Texas Instruments - Early Press Releases

Please find here a collection of early press releases and other valuable information related to Texas Instruments' Education Technology.

TI’s consumer strategy

As part of its consumer strategy, TI opened a few retail outlets in high-visibility areas to create consumer interest in its calculators, digital watches, and future consumer products. On July 3, 1975, a consumer retail outlet or “TI Store” was opened at the upscale Northpark Shopping Mall in Dallas. Locations for other TI stores included: Milan, Italy; Berlin, West Germany; and the United Kingdom.

In 1977, the company announced it was entering the marine navigation and communications market with a microprocessor-controlled Loran-C navigator receiver and a VHF/FM radio-telephone transceiver. These new products, targeted at the high end of the commercial marine market, came out of TI’s expertise in defense electronics.

In 1978, a talking Language Translator was introduced — the first to provide synthesized speech. Using a plug-in ROM module, the translator converted about 500 English, German, or French words to spoken Spanish. The device could link these words to speak more than 3,000 phrases and sentences. Modules were available for other language translations. TI also introduced First Watch, which taught five- to seven-year-olds to read any digital or analog timepiece.

Other consumer products introduced by TI during this period included digital thermometers, a home thermostat, a video game, and a Citizens Band (CB) radio. The CB radio was announced, but not put into production because of low prices in the market. In 1980, TI announced an online computer service for consumers – about 20 years ahead of the Internet. It was based on a TI-designed subsystem called TIFAX, which decoded and broadcasted information, such as weather data, to consumers’ TV sets in the United Kingdom. VIEWDATA was an extension of this concept, which used the telephone system to transmit information selected from a central database containing up to 2 million pages.

Advances in TI’s SC technology, such as Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) imagers, led to exploratory research into the market for digital cameras and home video cameras, but TI did not produce any products for these consumer markets. TI continued to develop CCD technology in its TI-Japan operation and became a major producer of these special chips, which are used today in a wide variety of digital cameras and camcorders.


First electronic watches introduced; used light-emitting diodes (LEDs)

With its successful entry into the calculator market in 1972, TI was ready to turn up the heat on its consumer strategy. At the stockholders meeting in 1976, having announced a $10 billion revenue goal just two years earlier, TI was ready to make it official – consumer electronic products would be one of its three major growth thrusts. Semiconductors and distributed computing were the other two. The company launched a succession of new consumer products, including digital watches. Innovations helped create new markets, changed the way consumers perceived the usefulness of electronics, and made TI a household name around the world.

TI’s introduction of electronic digital watches was a business landmark at the 1975 Consumer Electronic Show in Chicago. TI brought out three high-fashion liquid crystal display (LCD) watches; three personalized watches with light-emitting diode (LED) displays for men and women; and a compact, seven-function LCD digital travel alarm. TI had earlier developed custom integrated circuits and LEDs for the watch market and had an established distribution channel for calculators. It was a small step to make low-cost cases for the watches and purchase the bands and batteries for a complete watch. The opportunity for value added was compelling.

TI chose to enter the watch market at under the $40 price point and targeted mass distribution, such as department stores, discount stores and large catalogers. At the time, there were few digital watches available to consumers for under $100. The chip design began in December 1974 for TI’s first watches, which were shipped in September 1975. The LED display was illuminated by pressing a button on the side of the watch.

By 1976, TI announced it was the leading supplier in the emerging digital watch market, which was projected to grow to 18 million units that year, up from 3.5 million in 1975. The largest part of the market was under the $20 segment, and in March 1976, TI delivered the first solid-state watches to retail for under $20. TI’s product development in watches proceeded in two directions – the low-end (under $10) and the high-tech end of the market, exemplified by the “Starburst” watch. TI’s analog electronic watch, the Starburst, introduced in July 1978, was the first totally electronic quartz LCD analog watch; it was manufactured until 1981.

Not to be outdone, several SC manufacturers offered digital watches. Eventually, all these would disappear from the market, as conventional watch manufacturers reclaimed the market, which ultimately proved to be more of a fashion market than an engineering timepiece market.

