Brad Jeffers wrote:
martinsmagic wrote: ... I think I'll track down a suitable calculator and see what I can do.
There are hundreds of TI-85s for sale on Ebay. Could someone who has one of these graphics calculators and the users manual; and who has a thorough understanding of how the Fitch Cheney card trick works; be able to program the calculator to perform this effect?
I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.
Would it be difficult?
Firstly the Al Stanger calculator combined with the John Mendoza routine is quite a lot more than the standard Fitch Cheney effect as described in the link above - it is 4 phases and the final phase completely breaks away from the Fitch Cheney approach. Gaetan Bloom's contribution is primarily to simplify and streamline John's 4 phase routine. In both versions of the routine (John's or Gaetan's) the program for the calculator does the same thing. It is effectively the same 3 phases with increasingly more convincing and fair ways of choosing the cards, with a final phase which is totally different and does not rely on the same Fitch Cheney system. You would ideally need the program and the routine if you were to tackle this.
But once you have figured out the method there is not a lot of code for the basic 1-3 phase routine so I don't think it is beyond the scope of an average programmer. But you need to be familiar with writing code, I don't think it is something you could tackle if you were not a programmer. Programmers think differently to non-programmers
However, what makes it even trickier is that the programming interface for these old devices is nothing like we are used to today. When the TI-85 came out in 1992 I had a IBM RS/6000 520 Workstation at work and one in my apartment and at the time this was one of the fastest and most sophisticated computers available (and close to $25k each if I recall) and it was easy to bang out the code with advanced program editors, etc. But the interface for these calculators is mundane at best and the languages - TI-Basic or an assembler look alike are not very sophisticated so they require more lines of code to get the same results. For newer devices (like iphones etc) there are SDK's (Software Development Kits) that allow you to create the programs on a regular PC and then download it to the device. But I'm not sure if that sort of system is available for these older devices from 30 years ago.
Then if you use the TI-85's you still have the battery issue - I think this is a real issue, and I have a working one here. It turns out that as far as I can see these graphical calculators were battery backed up (i.e. volatile memory) until the early 2000's. And the challenge is finding a calculator that looks old enough to be as genuine as the TI-85 but be new enough to be able to have non-volatile memory. These devices were small and unlike in the PC's and work stations of the early 90's you could not slap a disk in one of these and SSD's were not really available as we are used to today. So it took another decade before it got easier to store things permanently on disk or SSD for a reasonable price. Given that most of these early graphical calculators used back-up batteries it clearly was not such a big deal to the users, but we have been spoiled and are used to things hanging around after the battery dies.
So long story short - even if you had the routine and the the method unless you are a programmer I don't think this is something you could begin to tackle and programming these devices is quite a different discipline to what most programmers are used to. So I would rate this quite a hard project.
If I can find a suitable graphical calculator I want to try it - but after my first post I've realized that finding a suitable calculator that looks old and yet has non-volatile RAM is much harder than I expected. I've always been a Unix/Linux guy since the late 1970's so this world is a little foreign to me.
And it might be tempting to strip away things or try it on tablets and/or smart phones, but when I went down this road 10+ years ago it was not very rewarding. The key things that I believe you need to keep for this effect to stay entertaining and amazing are:
Old looking calculator
Basic or similar "high" level language
Must be graphical - one of the key fun parts of the routine is watching the symbols for the cards get slowly "painted" on the screen. In fact the slower the better. This is another issue with modern, faster devices is they draw things instantly.
Ok that should be enough