various options once a command has been selected. It can also replace the space bar when moving through the command menu.

The ESC key provides the CANCEL feature which mind-changers and poor typists like myself will find a lot handier than the old CONTROL/C.


The value of this keyboard varies directly with the amount of time one spends writing programs and using TI-Writer and Multiplan, and it varies inversely with one’s typing ability.

If most of your computer time is spent defeating the Alien Horde or exploring subterranean worlds, then the value will be minimal. Of course, it can serve as a status symbol to impress that Big-Blue snob next door.

On the other hand, if most of your computer time is spent on word processing with a little Multiplan and programming in between times, then the price, $164.95 plus $4.95 for the escutcheon (console cover), represents very good value. If, like me, you spend some of that time correcting typing errors, then it’s a steal.