Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 7, NO. 2 / JUNE 1988

For 8-bit Atari

Power Tools

Programmer and power users' bonanza!


The Australian SuperDOS is compatible with Atari DOS 2.0 while providing much of the power of costlier disk operating systems. The user interface is virtually the same as Atari DOS, so you'll be comfortable right away.

SuperDOS supports all three densities 80K single, 130K dual/enhanced and 180K true double. Flexible RAMdisk support is provided for the Atari 130XE and upgrade formats including 128K and 256K Axlon, 256K XL and 320K XE.

SuperDOS is also RAM-resident. When you exit BASIC to DOS, the SuperDOS menu pops up instantly. This is nice, but SuperDOS also has the highest LOMEM value of all Atari disk operating systems -- with SuperDOS, Atari BASIC has only 26,077 bytes free instead of the usual 32,274. However, this can be remedied on XL/XE systems with a RAMdisk.

SuperDOS can be customized easily with its auxilliary DOS configuration menu, AUX.SYS. It supports four floppy disk drives and assumes that any drive reference above 4 is a RAMdisk. The AUX menu provides direct access to the nuts and bolts of SuperDOS. You can change parameters such as file buffers (which control the number of disk files that can be open) and drive buffers (the number of floppy drives connected to your computer).

Patching the disk with a sector editor can be clumsy and difficult to learn, but AUX provides a TRACE AND PATCH feature that lets you step through a file sector by sector. Then you can patch the file to skip a bad sector. You'll lose the data in that sector, but you can still access the rest of the file.

An automatic RAMdisk can be enabled or disabled from the AUX menu. SDUP, the SuperDOS utilities program, can be made resident for Atari 400/800 owners. By making it non-resident, XL/XE owners will retain SDUP on their RAMdisk, though it will still appear resident. This provides more working RAM in BASIC and Assembler.
Superbin, a binary file loader that lets you make bootable machine language game disks, can also be written to disk from the AUX menu. And a menu loader for BASIC programs, Superbas, is also provided.


Here are some of the differences between SuperDOS and Atari DOS:

CARTRIDGE returns control to an external cartridge. Internal Atari BASIC on an XL or XE computer can be toggled on or off. Turning it off gives you 8K more RAM for buffer space when disk files are copied.

COPY works just like Atari DOS 2.0 and 2.5, except that SuperDOS automatically determines the density of the source and destination disks, even on a single-drive system. Wild card characters in filenames are allowed, and you can even copy from disk to cassette.

RENAME: In Atari DOS, you've got problems if you rename JOHN.DAT to MATT.DAT when the disk already has a file called MATT.DAT. SuperDOS doesn't allow this. Also, you can rename files using wild cards.

FORMAT. SuperDOS is "density-smart" all the time, whereas many other multi-density disk operating systems must be told what the density of a disk is. You can also format RAMdisks with SuperDOS, specifying their density.

SuperDOS FORMAT also allows "skewed" sector formatting for Supermax drives. Skewed sector disks read and write much faster than standard format disks (while Atari DOS 2.0 and 2.5 can still read and write them). However, I'm aware of no such animal as a Supermax drive in the United States.

DUP DISK gives the option of formatting the destination disk. SuperDOS also lets you specify starting and ending sectors for a partial disk copy. DUP DISK doesn't copy empty sectors and it gives an option to retry if it finds a bad sector. Copying sectors to and from a RAMdisk is allowed if the RAMdisk is initialized to the same density.

RESTORE: When you delete a file, it will still show up in the directory, preceded by a minus sign. This is the SuperDOS way of telling you that the file has been removed-but can be recovered. Accidentally deleted files can be restored with this command if they haven't been overwritten.

VERIFY of disk write can be turned on or off. Turning it off disables the read-after-write that all disk operating systems use to verify the integrity of your disk files as they're created. This also speeds up disk-writing significantly, but you might write a bad file without knowing it.

When you first boot SuperDOS, you can print the manual (if BASIC is installed) or exit to SuperDOS. If you exit, the first thing to do is format and write a new SuperDOS master disk, then reboot with it. I've found that exiting the original SuperDOS master disk to BASIC, then trying to return to DOS, locks up the computer, but I'm certain this is just a quirk with the documentation printing utility since all my subsequent SuperDOS disks had no problems.

