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C Programming Lessons

TIGCC Programming Lessons

The following is part of a series of lessons designed to help teach people to program in C for the TI-89, 92+, and V200 calculators using the TIGCC development environment.

If you wish, you can download the program source code, project files, and binaries here.

Lesson 2 - Basic Keyboard Input

Step 1 - The Basics of Keyboard Input

Keyboard input is probably the most basic need of any program, and it is especially so it for calculator programs.

There are several ways to read keyboard input using TIGCC, but we will start with the simple ones, and cover others in future lessons. The ones we will cover today are the ngetchx() function (for reading key presses), the kbhit() function (for testing whether or not keys have been hit), and the faster, but more advanced OSdequeue() function for reading key presses directly from the keyboard buffer.

Step 2 - The ngetchx() function

Start TIGCC and create a new project. The project should be created just like the project we made in lesson one. Create a new C Source File named waitkey and replace the contents with the following.


#include <tigcclib.h>

void _main(void) {
    // keypress variable
    int key;

    // clear the screen

    // display the string
    printf("Please press ESC.\n");

    // wait for the ESC key to be pressed
    while ((key = ngetchx()) != KEY_ESC) {
        printf("That's not the ESC key.\n");

    // display the final string
    printf("You pressed ESC.\n");

    // wait for user input before exiting the program

Step 2a - Compile and Run the Program

Build the program by using the Project, Make menu item and send it to TiEmu. It will look similar to following screenshots, though they are from an older slightly modified version of this example.

TI-89 AMS 2.05 waitkey.89z TI-92+ AMS 2.05 waitkey.9xz

Step 2b - Analyze the Program

This program is fairly straightforward, except for the while loop in the middle. If you have programmed before, it should be easy enough to understand, but we will go over each line in detail.

// keypress variable
int key;

This is a variable declaration. As the name implies, variables are used in programs to store values which can change. In this case, we need to store an integer value. In C, we use an int variable for this. Variable declarations come in the form type name;. Multiple variables can be declared by separating the names by commas. We can also assign initial values by using an = [some value] after the name. We will see examples like this later.

// clear the screen

// display the string
printf("Please press ESC.\n");

The clrscr function is similar to the ClrScr function we used in the first lesson (note the change in capitalization). However, they are not the same. clrscr is a special function in the TIGCC library which is used in conjunction with certain screen I/O functions.

The next function is one of those special I/O functions that is helped by clrscr. printf is similar to the DrawStr function, but is a bit more versatile. Notice we did not need to tell it where to print our string. This is because the TIGCC library keeps track of screen position so that printf can handle screen wrapping and scrolling. The clrscr function actually resets this screen position to 0,0, which is why the string is printed at the top left.

The end of the string has a funny little part, the '\n' character. This is a special character, called an escape sequence. It represents a newline. When printf sees a '\n' character, it will adjust the screen position to the next line. You probably noticed this behavior in the screenshots.

Remember to use clrscr to clear the screen if you want to use printf.

// wait for the ESC key to be pressed
while ((key = ngetchx()) != KEY_ESC) {
    printf("That's not the ESC key.\n");

This is the core of the program, and obviously the most complex part. The first statement is the beginning of a while loop, one of the control instructions in C. while performs looping, so we can do certain commands more than once until we get the result we want. The format of a while loop is while (condition) { do something }, which means while this test is true, do everything within the braces.

Our condition has a lot of things going on simultaneously. It helps to have an understanding of operator precedence. Just as you probably learned in algebra, do the things inside parentheses first, and if you have nested parentheses, do the inner-most and work your way out. Finally, we work left to right (in most cases). We will discuss operator precedence in more detail when it comes into play.

Using our basic understanding, we can gather that we will be doing the (key = ngetchx()) first. Whatever the result of that is, we will take that and see if it is != KEY_ESC, whatever that means.

The first part is simple, the key variable will get the value of ngetchx(). ngetchx() is a function that waits for a key to be pressed, and then returns the value of that key press. All the keys on the keyboard (other than the ON button) have a unique key code.

Now we come to the != part. != is C syntax for "not equal". So, the long while condition is testing whether the value of the key press that we got from ngetchx() and put into the key variable is not equal to KEY_ESC. KEY_ESC is a TIGCC defined constant for the key code of the ESC key. It was included in our tigcclib.h include line.

So, what does our conditional statement say? Call the ngetchx() function and assign the returned value to the variable key. If the value we just stored in key is not equal to the key code value of the ESC key, then do all the code inside the while loop. So, until the user presses the ESC key, the program will keep executing the body of the loop contained within the braces.

The body of the while loop is just another printf function call.

// display the final string
printf("You pressed ESC.\n");

// wait for user input before exiting the program

After we have pressed the ESC key and the while loop stops, we print another string and wait for a key press before exiting the program.

Step 2c - Programmatic Conclusions

ngetchx() is quite useful, but it has definite drawbacks. First, and probably foremost for most programmers is that it waits until a key has been pressed before returning. This is a big problem for game programming where you need to do other things besides check for keys. To handle these situations, ngetchx() will not work. So let's explore some alternatives.

Continue with Part II


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