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(TODO: Add mention of IRC stats and Newsletter — http://wayback.archive.org/web/*/http://philes.cwru.edu/irc/stats/*, http://philes.cwru.edu/newsletter/)
TI-Files was one of the top three TI sites in the TI community along with ticalc.org and Dimension-TI while it was active. The site not only had the largest TI program archives available on the Internet, but also had the most active community of users and introduced several new site features that have since become standard for TI sites, such as the newsletter, program reviews, screenshots, and PUDs.
Although the program archives were the main feature, it was really just one feature among many. The TI-Files site was very large and expansive, boasting a comprehensive links page, screenshots and reviews for many programs, lots of source code to look at and study, several programming tutorials for both TI-Basic and assembly, projects under development (PUDs), a monthly newsletter with an interview with a prominent TI programmer or programming group (such as Jimmy Mardell, Joe Wingbermuehle, or Andreas Ess), an official game of the month award, tracking of game high scores, a highly active IRC channel and message board, and even their own MOO world.
Several of the staff members for TI-Files were involved with other TI sites and programming groups including Adam Berlinsky-Schine (Dimension-TI), Dan Englender (TCPA, Detached Solutions), Eric Sun (Dimension-TI, ticalc.org), Harper Maddox and Kouri Rosenberg (Void Productions), Doug Torrance (Z80 Assembly Coders), Ahmed El-Helw (Void Productions, Dimension-TI, ticalc.org), Matthew Christenberry and Grant Kohler (TI-World), Shaun McCormick (TI-8X Haven), Dave Jaklitsch (TI-Terminal), and George Limpert (PlanetCalc).
Mat Renfrow formed the KickASM Software programming group that made assembly programs and games for the TI-83, TI-85, TI-86, and TI-92 graphing calculators, and was made up of staff members from TI-Files. In addition, Bill Nagel created the first assembly shell and game for the TI-83 and TI-86 (AShell and Turbo Breakout, respectively), while Alex Highsmith created the seminal Dying Eyes and Final Fantasy RPGs for the TI-83.
At its height in late 1998, TI-Files was the biggest, most comprehensive TI graphing calculator website on the Internet. The program archives had over 8,000 files, with the files broken up not only by calculator, language, and shell but also by game and program genre. For example, the game genres included arcade, breakout/pong, board, fighting, gambling, maze, puzzle, racing, shoot-em-up, simulation, snake, sports, and text-based. This made it very easy to find a game that you wanted to download.
The site was updated constantly, with new games and programs posted every day by Dave Jaklitsch (the person in charge of maintaining the program archives). In addition, the program quality was very good because Dave personally tested each program to make sure that it worked correctly, and that it was accurately uploaded and not malicious. This was a common complaint at ticalc.org because the site rarely got updated and the archivers simply added any program that was submitted, so lots of rather poor quality programs and games (primarily TI-Basic) got added to the site.
TI-Files extensively used IRC for communication with its site staff and its large community of users. The EFNet channel #ti-files, in particular, was always filled with lots of activity and conversations going on at any one time, and several of the staff members could regularly be found there. It was also a common hang-out spot for many of the leading assembly programmers in the TI community including Bill Nagel, Hannes Edfeldt, Dave Jaklitsch, Harper Maddox, Andrew Von Dollen, and Ahmed El-Helw, and they would readily provide help and assistance to people wanting to learn assembly. Ticalc.org and Dimension-TI each had their own IRC channel as well — ticalc.org used #calc-ti, which then became #ticalc, while Dimension-TI used #dim-ti — but they primarily used mailing lists and message boards respectively for their site and community communication.
The quality of TI-Files helped fuel a lot of the competition and rivalry between the three major TI sites, and kept all three sites constantly striving to provide a better experience for the TI community with more content, features, and services. Ironically, it united the community and actually helped to invigorate it, but it also resulted in some very public and private heated arguments, and some rather despicable actions by members on each site. See the site wars article for more information.
