Few events are met with so much anticipation as the Olympic Games. The five interlocking rings; the unmistakable hymn; the torch relay arriving at the opening ceremony; the sportsmanship; records getting broken, and medals decided within hundreds of a second. Bar world wars or a pandemic, athletes, organizers and public come together every four years to either put on or watch the grand spectacle. While the ever-changing rules and scoring systems usually generate much discussion, few give much thought to the technology used to record event results and determine place rankings.
Hand-held calculators and computerized technology entered the sports scene in the 1970s, when they were used to record race results and compute final rankings. However, pen and paper were still the norm when it came to centralizing scores from multiple locations during large events like world championships and the Olympic Games. The change came in 1980, when Texas Instruments, the official supplier of computers and calculators for the Lake Placid Olympic Games, introduced TI-SCORE (Texas Instruments System for Computerized Olympic Results and Events), which, according to a press release from June, 1979, supported “the data entry, processing and worldwide distribution of official results to the press, Olympic officials, participants and visitors from 22 sites in twelve categories, with over 1400 athletes competing in 88 events.” Additional features such as “athlete profiles, starting lists, support for reservations and accreditation for the Olympic Village” were also provided. At a time when there wasn’t an app for it, TI-SCORE came pretty close to becoming one.
The DS990 microcomputer systems, Model 771 intelligent terminals, OMNI 810 and 820 printer terminals, and Silent 700 portable data terminals that comprised the TI SCORE system were the result of Texas Instruments innovations in the field of semiconductor technology, which included areas such as microcomputer and microprocessor technology, thermal printhead technology and magnetic bubble memory. First announced in 1977, the scoring system represented one of TI’s commercial applications that combined microcomputer and programmable calculator capabilities.
The TI DS990 was part of a series of microcomputers first developed by Texas Instruments in 1975 to be software compatible with its 16-bit microprocessors. Later products would include the TI Professional Computer in 1983.
Another use for the DS990 during 1980s Lake Placid Olympics? Working with the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee (LPOOC) to plan a computerized route and schedule for the Olympic torch relay. “With TI’s DS990 dual-host microcomputer system, TI and LPOOC have entered data about the 1,069 checkpoints and a code number indicating whether the participants are running, taking part in periodic ceremonies, or stopping for overnight breaks. From this data, the programmers have established the pace of the 52 relay runners and determined the time between each checkpoint” (Press release, January 4, 1980)
During the workday, TI employees were encouraged to keep up with the Olympic games through TILOR, a program that brought news from the competition to their workstation data terminals.
Today, we take for granted having this kind of information at our fingertips. However, the technology behind scoring sports competitions started to develop decades ago, and Texas Instruments was one of the leading companies that contributed to the field.
The DeGolyer Library is the repository for the Texas Instruments Records. Contact Ada Negraru for more information.