Memory, ROM, RAM, and Safe Areas

z80 » Intermediate


Did you know that your TI86 has over 384 kilobytes of memory on it? 98 kilobytes of that is all that TI-OS lets you store stuff to.

If you already know what calculator memory is, then skip down to the ROM and RAM sections.

Picture a tape measure. It's one long continuous length of metal with markings for every centimeter (cm). Memory is sort of like that. It is continuous and marked off. A tape measure marks off cm's just as memory marks off bytes. Just like you could say an object is 3 cm away from another, you could say a byte is 3 bytes from the start of memory ($0000).

You really wouldn't be saying "a byte is 3 bytes from the start"; you would just say it's at address $0003. The 6th byte in memory is at address $0006.

Addresses are always given in hexadecimal. It seems awkward to tell someone an address as 22322 compared to the easier $5732. There are fewer digits to remember.


Read Only Memory (ROM) can only be read from. You can't write (record) any data to it.

TI-OS is residing in the ROM from address $0000 to address $7fff


Random Access Memory (RAM) is free for you to mess with.

Since the TI86 has so much memory and you can only access 64k at a time using a word address pointer, TI used a system of addressing using three registers for addressing. Ahl and BDE are two groupings used to address memory. Instead of the standard $3ad9 to address something, you have an extra byte to give $023ad9. That way you are able to access more memory as explained in the Absolute Addressing Section.

Another method developed to access more memory is changing out 'pages' of memory. TI has several memory pages that can be swapped interchangeably to access different routines. This method is faster than using the un-natural three byte addressing ($000000). These pages are loaded into the memory of the TI86 by different routines for temporary use. They are put between $010000 and $02bfff for RAM pages and between $02c000 and $05ffff for ROM pages. This whole system of swapping out pages is called Asynchronous Serial Communications Interface. The ROM port is port 5 and the RAM port is port 6.

The most frequent ROM calls are to page $0d which then will swap in whichever memory page needed, execute the routine on that page, and return the pages to how they were before execution. You won't have to worry too much about memory pages unless you are accessing variables on the TI86.

A better way of understanding this is to think of old computers for a second. Most of them didn't have large hard drives but instead had the programs on disk. The old games like King's Quest had three or four disks to switch around to play a game on top of all the data you pre-loaded onto the hard drive. There wasn't enough memory to load the whole game onto the hard drive at once. That is how the TI86's memory is, with 16 ROM pages, all numbered. You don't use page 0. There are different pages, or disks as in King's Quest, that take turns being switched around. Say you wanted to switch to ROM page 3. To switch to it, your program needs to execute the following lines of code:

rom_page_number	=$0d		;page number to switch to
rom_page_port	=5		;port controlling rom page
	ld a,rom_page_number	;page number in a
	out (rom_page_port),a	;tell ti-os to switch to ROM page in a

That will put you on ROM page $0d where many calls are such as _clrLCD. If you make a call to a page memory address and the page you are thinking about is not swapped in, your program will probably crash since the routine you want isn't where you think it is.

TI changes their ROM versions among their calculators. To keep up with those ROM versions and call addresses, they use ROM page $0d as a reference to all the common calls. You usually call the routine which is located at the same location on ROM page $0d in all versions. At that address, it jumps to where the call is located in that certain ROM version. This helps TI keep the same addresses for ROM calls between every version. The call address will always be the same on ROM page $0d but the reference from there may be different. My program MemSee.asm shows how to swap in any ROM page you want and still call routines on page $0d safely.

The TI86 has four pages in memory, each of 16 kilobytes. There are two pages that are static (you cannot switch them) and two that are dynamic (you can switch them).

Start End Size in bytes Contents
$0000 $3fff 16,384 ROM page 0 - you can always access this part of static memory.
$4000 $7fff 16,384 ROM - this part can be switched around for access to different routines on any of the 16 pages.
$8000 $bfff 16,373 RAM - this part can be switched around for access to different areas of the editable memory with any one of 8 pages of RAM.
$c000 $ffff 16,384 RAM - page 0 always - Temporary storage space for system use

When TI-OS runs a program. It automatically swaps in RAM page 1 for use.