- March 10, 1997 — TI-Files newsletter idea proposed by Alex Highsmith in an email to Harper Maddox, which progresses into a group website assembled by the TI community
- March 26, 1997 — TI-Files is unveiled to the public at the URL http://www.inlink.com/~dafek/ti-files/ with hosting provided by Dan Koester
- August 1997 — TI-Files switches its hosting to Monolith Internet Services and starts using the URL http://ti-files.home.ml.org
- October 28, 1997 — The TI-Files mirror site is created with the TI-Philes name and the URL http://ti-philes.home.ml.org
- 1998 — TI-Files gets over one million hits on their site for the year
- May 1998 — TI-Philes is moved to a new server graciously donated by Matthew Christenberry's father and the URL is changed to http://ti-files.gsu.edu
- June 1998 — The site name is changed back to the original TI-Files
- October 9, 1998 — TI-Files moves to http://www.ti-files.org, becoming only the second TI calculator website besides ticalc.org to get its own domain name (see ticalc.org news article)
- April 20, 2000 — Dave Jaklitsch retires from TI-Files, leaving Matthew Christenberry as the sole senior editor
- May 2000 — Justin Gaynor leads an overhaul of TI-Files to better compete with ticalc.org and calc.org
- July 2000 — Jason Donley of TI-Galaxy purchases the ti-files.org domain name from Matthew Christenberry for $750, and the TI-Files staff subsequently retires
- December 9, 2000 — The TI-Files server is no longer hosted, bringing an end to TI-Files
- January 2001 — Jason Donley fails to renew the ti-files.org domain name, and it becomes a porn site as it is lost to squatters
(Modified X-Files logo used as the site theme)
The TI-Files site used a few different names while it was active. The original TI-Files name was chosen by Alex Highsmith as a homage to the show The X-Files. The show was one of the most popular shows on television during that time, and it focused on trying to uncover the truth behind the conspiracies about the existence of extraterrestrial life. The site also utilized a modified logo from the show and its accompanying color scheme, and they even called the people that occasionally helped with the site secret agents in keeping with the theme.
When the TI-Files site went down because of server issues in the summer of 1997, the name that was used for the mirror sites was TI-Philes. Just like with the X-Files, the name was a reference to the X-Philes name that was given to enthusiastic fans of the show that did much of the same stuff that the TI community does (mailing lists, message boards, newsgroups, unofficial websites, etc.).
The TI-Files site used the TI-Files name until late 1998 when they were forced to change it to Ti-Files by Texas Instruments. TI claimed that they were cyber-squatting with their TI-Files name and http://www.ti-files.org site URL because people could confuse them with the actual TI website (i.e., http://www.ti.com). A similar thing happened with TI-News being forced to stop using its http://www.tinews.net site URL due to its close similarity to TI's own http://www.tinews.com.
TI-Files used several site URLs while it was active, with each change in URL being triggered by server down time. The original URL was http://ti-files.home.ml.org and the mirror was http://ti-files-mirror.home.ml.org. When they had issues with that URL, they then started using http://ti-philes.home.ml.org and the accompanying http://ti-philes-mirror.home.ml.org. The Monolith Internet Services (MIS) hosting company eventually closed down due to server issues, forcing them to find new hosting.
Three of the site admins hosted the site on their personal webspace at various times. Dan Koester hosted the site on his Inlink webspace using the URL http://www.inlink.com/~dafek/ti-files/. Matthew Christenberry hosted the site from his Georgia State University account using the URL http://ti-files.gsu.edu and the server his dad bought. Dave Jaklitsch then hosted the site from his Case Western Reserve University account, using the URLs http://philes.cwru.edu, http://b60414.cwru.edu/ti-philes/, http://b60414.student.cwru.edu/ti-philes/, and http://b65159.cwru.edu/ti-philes/.
They also had two ftp site URLs that they used for downloading and transferring programs: ftp://b60414.cwru.edu/ti-philes/ and ftp://b65159.cwru.edu/ti-philes/. TI-Files eventually purchased their own domain name (i.e., http://www.ti-files.org) in December 1998, which helped them to be seen as a more professional TI site and to better compete with ticalc.org. This was the last active URL before the site died in December of 2000.
TI-Files was proposed by Alex Highsmith in an email to Harper Maddox in the middle of March 1997. At the time, ticalc.org was rarely updated and it had been down for a while and the popular newsletter TI-Graphing Calculator Magazine (TI-GCM) had not been published in a few months, so people started writing them off as dead and were eagerly searching for other TI sites online that had programs and content.
The original idea was to just publish a newsletter like TI-GCM, but that quickly progressed into a full-fledged website. Various names and ideas were brainstormed, and they decided upon TI-Files for the name as a homage to the popular television show. They also decided that the website focus should not simply be on the program archives (like it was at ticalc.org), but on program reviews, columns and articles, programming tutorials, newsletters, projects under development, and so on — simply put, creating a comprehensive community website where you can find everything related to TI graphing calculators.
(DJ-Files logo used by Dave Jaklitsch)
They then assembled a team of people from around the TI community that had their own sites that covered different content, and combined their respective site contents under the TI-Files banner. The original TI-Files team consisted of nine people, with each person providing something separate from everyone else. For example, Dave Jaklitsch provided the program archives via his Dominion website, which was then renamed DJ-Files and finally incorporated into TI-Files. Similarly, Bill Nagel provided the assembly columns, while Ben Davis provided the program reviews.
