The Beginning ///

System Utilities: Another View

By Richard and Lavona Rann

(with a tad of editing by Dave Ottalini)

(Originally pubished in On Three Magazine February, 1987)

 This month we will discuss how to use System Utilities and why they are an important tool. This column is designed to help you develop some needed skills and knowledge about the why's and how's of mnny computer concepts as they apply to the Apple ///. By stepping through procedures basic to efficient operation of the Apple ///, the novice user can gain important skills. The intermediate reader will see familiar things in a new light and will gain a fuller understanding of the ///'s capabilities. We will also reveal why things are the way they are and how to use them to your best advantage.

SOS (Sophisticated Operating System, pronounced sauce) is a very powerful operating system which has a lot of the functionality of the operating systems used on much larger computers. It is probably the ///'s most valuable asset. It was also a major factor in the lack of early public acceptance of the ///. Many people didn't understand the value of the flexibility it gives, or how easy it is to learn to use the power of SOS. They wanted a computer to turn on and use as is, just as some people buy a //c so they don't have to worry about cards and slots. (Many of those people will later wish they had the flexibility of a //e.) As a /// user you have a very powerful tool and System Utilities is the master key to that tool. By investing a little time learning about System Utilities, you can learn to access much of the power of the Apple ///. The /// was designed to be flexible and yet not require technically oriented system programmers to do most things. With some practice, a novice /// user can add new devices to his Apple /// such as printers, modems and hard disks; structure his files; and keep track of and reorganize data. Regardless of what function your Apple /// will serve for you, it is important that you become comfortable using System Utilities.

Making Backup Copies

One of the most important aspects of using any computer is making backup copies. System Utilities makes it easy to make copies of diskettes in order to back up your data and programs. There are several reasons why backup copies are needed. First, regardless of what longevity claims are made by the manufacturers of diskettes, all sorts of things can happen to them. Diskettes are sensitive to dust, cold, smoke, heat and, most of all, they are subject to accident. A spilled cup of coffee can ruin a week's work, but even more than that, the computer and its operators can cause accidents. A power surge when the computer is reading or writing can destroy the data on a disk as easily as if the power failed completely. The first time you write over an important file will be very painful if you have not already learned the lesson of backup. It is important to get into the habit of backing up work regularly, and to keep the backup copies in different places, even separate buildings if the data is especially valuable. Each year, major corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars on vaults, fire protection systems and separate buildings to keep their data safe.

Remember, a computer starts out being worth only the purchase price. Every time you use the machine productively something useful is added. It is your data and programs that have real worth. These have value in relation to the time and work it took to collect and/or produce them, and often additional value accrues with time. Data takes on a life and value of its own. If it is destroyed, there is usually no way of replacing it exactly. Your only protection is a good backup.

When Do I Need to Back up?

Backup copies should be made as often as practical. Determine this by analyzing what it would cost you to lose everything you've entered since your last backup and comparing the potential loss to the cost of doing exaa backup. Data should be saved to disk several times a day, at least, when work is in process for the whole day. When data is in memory it is vulnerable. It can be destroyed with just the press of a button or the flick of a switch. When it is on a diskette it is a hundred times safer; on two diskettes it is many times safer still. It is wise to copy changed diskette files to another diskette on at least a daily basis. With a hard disk, it may be impractical to back up the whole thing to diskette ever day, but once a week is not too often, especially if only the files that have changes are backed up. You can use System Utilities to back up files, diskettes and parts of large hard disks. If you have a hard disk, an important utility is one like Backup /// which organizes your data and helps in the backup process. We will cover Backup /// in detail in a later column.

Don't forget to keep backup copies of all your programs. While a ruined program disk will usually be replaced by the maker for a nominal fee, sending it in involves loss of time and use of that program. Users of Apple /// software are especially vulnerable as the original companies which produced our software are often not supporting it now. So it is definitely to the user's advantage to build up a library of backup data and money.and programs in order to protect his investment of time and money.

