Tony McGovern
" The Funnelweb (Atrax Robustus)"

photo of tony mcgovern

Tony McGovern’s involvement with the TI-99/4A computer started just before Christmas 1982 when his son, Will, started pressuring for an Atari 2600 game box like all his friends had. As parents often do, Tony and his wife, Val, weren't going to spend all that much money on a game, so they ended up with a computer initially costing twice as much - all in the cause of education and mind improvement. Tony did some serious looking around, and saw a good review of the TI-99/4A in a local computer paper, and decided that was the way to go. Since it came from Texas Instruments, a company he knew about for its engineering capabilities, he paid about $600 Australian for the console and a couple of the very few cartridges available. In that first year, the McGoverns were primarily waiting for the revised Extended Basic, and picked up Mini Memory and Speech Synthesizer plus TE II among others. “Parsec” was Will's favorite game, and “A-Maze-ing” was their daughter Eileen's while Tony had a soft spot for “Hunt the Wumpus”.

Tony and Will had decided to bypass expanding their TI-99/4A and were eagerly waiting for the touted TI-99/8 to appear when TI pulled the plug on home computers. Hard decision time, but they liked the TI-99/4A and the TMS9900 enough by then that Tony bought the complete demo system from the local dealer, which included a Peripheral Expansion box, 32K memory expansion, RS232 card, SSSD disk drive, and Impact Printer, for about half the previous list price. The expensive Editor/Assembler and TI-Writer cartridges were ordered and eventually arrived, and then the real fun started. Later on Tony bought two TI external SSSD disk drives, a P-Code card, and a Multiplan cartridge from another store which was eliminating its TI stock, and that made life a lot easier.

Tony conceived and developed the Funnelweb concept, with some help from his son Will, because initially TI-Writer and Editor/Assembler were expensive packages, and he was worried that if the cartridge(s) got zapped, they would be stranded. Also plugging and unplugging of cartridges seemed the most fragile and least well designed aspect of the TI-99/4A system. Since assembly code could be handled with Extended Basic in the expanded system, and in its turn do anything else they wanted, it seemed like a good idea to try to run everything from the Extended Basic module. The Extended Basic module seemed to be the one most commonly found for the TI-99/4A console. Next came the Editor/Assembler loading version and eventually the Horizon Ramdisk made it possible to make a booting loader for Funnelweb.

Tony’s emphasis was on providing a seamless operation in which both Editor and Formatter could be used, just like with the original modules without having to go back through the TI title screen, and without any sacrifice in performance or buffer size while also eliminating the jarring color changes. He also started work on his locally infamous "utility disk" of which progress was often demonstrated at HV99 meetings. Tony was working on to get Editor/Assembler functionality under Extended Basic as well. When this worked out from the same loader, Funlwriter became Funnelweb. The dual TI-Writer and E/A menu structure remained at the core of Funnelweb and covered simulation of all of TI's many variations of assembly program loading as well as loading many other utilities from a menu. Tony’s last revision of Funnelweb was completed in 1994. Little did Tony suspect, at the onset of his Funnelweb project, that Funnelweb would become the preferred Operating System for the TI-99/4A home computer for TI’ers around the world. Because of the onset of health problems and competing interests, Tony was unable to devote any more time to Funnelweb. Tony’s last work on the Editor, the EV-RAM Edit-Ring V. 5.21, was done in early to mid 1995.

Tony gave the following explanation his choice of the Funnelweb name; "The Funnelweb (Atrax Robustus) is a particularly venomous spider (to primates but strangely not to many other mammals such as cats) in the Sydney region that lives in deep holes in the ground with a funnel shaped web at the entrance. We have lots of them around here in our little patch of rainforest, and the name Funnelweb Farm was given as a joke by one of the technical staff members at the University of Newcastle Physics Department. We couldn't resist adopting it, and it became our running joke. "

Tony obtained a Bachelor in Engineering (Electrical Engineering) and a Bachelor in Science (Mathematics) degrees from The University of Queensland in Australia. In 1962 he went to Caltech and obtained a PhD in EE and Physics and worked primarily in the computer hardware related field until his return to Australia in 1971 to take up a position teaching Physics at the University of Newcastle. His son, Will, was born while Tony was at Caltech and his daughter, Eileen, was born shortly after their move to Newcastle. Both children are now working in computer fields.

Tony is now retired, but seems busier than ever with house and yard maintenance and construction, and gardening, and still has not found time to start making wood furniture from Australian hardwoods which is what he really wants to do. They spend a lot of time visiting their daughter Eileen, who works in the mining industry, and so have gotten to see a lot of remote and fascinating places in the Northwest and Top End of Australia. In 1995 Will emigrated to the United States and continues to make his own mark in the computer field. He was a founder of Aechelon, whose first product was the training flight simulator for the USMC AV-8B Harriers. If you want to experience some of Will's past handiwork, go see the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He is now at Network Appliance.

Prepared from material included in an interview granted by Tony McGovern to Dan Eicher for inclusion on The CYC disk produced by CaDD Electronics.
Inducted into the TI99ers Hall of Fame on August 11, 2004