BOOK REVIEW: ATARI ST FLOPPY UND HARDDISK by Richard Karsmakers
Finally I was able to buy this book that I wanted to have right
from the beginning - a truly comprehensive book that covers most
there is to know about floppy-and harddisk.
It is written by Data Becker's Stefan Dittrich, Uwe Braun and
Axel Schramm. ISBN 3-89011-132-7. In Germany, this book costs DM
59,-, whereas it costs 69 Dutch guilders in Holland (it can e.g.
be bought at Commedia, Eerste Looiersdwarsstraat 12, 1016 VM,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands). It is over 500 pages in size
(hardback). The disk to the book (that cannot be missed, but that
I still haven't been able to obtain) costs an additional DM 29,-.
Although there most surely are things that are not covered in
this book (that WILL be covered in my book once it is launched at
around the summer holidays), one can easily say that most things
are in fact covered very well. The authors succeed in explained
quite advanced things as clearly as possible, even to the
moderate reader who doesn't have much knowledge about the disk
drive. The book is definately much better than "Das Floppy
Arbeitsbuch" from Sybex, but the Data Becker book e.g. doesn't
explain the MFM, etc. as comprehensively as Sybex' book.
The overall impression of the book is very good, although it is
evident that the authors haven't worked together close enough -
for example, one of them starts explaining the track format
(including GAPs, SYNCs, etc.) which one of the other athors does
again a bit further on in the book. Also, the layout people here
and there forgot to take away remarks, and here and there
published the right listing on the wrong place of the book.
The book starts explaining how to work with file commands in
Basic (unfortunately, the whole book is written for ST Basic
instead of GfA Basic, although conversion might actually be not
so difficult), Pascal, C and even Fortran (!). I don't really
think the latter will help many people, but I suppose that's why
the authors kept this part quite small.
In Chapter 3, "Datenstrukturen", they start explaining what is
present in any book about the subject, mostly for the sake of
completeness - disk format, bootsector setup, etc. The only thing
that is included in this chapter that is not included in most
other floppy-books is the explanation of the .PRG relocation
table and hard disk formats.
From Chapter 4 all hell starts breakin' loose. They explain how
the WD1772 FDC works, explain everything there's to know with
regard to floppy-commands and the actual track format of the
floppy. You sure have to be concentrated to be able to grab hold
of all information that's offered, but if you do, this chapter
gives quite a lot of it.
On page 180, one suddenly finds two tables that don't belong
there. Later, I found out that they should be located at pages
452 and 454. It just might be handy to know. I think that a book
that answers to several ultra-high standards, should at least be
looked through before publication to avoid things like these. The
only things you now find on pages 452 and 454 are remark for the
layout people to include some files there (which must have
included the tables that are now located on page 180).
Chapter 5 covers the harddisk. All harddisk commands are
explained, and some very handy utilities are offered as well
(like a harddisk partition examining utlity and a tool to print
out the complete directory of a harddisk). Of course, as with all
listings contained in the book, they are published in the form of
a machine language source listing as well as a Basic loader
Chapter 5, for the sake of completeness, covers the RAMdisk
concept, together with - again - several programs.
The longest listing you've ever seen (machine language source) is
included in chapter 7 - a diskmonitor. It is called "The Little
Diskeditor", and the source is over 110 pages in length (!). For
those who don't want to type all that stuff in, Appendix 1
features a Basic loader - 'only' over 1000 DATA lines on about 25
pages. But this diskeditor surely knows a lot of stunning
options: It features GAP-and SYNC manipulation, FAT examining,
and much, much more.
Chapter 8 is the most interesting chapter, however, in which the
reader can find several machine language subroutines that he can
readily use in his own Basic programs - the most stunning program
is a FDC interface program that allows you to access every single
FDC command from Basic (!). That source listing is 14 pages in
length (Basic loader only a bit over 3 pages). Now, it's
theoretically possible to write a copy program that copies
everything in BASIC!!
Conclusion: Atari ST Floppy und Harddisk is, after "ST Intern",
the best book from Data Becker, especially for the floppy-freak.
I think it does offer a bit too little information about the
harddisk, but then, who cares for that?
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.