Since the best way to learn is by doing, let's try formatting a diskette and then making a backup copy of System Utilities. We need just two things besides you and your Apple /// for the job. First we will need the System Utilities program to do the copying and we will also need a blank diskette. Since diskettes are not generally sold formatted, we will start the process by formatting a diskette. So boot the System Utilities program. The main menu looks like Figure 1:




Apple /// Utilities Main Menu Version x1.2b

1980,1981, 1982 Apple Computer All Rights Reserved


D - Device handling commands

F - File handling commands

S - System Configuration Program (SCP)

Q - Quit


Press: *? for Help

* is Open Apple

Please select a command: System Configuration Program (SCP)


At the top left of the screen is the name of the disk you booted from, in this case Apple /// Utilities. Next to that is the name of the menu you are viewing, now Main Menu. At the right is the program's version number. Notice at the bottom right of the screen the help prompt. By pressing OPEN-APPLE and ? together, you can summon a screen with added information which aids you in using the program.

The main portion of the screen has a four item menu. Items can be selected by pressing the corresponding letter key and then RETURN, or by moving the highlighted (inverse) area with the arrow keys to highlight your selection and hitting RETURN. Remember that all the RETURN key does is signal the computer that you have given it an instruction and want it to act.

Formatting a Disk

Formatting is a process whereby the computer lays the magnetic bands which will contain the data on a diskette. It also checks the diskette to make sure there are no flaws in the magnetic covering. This process is much like cleaning a book shelf to ready it for a new collection of books, because formatting wipes away anything that is already on that disk.

In the System Utilities Main Menu select D, "Device Handling Commands." The screen changes to the Device Handling Commands Menu. A device is ANYTHING that the Apple /// uses to talk to the outside world. A basic concept underlies that statement. A computer consists of many parts, but at its most basic level it is a collection of circuits and chips. Obviously, it is not very useful for us to have the

computer simply talk to itself. Specialized programs, called DRIVERS, have been written to allow the computer to talk to the outside world and to receive messages. Any program run on the computer can only interact with the outside world via the DRIVERS that are loaded when the computer is booted (purists will note that there is one exception but let's ignore it for now).

System Utilities, being a program, also uses these intermediaries to communicate with us no matter which portion of the program we are using. It is useful to your understanding of the concept of devices if you know that there are two types of devices and are familiar with a few examples. The first type of device is a CHARACTER DEVICE. The console (the DRIVER that handles the input and output from the keyboard and to the screen) is one example of a character device. It acts on characters one at a time. Serial printers are character devices. BLOCK DEVICES are the second type of device and handle information in blocks (collections) of 512 characters at a time. This collection is done by the appropriate driver and is not something that you need to remember. The best examples of block devices are disk drives (floppy and hard disks).

When SOS talks to a disk device, through its driver, it does not really care whether the diskette is removable or not. SOS allows programs to discover and change the name of the VOLUME so other programs and people who need or desire a more specific volume name may change it. This means that to copy a diskette, we basically tell SOS to copy the device. It is not too strange if we remember that the computer deals in information rather than physical machinery. When it copies the device known to it as .D1 (or by the name of the volume in .D1), it is only copying the information it can access at location .D1.

We decided to copy the System Utilities diskette, so let's examine the Device Menu from System Utilities. Using the Device Handling Commands is as easy as it looks, once you are familiar with the general concepts we have discussed. We are going to do it the long way so you will also learn how to format a blank diskette without copying anything to it. Place the blank disk in drive two [ .D2 ]. Now select F, "Format a volume," and press RETURN. The formatting prompt will come up on the lower left:

Format the medium in .D2

The .D2 is the default setting, assuming that most Apple ///'s are configured with two disk drives. Press RETURN, and the cursor moves to the prompt:

With the name [Blank## ]

The program wants you to decide the name of the volume. If no name is given, it will name it with the word BLANK followed by a numeric suffix valued from 00 to 99. Let's name it BLANK 01. Move the cursor with the arrow keys so it is on top of the number in the "Blank##" statement on the screen. Type 01 over the number and press RETURN. When the formatting is complete, "Formatting successful" is displayed on the screen. The diskette in drive two is now a blank, formatted diskette with the volume name of BLANK 01.

