Sparta DOS & US Doubler
Reviewed by Peter Ellison
Reviewed by Peter Ellison
ICD has done something that I didn't think was possible. They have created a DOS for the Atari (SpartaDOS) that is the best that I have ever used. Besides doing that, they have created two chips that will make your 1050 disk drive store almost twice as much data on a single disk and run much faster (Ultra Speed Doubler).
I'll begin by trying to review a product that is so revolutionary it adds new life to the Atari. Little did I know that SpartaDOS would change my Atari's whole concept of what a Disk Operating System is.
After booting up the disk, I was suprised that the computer asked me to enter the date and time. Right from the beginning I knew this DOS was very different. The time was displayed in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. In the center, the date and day were displayed. This autorun file was created with the file called STARTUP. BAT, which exists on the master disk. For each disk, you can create your own STARTUP. BAT file, which will automatically execute upon bootup. A batch file contains executable DOS instructions that can be created with a word processing program, or with the Screen Editor using the COPY command.
Since SpartaDOS has so much to offer, I'll just give a brief overview of the goals that ICD set for themselves, and reached. SpartaDOS, which is memory resident, is completely compatible with all software and systems. It supports all densities and switch configurations intelligently. It is able to handle hard disk drives when they become available. It will allow file storage limited by only the capacity of the media. It allows time/date stamping of files in the directories. MEMLO is below $2000, and supports batch file processing. It supports full redirection of I/O and relative file access. It is command driven for entry speed and easy expansion. It has provisions for UltraSpeed I/O.
The final goal was to make it disk compatible with DOS 2. Almost immediately, it was obvious ICD couldn't support all these features, and still maintain `disk compatability.' Although the two are not compatible, Mike Gustafson, the author, was able to develop a copy program that would transfer both to and from SpartaDOS with automatic configuration; thus, SPCOPY was born.
SpartaDOS contains both Internal and External commands, unlike that of its predecessor Atari DOS 2. Internal commands are memory resident. and include: APPEND, Batch Processing, BUFS, CAR, COPY (providing Page 6 is not used, otherwise it's external), CREDIR, CWD, DELDIR, DIR, ERASE, LOAD, PRINT, RENAME, RUN, SAVE, and TYPE. The external commands include: AT-RS232, CLS, COPY (if using Page 6), DIS-BAT, DUPDSK, FORMAT, INIT, MEMLO, PAUSE, PORT, RS232, SET, SPCOPY, TIME, TREE, and UNERASE. For you to be able to use the external commands, files of the same name must reside on the disk from where they are called. So, to provide more disk storage space, copy only the command files that you will be using to each disk, and keep the utilities disk near by.
The commands included, that are not available in Atari DOS 2.OS are: Batch Files, BUFS, CREDIR, CLS, CWD, DELDIR, DIS-BAT, INIT, MEMLO, PAUSE, PORT, SET, TIME, TREE, and UNERASE. I'll give a brief explanation of each of the commands that I haven't mentioned yet. The first, BUFS, is used to set or check the number of buffers currently in use. CREDIR creates a subdirectory on the specified disk. This is great for keeping track of related files. CLS is to clear the screen display, and can improve readability on comment lines. CWD is to change the working (current) directory on the specified disk. DELDIR deletes a subdirectory from the specified disk. For example, if you typed in DELDIR UTILITY-PRINTER, it would remove the subdirectory called PRINTER under directory UTILITY, only if it is empty; otherwise an error results.
The DIS-BAT command is used to disable batch processing within SpartaDOS, which may be necessary in order to run certain programs. INIT is the master formatting program, and allows selection of certain default parameters. The INIT program will load a menu of the possible SpartaDOS versions (fname.DOS available on the disk, along with N) for NO DOS. The MEMLO command displays the contents of $2E7 and $2E8. This will tell the user where the top of SpartaDOS resides, in case he needs to change to a more memory efficient version. The PAUSE command is used within a Batch file to halt the execution, and to prompt the user for a response to continue.
The Port command is used to set up parameters for RS232 communications. SET allows the user to set the time and date. This is useful for the serious programmer because, when you save your program, SpartaDOS will also remember on what date and time you saved the file: You never know when you'll forget which is the right program your working on. This feature, in itself, is worth the price of the DOS. If you want, you can also incorporate the realtime clock into your BASIC programs, through the XIO function. The TIME command is used to display the time and date on the first line, or to turn the time and date line off. TREE is used to display all the directory paths found on the disk or under the specified directory and optionally lists the files found in each directory, in alphabetical order.
Finally, the last one-UNERASE. It restores files that have been accidentally erased, but used only if they are still intact. If new files have been created since the desired file was last erased, part of the erased file might have been overwritten, and, therefore, lost. This function is very similar to UNDELETE which is available in TOP-DOS (Reviewed in issue 7). There, I said that this command alone is worth the price of the disk; I still say that.
I really enjoy SpartaDOS, and know that if you purchase it, you will not be disappointed. One of the special Utilities that impressed me was that of SPCOPY. This has an excellent single or multiple file program that uses the three programmable keys at the right side of the computer. SpartaDOS gives you 713 sectors of 128 bytes each for your use, compared to 707 sectors of 125 bytes with Atari DOS 2.0; that's quite a difference.
You can buy SpartaDOS by itself for $39.95, or get both SpartaDOS and the 1050 UltraSpeed Doubler for only $69.95. If you have a 1050, this is a fantastic deal. It is fully compatible with all software, and allows a whole lot more disk space. You are also able to run the Ultra Speed software, which makes your drive much faster. Tom Harker from ICD guarantees both SpartaDOS and the 1050 US Doubler, and will try to take care of any problems you may have.