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Classification: OS Enhancement Programmer: Robert Rockefeller
Publisher: Loadstar 128, Issue #10 Year: 1991
Files: 128shell.D64 - 128 Shell Manual (txt).zip

When I first found this RAM disk / DOS enhancement software, the first thing that popped into my head was CP/M. I can understand that, when the C128 was in development, CP/M was growing in popularity as a disk operating system. So, including support for it would have helped make the C128 an affordable office PC. But, by the time the C128 hit the market, CP/M was scuttled by Microsoft and it's appeal faded. Also, even though it does run on the C128, it's severely handicapped.

But, then working with something like 128 Shell, I wonder what could have become of the C128 if Commodore would had forgotten about CP/M and just developed something specifically for the C128. Okay, I know that 128 Shell isn't a complete OS, but just from the handful of tools that has been written for it (mostly to help develop BASIC programs), it just seems to me that there was so much potential in the C128 that was lost because of a lack of understanding, by software developers, on what the C128 could actually do.

Anyway, enough of that. Let's just say, I'm impressed with what Robert Rockefeller was able to provide with such a simple and light-weight program and collection of “apps”. 128 Shell's syntax is quite easy to understand and use, when working within C128 BASIC. Here are some of the highlights and how I use it on a regular basis.

I've included a link to the complete user text that was published in Loadstar, exported to a TXT file. There is a lot of great information in it, which explains in detail on how to use 128 Shell. To get the OS running, all you have to do is DLOAD “128 SHELL” and then RUN. You are presented with the following message, indicating that the system is loaded and ready to go:

128 Shell LOADed

Once up and running, you have a RAM disk of approx. 57,000 bytes in size and a selection of COMmands at your disposal. If there comes a point that you have to press the C128's reset button for what ever reason, you can re-initialize 128 Shell by entering SYS4870 at the command line.

Similar to CP/M and MS-DOS, commands for 128 Shell exist as executable files (programs) on the disk. To use them, all you need to do is type in the name of the command and a variable, if required. For a list of the commands that come already provided, just do a DIRECTORY of the disk. Anything with the predecessor of COM. is a command file. You also have the ability of writing your own commands and doing so is covered in the manual.

The thing to note here, is that you need to have the disk with the commands in the disk drive. Or, you can have the commands loaded up in the RAM disk, which is what I do. To copy a file from the disk to the RAM disk, you use the LD command, like this: LD “COM.TYPE”. This will copy the TYPE command into the RAM disk for easy access. 128 Shell has the smarts to check both the floppy disk and the RAM disk for COMmand files. You can specify the order of the disk drives to check, like RAM, drive 8, then drive 9, etc. This is covered in the manual, as well.

Now, having to re-LOAD the commands you want to work with to the RAM disk every time you start up 128 Shell can be a bit of a chore. But, you can make this task a lot easier and faster by creating a “SUBMIT” script that automates the process. According to the manual, SUBMIT here works pretty much the same as SUBMIT under CP/M. You basically create a text file that contains the commands you wish the shell to perform and give it a SUB. parameter in it's file name. Then, use the SUBMIT command to do the transfer all at once. (Remember .BAT files in MS-DOS?)

So, in this example, I create a text file called SUB.STND and in it, list the commands I wish to copy from floppy disk to the RAM disk. To execute it, I enter in SUBMIT “STND” and let the script run. To see what is stored in the RAM disk, I enter in a simple DIR command.

128 Shell Submit

To display the contents of a SEQ/text file, you use the TYPE command. Here's the contents of my SUB.STND file that I used in my SUBMIT command:

Type the contents of a SEQ file

128 Shell also comes with a nice text/SEQ file editor, too. Just type in the command EDT to launch it. If there's an existing file on disk that you want to edit, add the file name to the end: EDT “SUB.STND”.

You're not limited to just 128 Shell commands in SUBMIT scripts, either. You can also use regular Commodore DOS commands and even include command line variables. For example, I created a simple script that will SCRATCH a file and then SAVE a new version of it from BASIC memory. It does the same thing as the Commodore's @SAVE command, but maybe a little safer.

Type the contents of a SEQ file

In this example, $1 is the variable for the file name I wish to replace on the disk. To save an updated version of the program I may have in BASIC memory, I simply have to type SUBMIT “RESAVE” “TESTPRG” to wipe the old file from disk and save the current version of it in memory.

You can also copy any BASIC program over to the RAM disk and RUN them from there. In doing so, you save yourself from having to wait for the programs to load from the disk drive. LOADing from the RAM disk is just about instantaneous. To run a program from the RAM disk, you simply type in RUN“PROG-NAME”,U7.

Mar 7th, 2023 Update!

I've recently added the SHELL COPY command to the disk image. This was an additional 128 Shell command that was published in Loadstar 128, Issue 13. It's a really easy to use disk and file copier for the 128 Shell OS. To use it, just enter the command CPY at the prompt, after 128 Shell is running.

There's many other commands available in 128 Shell to help you with your BASIC programming; I've just scratched the surface here. But, I think you can see how, with some creative programming done by skilled developers, the C128 had the potential of being a powerful office PC without the need of CP/M or other third party operating system. It's just too bad that such an opportunity was missed.

For a quality published book of the user guide for 128 Shell, check out my Lulu page, HERE...

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unseen128/128shell.txt · Last modified: 2023/11/05 03:04 by David