The diskette is now ready to be written on by Apple /// programs. It is wise to have a supply of formatted blank diskettes somewhere near your computer. Unless you have a tool like the Desktop Manager's "Disk Manager, these formatted blanks are your best protection against losing data because a program is ready to store something from memory and you don't have a place ready for it (even hard disk users need this as they sometimes run out of space). Most programs do NOT have format options, so having diskettes ready can be very important.

By the way, if the disk (or volume) you ask System Utilities to format is not blank, the formatting will be temporarily stopped and a prompt will appear in the center of the screen: "Is it okay to destroy all the contents of (volume name) ? (Yes/No)." Type Y to continue, but if the material on the diskette is important and needs to be saved the process can be stopped by typing N.


Now let's use the Utilities program to create a backup copy of itself. First, hit ESCAPE to return to the Device Handling Commands Menu. Each time ESCAPE is pressed it moves the program back to the prior decision or menu.



Apple /// Utilities Main Menu Version x1.2b

1980,1981, 1982 Apple Computer All Rights Reserved

C - Copy one volume onto another

R - Rename a volume

F - Format a volume

V - Verify a volume

L - List devices configured

T - set the Time and Date

Press: ESCAPE to exit to Main menu *? for Help.

Please select a command: Copy one volume onto another.


Select C, "Copy one volume onto another" and press RETURN.

The prompt at the bottom of the screen displays:

Copy the volume:

[.D1 ]

To the volume:

With the new volume name:

The cursor is now resting on the "." in front of .D1. We want to copy the System Utilities disk which is already in .D1 to the newly formatted disk in .D2. To accept, just hit RETURN. If you had wanted to copy from a different disk, you would just type in the correct drive number. The period at the beginning of the line indicates that you are giving a device name. If you had wanted to give a volume name, the period would have had to be omitted. (Remember volume names refer to the media rather than the driver/ physical device pair. So the volume name of the diskette we formatted was BLANK01, though its location is .D2).

As soon as you enter RETURN, the brackets ([ ]'s) move down to the next prompt, "To the volume" and the default is given. In this case, the program assumes that it will be .D2. When you hit return again, it gives the default name for the new volume. Since you are copying it, the program guesses that you want to use the same name as that of the original. If so, enter RETURN immediately. If not, enter the new name first and then enter RETURN. Systems Utilities is consistent in highlighting areas for your responses with [ ]'s. This makes it easy to look at a screen and see what is expected of you.

Soon after you hit RETURN on the volume name response, the program checks to see if the device you are copying to is formatted. If not, it will automatically format it and give it the name you requested for the copy. This means that we really did not have to select the Format Option before we came to the Device Copy option. If it has to format the volume, you will see a message in the middle of the screen which says it is formatting. When this is done, it will change to "formatting successful." After the program is certain that a formatted volume is available, it checks to see if previous data is on the volume. If so, a message appears similar to the one mentioned under formatting when a volume has been formatted before. In this case the message is "Destroy old BLANK01 ? [Yes/No]". When you respond with a Y, copying proceeds and a "Copy Successful" message is displayed after the copy is made.

Volume copy is great when a duplicate of an entire diskette is needed. When a copy of only one file on a disk is needed OR when you need to copy a whole volume to another volume of a different size, you will need to use the FILE handling procedures of System Utilities. Files are collections of data which are stored on volumes (normally disks of some type). You can do a wide variety of things with files and groups of files by using System Utilities. To get to the menu containing file handling commands from the Copy Device subsection of the Device Handling Menu, hit escape twice and then use the arrow key to move the inverse area to "F - File handling commands," and press RETURN.