TI’s introduction of its $9.95 digital watch, which featured a red LED display and a plastic watchband, was the beginning of the end for TI’s foray in the watch market. Although the inexpensive watches were popular, TI was roundly criticized for the low price, which generated higher revenues, but not profits. In 1981, TI exited the business and focused on other opportunities.


Speak & Spell™ introduced – first commercial use of DSP technology

The Speak & Spell learning aid was introduced at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show in June 1978.

An outgrowth of TI’s research in the area of synthetic speech, the Speak & Spell educational product was designed to help children age seven and older learn how to spell and pronounce more than 200 commonly misspelled words.

It began in 1976 as a three-month feasibility study with a $25,000 budget. Four TIers worked on the project in its early stages: Paul Breedlove, Richard Wiggins, Larry Brantingham, and Gene Frantz. The Speak & Spell concept grew out of Breedlove's brainstorming ideas for products that might demonstrate the capabilities of bubble memory (a TI research project). TI concluded that speech data took a lot of memory and would be a good application.

The talking learning aid used an entirely new concept in speech recognition. Unlike tape recorders and pull-string photograph records used in many “speaking” toys at the time, TI's Solid State Speech circuitry had no moving parts. When it was told to say something it drew a word from memory, processed it through an integrated circuit model of a human vocal tract and then spoke electronically.

It marked the first time the human vocal tract had been electronically duplicated on a single chip of silicon.

The Speak & Spell's success extended TI's thrust in educational products to Speak & Math™, Speak & Read™, Speak & Music™, and a whole collection of speaking children's toys. Speak & Spell products were produced around the world – in several languages.

Although TI's learning aids were introduced more than 25 years ago, the basic learning principles and design concepts remain the standard for educational toys.

Other speech synthesis and voice recognition applications are pervasive today – ranging from telephone applications for checking airline schedules, to voice-assisted navigation systems in automobiles, computers for the blind, and security applications.

The team that invented TI’s Speak & Spell™—(left to right) Gene Frantz, Richard Wiggins, Paul Breedlove, and Larry Branntingham.
The Speak & Spell was introduced in June 1978 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago.


TI talking learning aid sets pace for innovative CES introductions

Find here the original press release dated June 11, 1978:

CHICAGO, June 11, 1978

Innovative learning aids for children, including one that talks, compact powerful calculators for home and office, and multi-function digital timepieces with long life batteries for men and women were among a dozen products introduced by Texas Instruments Incorporated at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show, June 11-14.

The talking learning aid is called Speak & Spell™. An outgrowth of TI's basic research in synthetic speech, the product is designed to help children seven and up learn how to spell and pronounce more than 200 commonly misspelled words. Solid State Speech™ is an entirely new concept which stores words in a solid-state memory much like a calculator stores numbers.

Also introduced in TI's new Learning Center™ product group were Spelling B™, a silent mate to Speak & Spell that helps children six and up learn spelling, and First Watch™, which teaches five to seven-year-olds to read any timepiece, whether digital or analog (with hands).

Adult timepieces displayed at CES include three high fashion men's LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) watches using a new long life zinc-air battery; three Personalized Watches with LED (Light Emitting Diode) displays for men and women, and a compact, seven function LCD digital Travel Alarm.

In calculators, a slimline, scientific pocket calculator, a highly-styled low-cost LCD calculator and one of the smallest, lightest printer/display calculators on the market rounded out new products shown by TI.

Speak & Spell

Speak & Spell employs an entirely new concept in speech reproduction. Unlike tape recorders and pull-string phonograph records used in recent years in many "speaking" toys, TI' Solid State Speech circuitry has no moving parts. When it is told to say something, it draws a word from memory, processes it through an integrated circuit model of a human vocal tract and then speaks electronically. In its main mode of operation, Speak & Spell randomly selects a word and pronounces it in standard American English. A child presses the unit's alphabetic keys to spell the word, which appears, letter by letter, on an eight-character display screen. Right answers earn verbal and visual praise; wrong answers receive patient encouragement to try again. A number of games are offered to intrigue children of all ages.