Another minor glitch is that whenever I run a cartridge from SuperDOS after loading a VBI routine, it gets disabled. However, if the VBI routine is hooked in from an AUTORUN file and the SuperDOS menu never comes up, it works fine.

If you want a disk operating system more powerful than Atari DOS 2.0S or 2.5 and more compatible than SpartaDOS or Atari DOS 3, you'll be pleased with SuperDOS. If you need the additional power of subdirectories, --you'll need to get SpartaDOS or MyDOS, or wait for Atari's upcoming ADOS. If you want support for more than four floppy disks and one RAMdisk, again SuperDOS won't do it. But if you're looking for a powerful, forgiving, user friendly, density-smart DOS, SuperDOS is super, especially at its low price.--MATTHEW RATCLIFF

$20, 24K disk. Technical Support, 205 Peoria Street, Daly City, CA 94014.



FlashBack! is ICD's hard disk backup for 8-bit Atari power users. But you don't really need a hard disk to find this software valuable. FlashBack! also backs up your RAMdisks and floppies quickly and easily. And files can be restored selectively with simple file copy commands, or with the package's RESTORE.COM utility. ICD's SpartaDOS is required because FlashBack! uses the time and date stamps of your files for reference.

The main menu has seven options. SOURCE lets you specify a source drive, an optional subdirectory path to back up, and the destination drive. If you entered a subdirectory for the source, it will be duplicated on the destination drive.

FORMAT can be specified for your first backup job. Before writing the first destination disk, FlashBack! will prompt you for disk parameters, such as those found in XINIT (with support for double density-and ultra-speed, of course). This eliminates the need for a separate disk format process.

With SINCE DATE, only files modified since a given date will be copied. For this reason, accurate time and date stamping on your files is very important.

When all your options are set you can press [START] to begin the backup or [Q] to quit and return to DOS. FlashBack! creates a subdirectory on the source disk the first time you back up a particular disk, which contains a list of all the files backed up. If FlashBack! requires more than one floppy disk for archiving your files, it will tell you when to swap disks.

RESTORE.COM lets you restore from your backup floppies to the original (or another destination). You can also decide, file by file, what will be restored. You can load and run files from the backup, or copy them as you would any other SpartaDOS disk. Unexpected problems may crop up when you attempt to load a file split across two backup disks, but RESTORE.COM can retrieve these files.

I use FlashBack! for daily backups of my RAMdisks, both in the computer's RAM and on my ICD 1 Mb Multiple I/O Board. I have the ICD R-Time 8 cartridge clock, so time and date stamps are always correct. After a long night's work, I just run FlashBack! and specify the previous day's date as the reference time for backups. I don't have to remember which files I've edited,or perform unnecessary file copies. FlashBack! does all the work reliably and quickly.

I haven't found any real bugs in FlashBack!, but it seems memory-hungry. If I exit MAC/65 to SpartaDOS and execute FlashBack!, my 800XL will lock up. But if I remove the cartridge and turn off built-in BASIC, FlashBack! runs fine. Also, FlashBack! occasionally reports an unexpected error at the very end of the backup process. It makes me nervous, but ICD told me I could ignore it and that the software is being updated to eliminate this error report.

Overall, FlashBack! is very fast and reliable. it automates my file backups a great deal. It has helped me establish the wise habit of regularly archiving important work. -MATTHEW RATCLIFF

$29.95, 48K disk, requires SpartaDOS. ICD Inc., 1220 Rock Street, Rockford, IL 61101. (815) 968-2228.



ICD's SpartaDOS Tool Kit is a powerful utility package of eight valuable command files for your SpartaDOS system disks. Users of the powerful SpartaDOS disk operating system will love the increased productivity of their Atari systems.

Previously, the only way to change a directory name was to delete it and recreate it, but RENDIR.COM lets you change the directory name without affecting the files in that subdirectory.

How many times have you done an erase with the wrong template, trashing hours of valuable work? VDEL will ask for a confirmation prompt before deleting each file. if you enter a template for VDEL that might remove the wrong files, you have a second chance to prevent the demolition of important work.