Files and File Handling

Now the top of the screen informs you that you are viewing the "File Handling Commands Menu." On this menu are the several operations which can be performed with files. "C - Copy files" operates almost the same way as its counterpart in the Device section



Apple /// Utilities Main Menu Version x1.2b

1980,1981, 1982 Apple Computer All Rights Reserved

L - List files

C - Copy files

D - Delete files

R - Rename files

M - Make a new subdirectory

W - set Write Protection (lock/unlock)

P - set Prefix


Press: ESCAPE to exit to Main Menu * ? for Help

Please select a command:


but the File section expects you to indicate the whole name and address of a file in some way. In the Device section, we dealt only with whole volumes so the addresses we indicated were simple. It was a lot like sending mail to someone who lives in a single family building, for which a name and street address are enough. When dealing with files, it is like sending something to someone in a large office complex where additional location information (such as a building and/or floor number) is required. This relatively simple concept unfortunately has a name that intimidates many people: Hierarchical File Structure.

The Apple /// was the first microcomputer to have an operating system allowing hierarchical file structure. Since then, every other computer maker has adopted a hierarchical system. Hierarchical structure is almost mandatory with large storage devices. Imagine having hundreds of files each with a distinct name. With SOS, related items can be grouped, and each of those major groups broken down into several smaller groups. In the standard postal mailing address hierarchy, many levels are allowed but are not always necessary. Someone may have an office mailing address composed of Name, Mail Stop, Floor, Building, Street Address, and Country, or one that is much more simple.

Another perfect example of a hierarchical structure is the menu arrangement of the System Utilities options. System Utilities is broken down into four sections, and each of those four sections is broken down further. Formatting a disk as we did above is actually a stepping process, going from the main menu to the Device Handling Commands menu to the actual selection, "Format a Volume."

In microcomputers, the file naming structure works by starting with a device name. We have seen several device names before:.D1, .D2, .PRINTER. A "." precedes a device name and signals to SOS that a device name follows. After the device name, a "/" indicates that the device name has been completed and another name follows. Like the postal system, SOS allows for multiple levels. The levels each have a directory associated with them which keeps track of what is stored at that level. One of the things that happens when we format a VOLUME is that a volume directory is created and written on it. This is the master directory, containing the names and locations of all files and/or directories on the first level of the volume.

Using the post office example, a master directory for a street could include several home addresses (equivalent to files) and an apartment address (equivalent to a subdirectory because instead of being an individual address, it would be another directory, i.e. of apartment numbers). SOS allows many levels of directory names.

Therefore a file name might look like this: .D2/name.l/name.2/name.3.

Each name must start with an alphabetic character and be separated from the previous name by a "r. Individual file or directory names may contain alpha, numeric and "." characters up to a maximum of fourteen after the initial alphabetic character. Upper and lower case letters are treated equivalently; blanks and other special characters are not allowed. The file structures will make much more sense when you actually use them, so let's move on to some practical examples.

Making a Listing ot Files

Let's make sure that the files on the copy of System Utilities are the same as on the original disk. The first thing we want to do is look at the files on the System Utilities disk we booted to start the session. Assuming you are still at the File Handling Command Menu, select L and press RETURN. On the bottom of the screen the cursor highlights an area which says, [.D1 ]. The Utility disk is in drive one, so hit RETURN. The cursor moves to, "List All directory levels." Again you press RETURN. Finally the cursor highlights .CONSOLE" and that is where you want the information displayed, so you press RETURN once more. Systems Utilities DEFAULTS TO THE MOST COMMONLY USED VALUES. In this case it is .D1, to be shown on the console.

Now the screen contains a list of the files on your disk. Yours may be different in some respects from ours but follow along with our example for experience.

The first three files listed are the SOS operating system. Appropriate files with these exact names must be on the first level of a volume or the disk will not boot. Now follow the above procedure with the copy in .D2, but this time you must change the defa;it setting by typing .D2 when the program prompts, "List the directory information of the files:" If the listing is the same then the copy was successful.

A listing of the files on a volume is an important tool. It not only gives the names of the files but also provides some information about each, such as the size of the file and the number of blocks it occupies. [A block is 512 bytes of data.] This becomes important when there is limited space on a disk. SOS will not write on a disk when there is not enough space for the file. The first operation SOS performs in a "write" is to catalogue the space available.

