General Information

Call this the closest thing to a Tomy Tutor FAQ. Updates and corrections are gratefully accepted. Last modify 26 January 2009.
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[Thumbnail of the Tomy Tutor.]
The Tomy Tutor. Click the image for the Photographs page.

General Information

Features

See what it was like to use the Tomy Tutor with this Google Video of the Tutor Demo Cartridge.

[Tutor menu screen shot (done with Tutti).]
Screenshot of the main Tutor menu. Generated by the Tutti emulator.

Hardware

Physical Characteristics
36x24 cm; plastic case with rubber keys. Top is off-white with the keyboard set in purplish plastic; rear and underside are blue. The Pyuuta, Pyuuta Mk II and Pyuuta Jr. are Japanese versions in different cases and keyboards (see the Pyuuta Section for information on these systems).

CPU and Chipset
The Tomy's processor is the TMS 9995NL CPU, manufactured by Texas Instruments and running at an effective speed of 2.7MHz. See Hardware for an explanation of clock speed and CPU. Note that the 9995 is not the same as the 9900, which the 99/4 uses.

Keyboard
Here's a scan of the keyboard layout. A photograph of the keyboard is on the Photographs page.

The keyboard of the Tutor is a right nuisance. 55 keys (plus space bar), all membrane Chiclet keys (a la PCjr), in a non-standard Selectric layout similar to the C64's ($ on SHIFT-4, double quote on SHIFT-2, apostrophe on SHIFT-7). Only one shift key, way stuck down in the lower left. Impossible to touchtype on the keyboard; the feel is all wrong and the keys practically need to be pounded on. MON key, used only in GRAPHIC mode, top right; MOD key, used for switching MODes in GRAPHIC mode and otherwise basically a Break key, lower right; LOCK, an Alpha Lock key, lower left. Peculiarly, there is no BACKSPACE or any moral equivalent.

Display
Powered by the Texas Instruments 9918ANL; identical to the 99/8 and similar to the 99/4A. Mixed text and graphics, 32x24; graphics at 256x192x16 (with two colours per 8-pixel line in a cell). Built-in 128 character ASCII set with 8x8 characters; ASCII values 128-159 are open to user expansion through BASIC functions like MCELL (analogous to CALL CHAR). See the Hardware page for more explanation. The Tutor supports four unicolour sprites, although the 9918ANL supports a total of 32. Even more can be had with raster tricks, but I don't know of any Tomy games that got anywhere close to exhausting the number available.

[Tutti screen shot of the internal paint program.] This is a screen shot of the included paint program, in graphics mode 3 (sprites and hires) as seen in Tutti. Click it for a 57K .jpg of the the paint program in action (four frames). Unfortunately, the scan didn't come out very well, despite several tries.

Audio
Again similar to the TI's; four channels, three square-wave music, one noise. Traffic Jam used audio to great effect, and had probably the best soundtrack of any of the games.

Programming
See the programming page.

There are two built-in languages in both the American and later UK Tutors: Tomy BASIC, a somewhat distorted port of TI Extended BASIC, and GBASIC. GBASIC is the only officially supported method of accessing hi-res and sprite graphics, with a much simpler syntax and feature set. Both are irksome in that they disallow overtly getting at the operating system, much like the original TI BASIC did. For more about this, see TI vs. Tomy.

Early Tutors, both the early Grandstand Tutor (the British alias for the computer), and the Japanese Pyuutas, had only GBASIC. Tomy added the TI-like BASIC dialect to American and UK models after complaints from reviewers. This BASIC was never built into any of the Japanese models and only ever offered as an option for the Pyuuta Mk II; in addition, the earliest Pyuutas have a different and incompatible Japanese-based "G-BASIC."

I/O, Peripherals
See the Incomplete Catalogue. The Tutor supports tape directly, and Tomy was talking disk drives, printers and even a speech synthesizer for the I/O port. While these apparently never made it to market, prototypes have been confirmed to exist -- pictures of them are in the Purcell Pamphlet.

Ports
A complete schematic of the rear ports is on the Pictures and Photographs page. The Tutor offers audio/video outputs for monitors; RF for television sets; a joyport; I/O port (never used by any Tomy peripherals); cartridge port on the top of the unit; and a 5-pin DIN connector to an external tape recorder. The Tutors also carry a built-in power supply. While the joyport is a 9-pin DSUB, it does *not* work with TI, Atari or Commodore joysticks.

History

For more history on the Pyuuta series, see their separate entry in the Pyuuta section.

The Tomy computer line was announced in 1982 by conglomerate Matsushita and entered the Japanese market that same year during the microcomputer boom of the mid-80s as the Pyuuta (rhymes with Computer, pronounced PYOO-ta). It was subsequently introduced in 1983 to the UK as the Grandstand Tutor (MSRP £150 October of that year, sold by Adam Imports) and the US as the Tomy Tutor, named after the Tomy's Tutor Typer, Tomy's popular 1970s toy typewriter machine. Dismal failure in the States and UK (failed to beat the Commodore 64 in either country and was doubly doomed in the UK because of the Spectrums); somewhat better exposure in its native land -- in fact, Tomy released two additional versions of the Pyuuta in Japan, the console Pyuuta Jr. in 1983, and the Pyuuta Mk II, based on American firmware, in 1984. However, the Pyuutas were eventually doomed there too because of Tomy's reputation as a toy company, a fate not escaped by many of their competitors which were also branded "toy computers" because they couldn't properly handle written Japanese. Most, including the Japanese version of the Commodore 64 and the MSX machines, handled only two of the four Japanese writing systems (romaji and katakana), limiting their usefulness to the typical Japanese user since a lot of written literature is in the other two systems (hiragana and kanji).

As a footnote, despite the MSX machine's significant push (many electronics companies, including Panasonic/Matsushita and Yamaha, were behind the MSX units, including Microsoft [gurgle!]) and although graced with an impressive amount of software (which, to its credit, the Tomy had quite a few versions of), most were games and the MSX units were somewhat more expensive than consoles. The console to emerge victorious was the dirt-cheap FamiCom (sold in the States as the Nintendo); although on the market as early as 1983 it wasn't until Japanese game giants Namco and Konami started producing software for it that it took off. Then Super Mario Bros. appeared, and the rest was history.

Ironically, given the toy reputation, both the Tomy Tutor and the Pyuuta were reincarnated in later series of toys as well.

Support

Frankly, there isn't much. Most of the remaining Tomy Tutor owners, including yours truly, congregate on the "Online" Tomy Tutor Users Group, established by Michael Anderson. Yours truly has the reins now.

If you are allergic to Yahoo!, or prefer Usenet, you might consider comp.sys.ti or rec.games.video.classic.

At least one real life SIG did exist, by the way; read about that under the Tomy Tutor User Club page.

Were you a Tutor user?

If you were, I would like to hear your stories!


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