When you can't find a file, WHEREIS locates it, searching all subdirectories. it allows wild cards, listing any file templates meeting your specifications, along with the complete directory path. If you use several subdirectories, especially on a hard drive, WHEREIS can keep you from tearing your hair out.
SpartaDOS Tool Kit screen
ICD's 1 Mb Multi I/O Board provides the equivalent of 5.6 double-density RAMdisks, printer spooler, RS232 interface, printer interface and hard drive interface. The MIO must be reconfigured every time it is powered up. Hard drive owners have no problem there, since the MIO ROMs automatically load configuration data off the drive at boot time. Now MIOCFG lets you save and store the MIO configuration on floppy disks, eliminating the manual setup procedure every time the MIO is powered up.

SORTDIR modifies the disk directory so you get a neat, tidy listing every time. Sort priority can be set by filename, type, size, or creation date. Any of these can be modified with the X flag, which reverses the sort.

Once you know all the commands, control of DOS goes much faster than using a menu interface. But if you want a menu for SpartaDOS, DOSMENU will suit your needs. It has the familiar look and feel of Atari DOS 2 and 2.5, with additional commands for the advanced features of SpartaDOS.

If you want your Atari to look and feel more like an IBM PC, just fire up COMMAND. You'll never get lost five levels deep in subdirectories any more. First, it gives you a directory path prompt. You can place 20 macro key definitions in a COMMAND.BAT file, giving you up to 20 different character strings executed automatically with [CONTROL] [SHIFT] key combinations.

You can place all your favorite BASIC or MAC/65 keywords in macro files, vastly improving your productivity. COMMAND adds screen color controls (COLOR BLACK, etc.), a COLD start command, HELP, PATH (subdirectory nesting is added to the drive prompt) and IBM mode. IBM mode kicks in some extra buffering features, allowing you to call up all or part of your last command line, edit it and re-enter it.

If a disk goes bad, I usually have a backup ready, but if not, then DISKRX provides the tools to repair and recover valuable data on a damaged disk, floppy or hard drive. The SpartaDOS Tool Kit is an affordable, high power utility package. I highly recommend it. - MATTHEW RATCLIFF

$29.95, 48K disk, requires SpartaDOS. ICD Inc., 1220 Rock Street, Rockford, IL 61101. (815) 968-2228.



BASIC Turbocharger is an excellent book/disk collection of machine language routines for your BASIC programs-more than 160 routines in all. And the source code is available on an optional disk.

These routines load and save pictures in most of the popular formats, including compressed Micro Illustrator. They support Player/Missile Graphics, every Atari graphics mode, scrolling pictures, printer dumps and Display List Interrupt color changes. They move memory, invert, search and compare it, manipulate bits and, of course, double PEEKs and double POKEs.

The number routines convert between decimal, binary and hexadecimal numbers and do some fancy array manipulations, including search, sort and sum. They also provide a non-repeating random number generator-great for card games-and a proper delay timer so you won't use empty FOR-NEXT loops.

There are a lot of joystick routines, which I thought were unnecessary -- until I tried them. They replace several IF-THEN statements and really speed up a program. This greatly improves the "feel" of the joystick.

BASIC Turbocharger will save you a lot of code, speed up your programs and make them more compact. It also makes difficult things easy, like putting text on a graphics screen or invoking the Atari Rainbow.

Each routine is a self-contained string of relocatable code-there's no jumping into the BASIC cartridge or the operating system. This means the routines work with almost any BASIC, including BASIC XL, BASIC XE, MicroSoft BASIC and TURBO BASIC XL. The strings of machine language code are inserted into your program and called with the USR statement. Most routines are less than one line long.

All routines are listed in the fine instruction manual. You could just type them in, but they're machine language and contain all those inverse graphic characters which drive us nuts when we type in the Antic listings. Fortunately, Alpha Systems includes a disk containing the routines.

The routines are contained in 120 short demonstrations, which makes it easy to learn how to use them, but hard to include them in your programs. First, you LOAD the sample program, renumber the lines you need and LIST those lines to a disk file. Then LOAD your program and ENTER the file with the machine language routine. It's tedious and cumbersome.

For my personal use, I created a disk with the routines LISTed to files. The routines are grouped by category, and each file has less than 100 lines, so all my programs now start at line 100. Whenever I need a routine, I ENTER that file, renumber the lines I need and delete the rest. It's much quicker.