If there is enough space for the file, then SOS creates the directory on the disk telling where to find the file before it transfers the data. This is important to know because if there is a malfunction during a write it is possible that the diskette's directory will be damaged and you will receive error messages when you list the directory in the future. This damage indicates that you should take corrective action to avoid future problems. The simplest way of doing this for a diskette Is to copy all the files to another diskette. NOTE: DO NOT copy the volume with a device copy because it will copy the damaged directory instead of creating a new one.



Apple /// Utilities 8 Sept 86 9:29:11 pm

List Files Command Prefix is /PRO

/Utilities Size Modified Time File type Eof Phys

SOS.KERNEL 43 1-Nov-82 0:00 SOSfile 512 44






6 files listed, 0 blocks available

Press: RETURN to accept ESCAPE to exit to File menu *? for Help

List the directory information of the files:


including All directory levels; sending the listing to the file:



Another important field is "Date and Time." We recommend that you purchase a clock for your /// (Jameco has the correct chip you’ll need). SOS uses the clock to automatically date and time-stamp files every time there is a change. A look at the listing above shows that the SOS.KERNEL and .INTERP files have not been modified. In fact, they are the same files Apple provided with this particular release of SOS, but the SOS.DRIVER file was modified this year. It also shows that we work nights. A look at the date shows us whether this disk has our latest driver file. Date and time also help when we need to select the most recent of a number of files with similar names.

The file type field gives the type of the data stored in the file. In this case there are three SOS files: the operating system, a code file and a data file. This is important because some programs require certain types of files and they will not load the wrong type file. The error message may appear as: "FILE TYPE MIS- MATCH," indicating that the system has been in- structed to load a file not intended for that program. Some of the file types are: Cat, a root directory or subdirectory; Font, a "type" font; and foto, a graphics picture.

Many times listings of files on a diskette are important to print out and keep so you have a written record of what is on a disk or diskette. System Utilities makes it easy to print any listing simply by inserting the name of the printer device as your answer to the prompt, "Send the listing to the File" Type in the device name, for example ".PRINTER". (The name depends on the way your particular system is configured. We have a software spooler, so our printer command is ".SPOOL".) You might want to print a listing to facilitate comparing the contents of two diskettes, as we did earlier. It is much simpler to print out the first listing and have it handy so you can compare it to the second one when it is displayed on the screen.

The File Handling Commands Menu's Option M, "Make a new subdirectory, allows you to set up a new directory "inside" an existing one. You can use this to logically arrange your files. A little time and thought should be put into the way you name and arrange your files. For instance, all files containing letters can be put into a directory (which for example I will name iTRS) with subdirectories for each destination (ONTHREE for one example), and after that maybe the date written would appear in the file name. If you create a LTRS subdirectory on the VOLUME in the .PROFILE device, you can then create an ONTHREE subdirectory within it and store specific letter files in that subdirectory. If you save your letter files under this type of scheme, you can obtain a listing of all the letters you wrote to ONTHREE by using System Utilities, going to the List Files option and typing over the ".D1" default with


System Utilities has several short cuts available io people who want to use them. A few we think worth discussing here are prefix setting, up-arrow and = key options, and the advanced editing feature.

Using the Prefix

The prefix option utilizes SOS's built-in capability of simplifying handling complex addresses. SOS allows you to preset a PREFIX which will be appended to the front of any FILE name you give. Using a prefix is similar to telling a person, "All of the following ad- dresses can be found in the city of Paris in the country of France" and then just repeating names and sueet names. The concept is supported in many Apple /// programs and System Utilities is no exception. If you have been following along with the examples, the current prefix is "UTILITIES" because it was set by default when you booted the disk. That means that if Xou use the copy option and enter the filename SOS.DRIVER", the computer expects to find that file on the volume named UTILITIES. The full address of the file is


System Utilities takes advantage of the prefix by set- ting it for you before it starts and then using it. When you want to override the prefix, you may enter the address via the device name approach ".D1/SOS. DRIVER". In this case the names point to the same address but, if you had changed diskettes in drive one, they would not be the same unless the new volume also had the name UTILITIES.

