Fortunately for all us Atarians
there is a growing interest in the supply market for all types of
programs, games, utilities etc. and enhancements. I wrote last time
about the 'US Doubler' product, published by ICD Inc., which converts
the 1050 disk drive to double density. Included in the package was
SpartaDOS joins the disk operating
systems already on the market, the three published by Atari (so
far), DOS-XL by O.S.S., TOP-DOS by Eclipse Software and there are
probably others of which I am not aware. I consider this new DOS
to be another step forward and may prove to be the best so far.
SpartaDOS supports single, dual
1050 and true double densities, single and double sided, 5 ¼ in.
and 8 in. disk drives and even a hard disk drive. Apparently the
new 3 ½ in. drives are not supported and this may be a serious
error. I expect that ICD are not unaware of the situation and that
they will issue an enhancement as soon as the new drives become
SpartaDOS is a mainly memory resident
disk operating system in that it resides in RAM and is therefore
always available. This means that no program or data is lost when
you switch to and from DOS and thus the DOS2MEM.SAV file, which
always seemed to me to take ages to load, is not used or necessary.
Unlike DOS2, SpartaDOS is command-driven which means that you simply
type a command and then leave the DOS to it. DOS 2 uses a menu structure
from which you make your selection and this is somewhat time consuming.
Not all the commands, however, are RAM resident. Most of the commonly
used ones are, such as ERASE, RENAME, DIR (for directory of files),
CAR (to run a cartridge and return to program), LOAD, SAVE, APPEND
and RUN (binary files) and others. It is a pity but some other DOS
utilities that you will use have to be loaded from a master disk.
These include FORMAT, INIT, SPCOPV, UNERASE (yes!), DUPDSK etc.
which ICD call external commands. You could, of course, copy some
of these onto your working disk and then they would be almost immediately
available. All the necessary DOS 2 functions are included on SpartaDOS
along with a lot more. I shall only describe the additional features
and differences and not waste your time with the familiar ones.
Unusually SpartaDOS requires that
you give each disk a 'volume' name at format time such as ADVENT1,
DISK12, 01234 etc. which I guess ensures that disk insertion errors
are not made when duplicating a disk on a single drive system. I
cannot think of any other valid reason for this requirement. Note
that DOS must be written to each disk at format time where it acts
as a boot file. The DOS's available are firstly, the normal full
DOS, and secondly, a special short DOS, using very little memory
for loading game disks that do not require to be written to, and
each can be used at normal or high (ultra) speed. You can only use
the high speed DOS if your drive is equipped with the US Doubler
or Archiver II chips, and as I showed last time, reading is performed
at about three times faster and writing at between two and five
times faster than other DOS's. Sector links are handled differently
than DOS 2 or DOS-XL with the result that, in single density format
with full DOS, 665 sectors, (or 687 sectors, with the short DOS)
each of 128 bytes, are available for your use compared to 707 125-byte
sectors in DOS 2. In double density full DOS 689 256-byte sectors
are available. This represents a data storage capacity of over 172K
The number of files you can have
on a disk is virtually unlimited through the use of sub-directories.
There is one main directory and this can have up to 128 files or
sub-directories, each of which in turn can be subdivided into 128
further sub-directories and so on. This is obviously intended for
hard disk drives which are capable of storing in excess of 15 megabytes
(and soon to be available from Atari if Jack Tramiel's statements
are anything to go by). Files will have to be very small for this
to be effective on 5 l/4 in. drives. None of my disks have more
than 35 files, but the facility is there should you need it.
On my 48k 800 the standard speed
SpartaDOS has a LOMEM of $2000 and that of the high speed $2300,
which means that some non-SpartaDOS utilities that load at below
$2300 will crash (or lockup your system). To avoid this you would
have to use a non-high speed DOS or relocate the utility. You will
therefore understand why the high speed DOS leaves you with only
30734 bytes for BASIC programming use. On the 64K XL machines it
should be possible to move the DOS into the otherwise unused RAM
under the operating system ROM and thus recover most of the lost
RAM. XL users may therefore have about 37K bytes free for BASIC
if ICD or a clever programmer can come up with the goods.
AUTORUN.SYS is not used in SpartaDOS,
instead a more flexible and easy to implement STARTUP.BAT file is
used to load any number of machine code files in sequence, for example
you could have a batch file load an English language error message
file, then go to the BASIC cartridge and run a program, all automatically
on switching on the computer. However if you should boot a disk
containing such a batch file or type CAR when in DOS without having
inserted the BASIC cartridge the system crashes forcing you to reboot
I would much prefer the system to switch back to DOS or for an error
message to be printed to screen rather than just freezing.
To execute a machine code file
that has been saved under the name 'filename.COM' with the INIT/RUN
pointers, you only need type its name without the extender. LOAD
'filename.EXT' is used to load and not run a machine code file,
in the same way as the BASIC LOAD command, for example if you want
to load a special character set, and RUN is used to execute a file
that is already in memory or RUN [ address] to run a file starting
at that byte. All this seems very sensible to me.
SPCOPY is used to copy files from
any disk of any density to another disk which allows you to transfer
your single density DOS 2 or DOS-XL files to and from the high speed
double density SpartaDOS disks very easily, especially if you have
more than one drive. Using a single drive system involves some disk
LOCK and UNLOCK are not implemented
in SpartaDOS and, as I hardly ever used these, I do not feel at
all unhappy by their omission.
Possibly one of the most useful
DOS utilities will be UNERASE. This enables you to recover accidentally,
or otherwise, deleted files as long as they have not been overwritten.
How many times have you deleted a file only to find that you could
not live without it? You might like to know that with DOS 2, POKEing
3926,234 and 3927,234 allows you to load a deleted file which can
then be reSAVED. But remember to press RESET before saving.
All files are dated and timed when
written but I have not felt the need to utilise this function mainly
because the time/date has to be reset every time at switch on and
the SpartaDOS clock runs inaccurately because it is linked to vertical
blank occurring 50 times a second compared to 60 used in the USA
for which it was designed. SET can be used to correct the date and
time if you want to use time/ dating.
Those using the 850 interface or
the ATR 8000 will appreciate the RS232 handlers included which do
not require reloading when switching to and from DOS.
An interesting range of XIO Atari
BASIC functions are available and full instructions for their use
are included in the manual For example XIO 40 is used to load, and
XIO 41 to save a binary file.
As you would expect a very readable
but detailed manual is included giving examples for most functions
which novices should be able to follow without difficulty. It also
includes some general information about disks together with a warning
about the wide practice of notching and writing to the reverse side
of single sided disks.
SpartaDOS is available from ICD's
UK distributors, Zoomsoft, and costs £39.95 or, better still it
is included in the US Doubler package for a total of £79.75. My
impression of SpartaDOS is favourable, I like the ease of command
processing, being able to switch instantaneously to and from DOS
without losing any data, but especially the speed of reading and
writing on my US Doubler converted drive. On its own I am not convinced
that SpartaDOS offers that much more over DOS-XL, which uses less
RAM anyway, can already be used in extended memory form to increase
usable RAM, and costs less. However when SpartaDOS is used in conjunction
with the US Doubler hardware chips, the package comes into its own.
My overall assessment, then, is excellent. For owners of the 1050
disk drive or those who are considering purchasing one I can thoroughly
recommend the US Doubler package to you as a 'best buy'. It is well
worth every penny of the asking price.