Building that disk was time consuming, and Alpha Systems should include one in the package. It's the only weak point in an overall excellent product.--CHARLES CHERRY

$24.95, 48K disk. Source code $10 with main package, $15 separately. Alpha Systems, 1012 Skyland Drive, Macedonia, OH 44056. (216) 467-5665.



Enhancements to BASIC is a comprehensive, self-contained program containing powerful tools for DOS, editing and debugging. The disk comes with three versions. While writing a program, you'll want the full 8K implementation unless the program is very large, in which case you'll need the 4K half implementation. For serious debugging, you'll want the TRACE version.

Enhancements to BASIC only works with Atari BASIC. In fact, during a one-time initialization process, it copies your BASIC into itself and modifies it. After initialization, it loads without using the computer's BASIC.

The added features are impressive: listing, renaming and cross-referencing variables; searching for variables, statements and strings; auto-numbering, renumbering and deleting blocks of lines; scrolling forward and backward in a program listing; 14 macro soft keys (seven of them programmable); a numeric keypad on the keyboard; and number entry in decimal or hexidecirnal.

DOS functions provided by Enhancements to BASIC include directory, lock, unlock, rename, erase, format and run at address. Error messages are in English instead of cryptic numbers.

TRACE is a powerful debugging tool, common to many languages but missing from Atari BASIC. It lists each line as it's executed, making it easy to pinpoint the offending line and correct it. Tracing on an Atari is a special challenge. The graphics modes frustrate any simple listing tech- niques. However, the trace in Enhancements to BASIC lets you list the whole line or only the line number, list the lines to the screen or to a printer, and turn the trace on or off while the program is running.

Unfortunately, you can't view the trace and the program operation simultaneously (except by tracing to a printer). Carefully turning the trace on and off in the program can help, but it's still hard to see what's happening and why at the same time. The trace and the program should share the same screen, at least in Graphics 0.

The only other serious drawback to Enhancements to BASIC is that the disk is copy-protected. I could never use a language without backups. of course, if your disk does get trashed, you lose only the enhancements; you can continue to program with BASIC. And you can still run your programs.

Finally, programmers should consider that many of the features of Enhancements to BASIC are available in other BASIC dialects. Some programmers may prefer to change dialects, rather than upgrade Atari BASIC. --CHARLES CHERRY

$24.95, 48K disk. Available by mail only. Hathaway Electronics, P.O. Box 168, Rices Landing, PA 15357. (412) 592-5981.



BASIC View is a very good debugger for BASIC programs and really does provide a view into the workings of your program. When you RUN a program, a listing scrolls past and lines are highlighted as they are executed. It is the most graphic trace function I have ever seen. You really get a feel for the flow of the program.

The BASIC View screen is divided into three areas: the program listing, a display of two variables and a menu of BASIC View commands. It's very easy to use, and most functions are controlled with a joystick. The variable display shows the values of two variables or addresses.

The menu has commands to scroll the listing forward and back, RUN the program, RUN from a given line, set a stop line and set a count for the stop line. For instance, you can set the program to RUN from line 120 and stop on line 1560 during the fourth time through a loop. The speed at which the program RUNS is adjustable (very useful) and you can jump back and forth between the program screen and the BASIC View screen.
BASIC View screen
Although BASIC View is the best debugger for Atari BASIC programmers, it's not perfect. The biggest problem is that it doesn't show enough information. Two variables aren't enough: you need at least four. While you can select one of the variables, BASIC View displays the one declared next as the other one. Of course, by declaring variables carefully you can pair them up usefully. But that's not very flexible or easy, and a debugger is supposed to make things easy.

Other weak spots are minor: The joystick response is a bit sluggish. I would like a few more lines for the listing, because the menu takes too much space. And the program always returns to the first line when you go to the list mode.

BASIC View takes up 12K at the top of memory. If you are reasonably attentive with your custom display lists, character sets and POKES, you should find no conflicts in any program that fits. BASIC View will help you under stand what your program is doing and find where it is going astray. Since it makes the program flow so clear, it's also a great teaching aid for my programming classes.--CHARLES CHERRY

$19.95, 48K disk, AP0192. The Catalog, 544 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (800) 234-7001.


