Teen Tech Rite of Passage: Graphing Calculators and Games

teen tech rite of passage graphing calculators and games.jpg Technology

In the ever-evolving world of technology, where computers have shrunk from behemoths to pocket-sized devices and the internet has transformed from a slow, crawling entity to an omnipresent force, one piece of tech stands almost untouched by the waves of innovation – the graphing calculator. Specifically, the TI-84 CE from Texas Instruments, a device that has seen some upgrades over the years but has remained fundamentally the same, serving as a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era. While it may sport a color screen now and boast more buttons and functions than before, its essence as a tool for mathematical computations and, surprisingly, a gaming device, remains intact.

The charm of the TI-84 CE lies not only in its ability to assist with complex calculations, but also in its capacity to offer a break from the rigorous world of algebra through games. This dual functionality harks back to a time when the thrill of guiding a pixelated snake around a grayscale screen offered a much-needed respite from math. Today, as we navigate a landscape dominated by high-resolution touchscreens and sophisticated gaming apps, the simplicity and novelty of playing Oregon Trail or Spaze Invaders on a graphing calculator offers a delightful throwback to simpler times. This blend of academic utility and recreational diversion, all wrapped up in a device that resists the relentless march of technological progress, makes the TI-84 CE a fascinating study in technological resilience.

The Unchanging Charm of Graphing Calculators

A Nostalgic Tech Journey

There’s a certain charm in telling our children about the technology we grew up with. The hulking computers that were the size of filing cabinets, the painfully slow internet, and the rare digital cameras all bring back a sense of nostalgia. But amid these stories, one piece of technology that has stood the test of time, albeit with a few modern upgrades, is the graphing calculator.

Texas Instruments’ graphing calculators, particularly the TI-84 CE, have remained a staple in the world of tech. They might look sleeker compared to their earlier models, with color screens replacing the old grayscale displays and a plethora of buttons and functions added over the years. But one feature that has remained delightfully constant is the ability to play games.

Gaming on Graphing Calculators

Stepping back in time, the popular game on these calculators was Snake. The grayscale screen and the growing pixelated snake provided a fun escape from the drudgery of math. Today, the first thing many parents, including myself, do when they buy their child a new graphing calculator is to add games, a testament to the enduring appeal of these devices.

After a gap of around 30 years, I recently reacquainted myself with a graphing calculator. I wasn’t sure how to upload games onto it, but a quick internet search provided the answers. Despite my initial surprise at the presence of a mini-USB port in 2023, the process was surprisingly simple and quick.

Old is Gold

With the instructions in hand, it took us about five minutes to install a few games. We chose classics like Oregon Trail. The enjoyment derived from these games, coupled with the nostalgia they evoke, is a unique experience. The simple pleasure of playing these old games on a low-resolution screen with physical buttons is surprisingly satisfying, even in this age of iPhones and touchscreens.

However, it’s worth noting that Texas Instruments had once closed the loophole that allowed games to be sideloaded. But, a quick upload via the official TI app easily rectified this issue. The process of getting games onto the calculator was much simpler than performing any modifications on Android phones or jailbreaking iPhones.

A Week with Games-Enabled Graphing Calculator

The first week with the games-enabled TI calculator was enjoyable. Despite having access to modern games on an iPhone, the charm of playing Spaze Invaders and Oregon Trail on a graphing calculator was irresistible. Of course, we should not forget the original purpose of these calculators – to solve algebraic expressions and plot graphs. But, who says we can’t have a bit of fun along the way?


The enduring charm of the graphing calculator is a testament to the allure of simple, nostalgic games. In an age dominated by high-resolution touchscreens and advanced gaming apps, the joy derived from playing a simple game on a low-resolution screen with physical buttons is unparalleled. It’s a reminder of a simpler time, and perhaps a sign that not all old tech needs to be replaced. Sometimes, the classics are classics for a reason.

Crive - News that matters