- Alex Highsmith — DarkPrism Productions
- Harper Maddox — Ti-82/83 Game Factory
- Dan Koester — Dan1Son's Ti-83 Game Lair
- Dave Jaklitsch — D. JacKaL's TI Terminal
- Bill Nagel — The TI-83 Game and Assembly Page
- Ahmed El-Helw — Ahmed's Ultimate Web Site
- Eric-Chow Allen — BlitzBoy's TI-83 Page
- Ben Davis — Davissoft Software
- Jeff Tyrrill — Jeff Tyrrill's TI Calculator Site
The TI-Files site debuted at the end of March 1997, quickly becoming popular and known as one of the top TI sites online. Subsequently, when ticalc.org came back online in April, TI-Files and ticalc.org (along with Dimension-TI which was started in December 1997 by ex-member Adam Berlinsky-Schine) began their competition to be the top TI site, which lasted until the eventual collapse of TI-Files in December 2000.
(TI-Philes logo used for the mirror site)
Rather ironically, the TI-Files were constantly plagued by server issues and downtime throughout their existence. They commonly employed a main http and ftp site, and had backup mirror sites in case the main sites went down. Dan Koester originally provided hosting for the site on his personal Inlink webspace, but the site quickly exceeded the data and visitor traffic limits on his account, and forced them to find new hosting.
The site then got hosting through Monolith Internet Services (MIS), and used the third-level domain name URLs http://ti-files.home.ml.org and http://ti-philes.home.ml.org and the accompanying mirrors. Unfortunately, MIS regularly had server problems and downtime of their own, and eventually shutdown permanently due to a complete server failure in December 1998.
For the remainder of the site's existence online, two of the site administrators hosted the site on their personal webspace — Matthew Christenberry first hosted the site from his Georgia State University account and then Dave Jaklitsch hosted the site from his Case Western Reserve University account.
(TI-Philes member badge)
Consequently, this made it rather difficult for visitors to find the latest location of the site. TI-Files staff also did a poor job of announcing the site URL, and left many visitors confused and unable to find the site. The http://www.ti-files.org domain name was purchased in December 1998, which helped alleviate the problem and also allowed them to be seen as a more professional site to compete with ticalc.org. Dimension-TI also acquired their own domain name a month later.
Besides the server issues, TI-Files also had problems with their staff. Not only were there constant staff changes with a high turnover rate, but many of the members didn't actually do anything. In fact, most of the staff spent their time hanging out in the #ti-files IRC channel. The dedication of the administrators (Dave Jaklitsch, in particular) is really what kept the site going, and when they started leaving nothing got done and the site just fell apart.
After Dave Jaklitsch retired from TI-Files on April 20, 2000, some of the staff members decided to completely overhaul the site in an attempt to breathe new life into it and to attract new members from the TI community. Both ticalc.org and calc.org had greatly improved with new features, services, and content, and subsequently caused much of the TI community to abandon TI-Files.
Although Matthew Christenberry was still the owner of TI-Files, he was not actively involved in the overhaul or the site itself, but was more behind the scenes in a passive role. Instead, Justin Gaynor led the TI-Files overhaul effort with creating a new design and thinking up new features for the site, while Doug Torrance and Grant Kohler assumed the senior editor roles.
Nothing actually came of their overhaul efforts, however, and the homepage simply provided a link to the old site, as well as a short paragraph stating that the overhaul would be completely shortly and that the TI community just needed to be patient. Jason Donley of TI-Galaxy approached Matthew Christenberry in July about selling the ti-files.org domain name so that somebody could actually bring the TI-Files back to life, and he sold him the domain for $750. The TI-Files staff then subsequently retired.
Jason Donley was interviewed by Jason Gauer of Twilight-TI for the August 2000 issue of the TI-GCM about the future plans for TI-Files. He stated that he had high expectations for the site, and that the new TI-Files would open in mid August and be the best TI site on the Internet. Jason Gauer then mentioned that the sentiment around the TI community was that TI-Files would never be a good site again, and he said that they were totally wrong and that TI-Files would be great.
Unfortunately, that confidence and optimism turned out to be unwarranted, as TI-Files never actually made it back online. Just like with the previous TI-Files, the homepage simply provided a short paragraph stating that the new TI-Files would be completed shortly and that the TI community just needed to be patient. Jason Donley assembled a team of twelve volunteers to help with the site, but most of the people did not do any work or contribute any content.
He then turned to fellow TI-Galaxy members James O'Neal and Robert Rittenhouse for assistance. In an attempt to get more committed support from the TI community, they decided to replace volunteers with paid staff who would be responsible for the program archives, TI community news, and programming new games and programs. For example, the archives manager would be responsible for adding a minimum of twenty new programs and screenshots each week, and would be paid $50 a month.
That idea never actually worked, however, as it was simply not practical to pay people money given the free and open nature of the TI community. They were also unable to get TI-files to be operational, and the site continued to have server and database issues. The ti-files.org domain was eventually lost to squatters in January 2001, as Jason Donley failed to renew the domain name in time, and then it became a porn site.