QuickCode is an amazing collection of macros for the MAC/65 assembler. It turns Assembly Language into a high level, BASIC-like language. Of course, it retains the speed, flexibility and compactness of assembly code. The manual claims that you don't need to know Assembly Language, just learn to operate MAC/65 and program as you would in BASIC. That strikes me as an exaggeration, but not a very big one.

Program control macros include GOTO, GOSUB, RETURN, WAIT, TRAP and multi-line IF-THEN-ELSE-ENDIF, as well as the multi-choice CASE, ON-GOTO and ON-GOSUB. Loops include FOR-NEXT, DO-OD, LOOP-ENDLOOP and WHILE-ENDWHILE.

QuickCode has full variable support, including one and two dimension numerical and string arrays. It also has a special high-speed "indexed string" data type. Macros exist to transfer data from one type to another.



QuickCode has better Player/Missile Graphics support than any other language, even Advan BASIC. It also has support for Vertical Blank Interrupts.

There are even more goodies here, but I'll leave them for you to discover. The only downsides to this package are lack of support for floating point math (it only supports integers-see the Floating Point Package below) and a manual which is organized alphabetically instead of grouping commands by function. For instance, if you don't know that REPORT resets TRAP, how can you find it?

All in all, this is a fabulous package. I wish it had been available years ago. It would have saved me weeks of coding.--CHARLES CHERRY

$34.95, 48K disk, requires MAC/65. Stardust Software, PO. Box 33192, Indianapolis, IN 46203. (317) 788-7403.



The Floating Point Package is another collection of macros for the MAC/65 assembler that provides easy access to floating point mathematics with BASIC-like commands.

Functions supported include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, logarithms (base a and base 10), exponentiation, inverse logs, array management, input, print, compare, and branch and floating point-integer-ASCII conversions. It also has a trigonometry library for sine, cosine, tangent, cotangent, secant, cosecant and radian-degree conversions.

If, like me, you have avoided using Assembly Language for programs which required floating point, this is a salvation. Those floating point programs usually need the increased speed of assembly language more than any others. While you may never use all of the functions, you'll rejoice at the simplicity of effortless addition and subtraction.

The Floating Point Package is a great companion to QuickCode (above). Together they form the fastest, most powerful high level language available on the Atari. But you'll want a RAMdisk to speed assembly of these monsters.

The Floating Point Package comes bundled with Extended DDT, which I think is the best debugger for the Atari. The amount of information it gives is overwhelming. Together, these two are the best value ever offered to Assembly language programmers (with the possible exception of MAC/65 itself).--CHARLES CHERRY

$19.95, 48K disk, requires MAC/65 cartridge, AP0189. The Catalog, 544 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (800) 234-7001.

DOS 4.0

DOS 4.0 (QDOS) is an easy-to-use, full-featured, well-documented disk operating system. It supports all of the same XIO and direct DOS commands under BASIC as DOS 2. While the QDOS file format is not compatible with DOS 2.0, the disk has programs to convert both DOS 2 and DOS 3 files to QDOS. You can't convert to DOS 2, however. (For this reason, Antic cannot accept programs or articles in DOS 4.0 format.-ANTIC ED)

The initial menu displays the first 16 .COM files including Disk Utilities (DISKUTIL) -- and the options to run a cartridge or get a disk directory. The DISKUTIL screen is similar to the DOS 2 menu, but you can't redirect a disk directory to the printer or a disk file, and there are three new commands: Configure Drive, Merge DCF, and Identify Mode.

Configure Drive lets you set up your drives individually as to density and how many sides. (All configurations work fine on Atari's new XF551 drive.) Merge DCF lets you add new types of drives to your system. And Identify Mode determines the format of the disk in the drive.

The QDOS Duplicate File function lets you copy between disks of different densities. And it can copy as many files as available memory permits in one pass. However, once erased, a QDOS file can't be recovered.

With one utility GOBASIC, you can automatically LOAD and RUN a BASIC program, or create a file which will do so. Another utility, REDIRECT, changes the logical drive number of any disk drive you specify. Also included is a 100-screen online manual (about 26 printed pages) which alone is worth the cost of QDOS.--RICH TIETJENS

$10, 48K disk, PD067. The Catalog, 544 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (415) 957-0886.