Speak & Spell, available next month, has a suggested retail price of $50.

Spelling B

Spelling B, a handheld learning aid, uses a colorful picture book to help teach children six years old and up how to spell via word/picture association. A child uses a randomly generated number to find the corresponding object in the book, and spells the object's name by pressing Spelling B's alphabet keys. Spelling B indicates right or wrong plus keeps score. Special pre-spelling activities for younger children include "Starts With," a game in which the child simply enters a word's first letter. Additional learning games such as "Mystery Word" and "Scramble" are included for older children.

Spelling B, to be shipped in September, has a suggested retail price of $30.

First Watch

First Watch, developed to teach five to seven-year-olds to read any watch or clock, includes a colorful LED watch, Hands of Time™ learning dial and a four-color "how-to" book that tells about timekeeping from caveman to space age and offers games selected for educational value and fun.

TI's First Watch, with a suggested retail price of $19.95, is scheduled for availability this month.

Long-Life LCD Watches

Three LCD watches, in gold and chromium-plated models, are expected to be among the first on the market to use zinc-air batteries, which promise three-year battery life (with typical use). Included are a five-function model 458, which provides hours, minutes, seconds, month and date; a six-function 461, which adds day-of-week and AM/PM indication; and a seven-function 471 which adds a stopwatch.

Tritium backlighting illuminates digits continuously for nigh visibility, and a variety of attractively designed dials add a note of high fashion.

Prices for the three LDC watches are: $55 (458), $65 (461) and $80 (471) in gold; $45 (458), $55 (461) and $70 (471) in chromium. First shipments are scheduled this month.

Personalized Watches

Stylish Personalized Watches, with LED displays, are offered in two men's and one ladies' model. All come with 30 gold letters that can be applied to watch bands or case in any combination.

The men's Personalized Watches, in black, carry a suggested retail price of $14.95 and $16.95. A smaller women's model, in tortoise-styled brown, has a suggested retail price of $16.95. All are scheduled to be available this month.

Travel Alarm

A lightweight TI-2010 digital Travel Alarm is a seven function clock that folds into its compact black plastic and brushed chrome case. The clock face has large, easy-to-read LCD numerals that show hours and minutes. Month and date, day and seconds are displayed when a touch-bar on top is pressed. Pressing the bar also turns on a backlight for night viewing.

The TI-2010 Travel Alarm, with a $30 suggested retail price, is slated for availability in August.

Scientific Calculator

Slimline TI-50™ offers over 60 calculator functions, including algebra, logarithms, trigonometry and statistics. TI-50 also includes two full arithmetic memories with a new Constant Memory™ feature, TI's unique AOS™ (Algebraic Operating System) and APD™ (Automatic Power Down).

The TI-50's Constant Memory - first on any TI calculator - retains whatever has been entered in memory until it is cleared, whether the unit is "on" or "off."

The TI-50 has a suggested retail price of $35 and is scheduled for first deliveries in August.

Low-Cost Thinline

Slimline TI-1030 calculator offers an easy-to-read LCD display, a four-key memory and six standard functions (add, subtract, multiply, divide, percent, square root). Packaged in an attractive brown case with brushed metal overlay, it weighs less than 2.5 ounces.

Slimline TI-1030, scheduled to be available in July, has a $15.95 suggested retail price.

Handheld Printer/Display

TI-5025 is a rechargeable handheld printer/display calculator with four-key memory. It features a quiet thermal printer and a large vacuum-fluorescent display that also can be used without the printer. Five functions include addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, and percent.

TI-5025, scheduled for August delivery, has a suggested retail price of $80.

Major Merchandising Program

Integral to TI's educational products announced at CES is a new Learning Center merchandising concept that is being introduced in retail stores nationally for this fall's back-to-school season.

TI's Learning Center comprises five educational electronic products, including the new Speak & Spell, Spelling B and First Watch, plus the previously available Little Professor and Dataman.

