Pt 2112
EFF Warns Texas Instruments to Stop Harassing Calculator Hobbyists…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned Texas Instruments (TI) today not to pursue its baseless legal threats against calculator hobbyists who blogged about potential modifications to the company’s programmable graphing calculators.

TI’s calculators perform a “signature check” that allows only approved operating systems to be loaded onto the hardware. But researchers were able to reverse-engineer signing keys, allowing tinkers to install custom operating systems and unlock new functionality in the calculators’ hardware. In response to this discovery, TI unleashed a torrent of demand letters claiming that the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) required the hobbyists to take down commentary about and links to the keys. EFF represents three men who received such letters.

MAKE was also told to remove our post (here) – we did not… TI is a great company, I think once the folks who run show see what’s going on they’ll drop all of this…


    TI might be a good company, but whoever runs the calculator side of the business is crazy. They charge $70 for $10 of hardware and get away with it because of their monopoly on the school calculator market.

  • XsavioR

    This is like saying you cant soup up your car… trying to stiff arm your customers will only serve to entice people to stop buying them, and more people who realize “well gee that could have been me they are harassing, there is strength in numbers maybe my next project will be a ti calculator hack”
    Not that I would have time to do such a thing and incur contact from TI. Your selling a learning device and scolding your brightest users for using.

    @TI investors
    allowing, if not encouraging the hacking of the devices you make money from selling is the only way you win. When things like this hit the news bad things happen to your investment. As apposed to when a new must have mod comes out and sales increase from mishaps and new purchases. This is a lose lose battle and you should be firing who ever thought it would be a good idea to harass some bright people from making your product more useful in its capacity to teach them because they are abnormally bright to accomplish what they did.

  • James Longstreet

    To be fair, TI has allowed various degrees of homebrew software to run on their calculators for years. Since the TI-85 and 82 were hacked to allow assembly programs to run, the 83+ and 86 have had an Asm() builtin function, which runs a program as assembly instead of TI-BASIC. For the TI-89/92+, there’s a GCC port that allows C programs to be written for the calculators. Aside from not specifically providing a way to accomplish homebrew on older calculators, they’ve always allowed it.

    This is just about flashing the calc with a new OS. However, I’m not sure why they care.

    For the record, I have an interesting history with TI calculators and DMCA violations. I ported DeCSS to TI-89 BASIC while I was in high school, to prove a point (not really sure what the point was anymore).

  • Alessandro

    …to hack something one has to buy ($$) it first ?

  • Apis

    I don’t get why they would be so upset about this, but they likely had some reason for putting in a cryptographically based mechanism to prevent it.

    Maybe they worry they might loose their school monopoly if you can run whatever software you want on it (and thus use it to cheat on exams). :S

    It’s horrible they send out legal threats to try to prevent freedom of speech. There was that story about the Ralph Lauren ad over att as well.

  • jammit