There is something that you must understand when working with ports: You can swap in a ROM page or a RAM page into the same memory area. The only difference between requesting a ROM page versus a RAM page is whether or not bit 6 of a is set or reset. If bit 6 is set, then the TI86 swaps in a RAM page; if is reset, it swaps in a ROM page. Here's two routines, they require upon entry that a is the requested page. To change in a ROM page between address $4000 and $7fff, call 'swap_ROM'; to swap in a RAM page between addresses $8000 and $bfff, call 'swap_RAM'. The code swaps in ROM page $0a and RAM page $07 (the Variable Allocation Table) and quits.

desired_ROM	=$0a	;ROM page we want to swap in
desired_RAM	=$07	;RAM page we want to swap in
ROM_port	=5	;ROM port
RAM_port	=6	;RAM port
	ld a,desired_ROM
	call swap_ROM
	ld a,desired_RAM
			;walk right into the routine
			; to swap in desired RAM page
	ld c,RAM_port	;port to work with
	and $07		;can't have a value greater
			; than $07 because there
			; aren't that many RAM pages
	set 6,a		;tell ti-os it's a RAM page
			; that you want
	out (c),a	;load that page
	ld c,ROM_port	;port to work with
	and $0f		;can't have a value greater
			; than $0f because there
			; aren't that many ROM pages
	out (c),a	;load that page

Safe Areas

The following chart shows some frequently used data areas where you can store stuff temporarily during program execution. The Variables Section goes into much more detail on this.

Start Address Size in bytes Use
$???? to $fa70 ???? You can store temporary variables after the end of your program. Your program is given a space of about 10k to use when it's run. When you run the program, TI-OS copies your entire program to _asm_exec_ram=$d748. From there you can store until but you reach the address $fa70 (which is used for one of the stack systems...don't mess with it). This area is zeroed once a new program is run, so this is only temporary.

Example: tempmemo.asm | tempmemo.86p
$c0f9 168 _textShadow. This is one of the most useful places to store variables, which we will talk about later, because it's not used by the calculator during your program's execution.

TI-OS will store the values of the large text written to the screen in this area. To stop it from doing this, execute the following:

	res appTextSave,(IY+appflags)
When you are done with your program, execute the following to clear this memory so you don't have a bunch of junk on your screen:
	set appTextSave,(IY+appflags)
	call _clrScrn
$c9fa 1024 _plotSScreen. Another useful place to store variables or images during program execution. When you exit though, this is not cleared so TI-OS will graph a bunch of garbage next time the user goes to the graph. To avoid this just put:
	set graphdraw,(IY+graphflags)
That will tell the TI86 that it needs to clear the graph next time the user accesses it.
$fc00 1024 This is where the LCD is and where the pixels you draw are displayed. Each byte stands for 8 pixels, meaning that each bit stands for a pixel black (set) or white (reset). Each row is 16 bytes. This will be explained later in more detail but you shouldn't use this area unless you have to.
$8100 to $bfff ~16k RAM PAGE 1. This page is used for two things by TI-OS: Floating Point Stack and Operator Stack. They start their storage space at opposite ends of the page and work thier way to the center. Because of these sensitive areas, start storing from atleast $8100 instead of $8000 because the floating point stack usually has one or two items pushed to it, like your program's name. If your program uses the Floating Point Stack then you may want to start even later.

More from z80 » Intermediate
All the Flags // Debugging // Down-Left Bug // _GetKey Codes // Logical Operators // Memory, ROM, RAM, and Safe Areas // Miscellaneous Instructions // PC and SP // Random Numbers // TI's ROM Calls // Restart Commands // Simulated 16-bit Addition // The Stack // Tables and Arrays // Text Display // Variables