If you plan to frequently use subdirectories such as the ".PROFILE/LTRS/ONTHREE" example above, it is often worthwhile to use the Change Prefix Option to change it to the subdirectory address. Then when you enter the local file name, the full prefix will be assumed and you will not have to retype it.

Up-Arrow and = Key Options

There are times when you want to copy several files to a new place. It would be tedious copying five different files from one directory to another individually. If you want to copy everything from a directory (or subdirectory) to another place, or delete all entries in the same, it is easily done by using the "=" key, which is used as a wild card. If you want to copy everything in the directory (or subdirectory) just give enough of the address to make it unique (all higher levels not already in the prefix), and follow with the "=". If you want to move some, but not all, of the files there are several options.

If your selection is categorized by some common element in the name of the files, you can use the "=" wildcard as follows. Let's assume that I have 15 letters in my ONTHREE subdirectory, and I used the first three characters of the month's name as the first three characters in the file names when I saved them. Then if I want to do something to all of the September files (copy, delete, change write protection, etc.), I could use "Sep=" as the local file name (smallest portion of the address, as in apartment number). With no prefix set, the entry would be ".PROFILE/LTRS/ONTHREE/SEP=". Only the files in that directory beginning with the letters SEP will be selected.

If there is not a common name to use, all is not lost.

You can enter the appropriate information to get to the correct directory and then press the up-arrow key. In the above example, the entry would be ".PROFILE/LTRS/ONTHREE/" followed by the up-arrow. As soon as the up-arrow is hit, a box appears on the screen containing the names of the entries in the directory. You can then use the up- and down-arrow keys to move between the entries; use the left-and right- arrow keys to select and deselect items, respectively. Each selected item will have an arrow pointing at it after you make your choice. Once you finish selecting the items to be used, hit ESCAPE and RETURN, and the next question is asked.


Finally, the advanced editing option allows you to change your responses and/or defaults without totally retyping them. We already mentioned that the escape key takes you back to prior questions/menus. It also can take you back to the default for an entry after you start to type in the answer. This is handy if you somehow get ahead of yourself and mistakenly hit a key which the program thinks is an attempt to change the default.

If you are typing an answer and realize you typed a bad character, use the arrow keys to move to the character and then enter the replacement. To delete an extra character, just move the cursor to the offending character and hold down the OPEN-APPLE key while moving the right-arrow key one space. You can delete several characters by continuing to hold down the OPEN-APPLE key and striking the right-arrow key once for each character to be deleted.

Characters may be inserted as well. Holding down the OPEN-APPLE key and pressing I puts you into insert mode, so everything you type will be added to where the cursor is. To quit inserting characters, repeat the same key sequence (hold down OPEN- APPLE and I).


The editing features mentioned are really nice for those of you who use System Utilities a lot to do things requiring a relatively large amount of typing. They can save quite a bit of typing but are like shorthand and macros in that they must be used quite a bit to be worth learning.

System Utilities is a very powerful set of tools for anyone who needs to work with an Apple ///. There is one more section to the program which was not covered here: System Configuration.

It is that section which allows you to add, modify and delete

DRIVERS by creating new SOS.DRIVER files on your boot disks so the /// can talk to a variety of devices (usually peripherals) in a number of different ways. It is the most complex part of System Utilities because it can deal with a number of different capabilities and types of drivers. Since this is a critical part of setting up your /// so it will talk to things like your printer, you have probably had some experience with it already.

Nothing in the System Utilities set of tools is innately difficult, so just take your time and try them one at a time. One of the complaints we heard from a new /// owner last year was that it didn't do anything when he turned it on.

In that respect, we suggest you think of an Apple /// as an automobile and a TI 99 as a tricycle. It doesn't take much to learn to ride a tricycle, but it is also very easy to outgrow its capabilities. The ///, like the automobile, takes a little longer to learn to use, but pays back the effort with a tremendous amount of increased capability and flexibility.