A Pro Looks At ProDOS 1

A Pro looks at ProDOS

Number One in a series


Originally published in Waukegan Apple Users Group (WAUG) newsletter Vol.2 No.7 July 1984

Reprinted with minor edits in Computer Trader Magazine (CTM) and Canada's Maple Orchard

Distributed by International Apple Corps (IAC) disks

It was such a great sounding title, I had to use it.

I am one of those in the club that uses their Apple Computer to pay the bills.  So I guess I can call myself a professional, sounds better than rabid computer freak.  I work for a software firm in Highland Park that publishes Apple software.  So for my paycheck’s sake, I hope that some of the fruits of my labors is on some of the disks you own.  As an employee of a significant (my employer would say major) software development firm, I sometimes get to see a manufacturers product before they are released. So I have been using ProDOS for at least a year longer than most of you.

I think ProDOS will eventually lay DOS 3.3 in the grave.  DOS 3.3 will finally go the way of DOS 3.2 and the very short-lived DOS 3.1.  To a lot of you, switching from DOS 3.3 will make as much sense as switching to the metric measuring system from the English method of measuring.  Statistically, most of you never used DOS 3.2 or DOS 3.1.  A rising percentage of you will not learn DOS 3.3 too well because your new Apple came with ProDOS packaged with the disk drives.  To the very latest Apple owners, DOS 3.3 is something you have to pay to get instead of having it included.  Somehow though, most people are not as excited about ProDOS as I am.  Most Apple programs that run under DOS 3.3 will not run under ProDOS.  According to Apple there is some absolutely astronomical number of programs available on DOS 3.3 and more coming out everyday.  So why then, come out with a new operating system?

I have used DOS 3.3 since it came out.  I learned to imbed D$=CHR$(4) inside my programs.  I learned to do disk I/O commands on it.  I learned how to read data directly off the disk using a disk diagnostic tool and interpreting the sectors directly.  I have learned to interface the poorly documented disk file manager to Applesoft Basic to get improved data transfer rates.  I have gone from knowing as much as the new Apple owner does when they open the box and first reading the owners manual to a very thorough working knowledge of DOS 3.3.

DOS 3.3 is a tinkertoy operating system compared to ProDOS.  I feel the ‘Pro’ stands for professional and is deserved.  That does not mean it is a perfect operating system, no way.  But it is consistent with Apple policy of improving the product for the end user.  But right now, Apple has produced a sleeper.  Corporate Apple could not turn their backs on the massive software legacy of DOS 3.3.  But Dos 3.3 has many shortcomings, it is designed to handle small storage devices.  DOS 3.3 can handle disk drives larger than the minifloppys, but less than 8” disk drive, and nowhere near the size of Winchester hard disks.  Some companies have had Apples interfaced to 10 megabyte Winchesters and eight inch floppies, but they all had limitations and special dodges they employed to "trick" DOS 3.3 to deal with them. Special versions of programs are needed to adequately utilize them.

ProDOS will eventually replace DOS 3.3 since it will allow the same program to run on a minifloppy drive and on a multi-megabyte device, eliminating the costly and tedious programming of special versions of a program to utilize different sized storage media.

Larger storage devices are becoming commonplace in business and some homes and you should be able to expand your system without having to throw away your old software and buy new because of the limitations of programs designed under DOS 3.3.

In order to deal with the limitations of DOS 3.3 and to provide an operating system that could compete in the marketplace, ProDOS was designed.  Actually, systems programmers, (persons who work on operating systems as a program create and maintain) have always known that DOS 3.3 could be improved upon, and worked to achieve that goal.  Apple decided to promote ProDOS to the software developers and advance copies were made available to companies such as the one I work for.  It is nice when you have a technological edge over your competition.  But being what is known as a BETA test site has somewhat the duality of being a pioneer; Going where no one has gone before, or being face down with arrows in your back.

I had made my own wish list on what I wanted to see in Apples new operating system, Apple has not been far from what I wanted.

I will try to provide a continuing series of articles on how ProDOS is organized and how it compares to DOS 3.3.  Like it or not, ProDOS will become the prevalent Apple operating system.  For you DOS 3.3 users, I will try to relate the two operating systems and help you to make the conversion to ProDOS easy.  I do not wish to present a case for a headlong conversion to ProDOS, it will take years for ProDOS to replace DOS 3.3 as the Pro-fessional Disk Operating System of choice.

Since I am a professional programmer rather than a professional writer, I cannot promise a schedule of the articles I wish to write about ProDOS. I will try to answer your questions about ProDOS at the monthly user meetings, within this column in the newsletter, and on the Waukegan Library Computer Bulletin Board.

—Curt Rostenbach


E-mail curt@rostenbach.com