The unique learning aids, collectively, are designed to help teach children spelling, time and mathematics. Each product was designed with the guidance of leading educators. The products all have a fun, game-playing element as well.

Leading TI's back-to-school Learning Center promotion is a major national television schedule on all three networks. Another TV advertising program is scheduled before the Christmas holidays.

Backing up television commercials will be retail displays and an advertising kit containing suggested ad copy, line art and a 60-second radio commercial.


Texas Instruments celebrates the 35th anniversary of its
invention of the calculator

Find here the original press release dated August 15, 2002:

Business distances from "the C word" and puts computer capabilities in students' hands with new generation of products

DALLAS, August 15, 2002

Thirty-five years ago Texas Instruments invented the electronic handheld calculator - a product that has since been adapted for various audiences including engineering, finance, real estate, education and general purpose. Ironically, after becoming the household name for calculators, the company is actively encouraging customers and employees to call their products something else.

"The majority of our business is now with educational handhelds," said Tom Ferrio, vice president, Education Technology, TI. "These are generations removed from what most people think of when they say 'calculator.' Our educational handhelds have their own microprocessors; their operating systems can be upgraded electronically as new versions are released; and they can be customized with different Handheld Software Applications (Apps) to add functionality for different curricular areas, or general purpose needs."

TI's business focus is on the use of educational handhelds in learning and teaching. The company provides more educational handhelds to schools and students across the nation than any other educational technology provider. Originally used primarily in math and science, Apps are now making it possible for other subjects to take advantage of the pervasiveness of this tool.

"Referring to them as calculators does the technology an injustice because they provide a much greater value than simple computation," said Ava Warren, K-12 Math Specialist in Hamilton City, Tennessee. "They extend deductive reasoning and expand critical thinking for my students. The kids see their educational handhelds as one-to-one computing tools that are not only fundamental for their learning, but are also 'cool' and essential to their lifestyles. Not to mention they're completely upgradeable and they can be customized with various applications."

"While we offer some simpler educational products that are still called calculators, we are actively changing the way that we, and our customers, refer to our more advanced educational handhelds," said Ferrio. "Use of 'the c-word' is discouraged. And while it might sound simplistic, our customers tell us they now have a better understanding of the power and functionality these tools bring to teaching and learning."

Key dates in the evolution from handheld electronic calculator to educational handheld


First handheld electronic calculator invented at TI.


First commercial calculator, TI-2500 introduced.


Educational toy, The Little Professor introduced.


TI-58 and TI-59 programmable calculators introduced. Advanced scientific calculators have plug-in interchangeable Solid State modules containing prewritten programs in math, statistics, finance and other areas.


Ohio State Students use programmable calculators.


The TI-30 SLR introduced. TI's first solar-powered "slide-rule calculator" helped math and science students eliminate the expense of batteries.


TI-12 Math Explorer, the first TI product designed with the help of teachers, introduced. The practice of involving educators in product development became a priority after its success.


The first graphing calculator/handheld, TI-81, makes its debut, providing secondary students new tools for better understanding math and science.


CBL data collection system introduced. Using the CBL, students can gather a variety of real-world data and transfer it directly to a TI graphing handheld to generate graphs and analyze the results of their experiments virtually anytime and anywhere.


The TI-83, for use in math, science and statistics introduced. Significant feature improvements to its predecessor, the TI-82, based on extensive educator involvement.


TI introduces the TI-73, its first educational handheld with Flash memory technology, making the unit electronically upgradable and allowing it to be customized with Apps.


TI upgrades its most popular model, the TI-83, with the TI-83 Plus which added Flash capability, and a new set of pre-loaded applications.


TI-83 Plus Silver Edition, with greater memory and speed capabilities launched. Translucent casing and a library of pre-loaded apps for educational and lifestyle use included.



If you have additions to the above article please email:

© Texas Instruments Incorporates, Dallas and Joerg Woerner, November 10, 2007. No reprints without written permission.