Texas Instruments announced its popular Ti-84 will finally enter the modern age in 2013! The upcoming TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition model will feature a 320 x 240 16-bit color display, 3.5MB flash ROM, and 21KB of RAM! These specifications are hardly impressive when you compare them with even entry-level phones, but especially the screen is a big step forward versus the 96 x 64 monochrome screen from the original TI-84. Full details on why it takes so long for graphics calculators to get updated can be read at ARS Technica.
For one thing, the constraints of the graphing calculator are key selling points. They provide something of a known quantity when it comes to doing math, especially on standardized tests, where a fully programmable smartphone with Web access would not be allowed. (TI prominently displays a "Permitted on testing" logo alongside its calculators; many of its devices are explicitly green-lighted for use with the AP and SAT standardized tests.) The need for limits makes it difficult for TI to evolve its devices even a little without upsetting the balance. As Alexis Madrigal pointed out at The Atlantic last year, it’s not as if calculators need to keep pace with changing subject matter, either. “If the calculators were good enough for us 10 or 15 years ago, they are still good enough to solve the math problems,” he noted.
Tysun McKay, director of communications and Web strategy at TI, told me that one of the reasons color calculators weren’t a priority for the company was that educators simply weren’t asking for them until recently.
Makes me wonder when we'll see the first color Super Mario game for the TI-84 Plus C Silver!