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Tandy Portable Disk Drive 2

joel dinda [75725,1134]

This is a map of the Directory Sector (0) on the TDD disk. Near as I can tell it's complete, though I suppose I may have missed something. It also includes some information on related matters, poses some questions for investigation, and offers a few opinions.

A couple definitions are in order: Counts are from 0. I speak here of a disk sector (Sector 0) which is divided into 2 sections. The first of these sections is further subdivided into records. If you keep these things in mind, what follows may make sense:

The directory in Sector 0 is 1292 bytes long (not all of these bytes are used). It is divided into two main sections: One which tells about files, and one which keeps track of sector allocation.


The files section is a 40 record database. It begins with the first (0) byte and contains 1240 bytes; that's 40 records of 31 bytes to keep track of up to 40 files. Each record has the following format:

24 bytes reserved for filenames

**start at Record byte 0

The next byte is CHR$(70) (letter F) if there's a file

**this is Record byte 24

The next two bytes are the length of the file, stored MSB+LSB

**Record bytes 25 & 26

Next two bytes blank (CHR$(0))

**Record bytes 27 & 28

Next byte locates the sector holding the start of the file

**Record byte 29

Next (final) byte in each record tells the end-of-file sector

**Record byte 30

There are forty such records. Any record without a file is completely filled


Begins at Sector 0 Byte 1240

The next 21 bytes store information about sector allocation.

Twenty bytes starting with 1240 report the current allocation of the 80 disk sectors. This status is stored as binary information on alternate bits, but,can be read as decimal numbers (bytes) indicating allocation patterns. Each,byte stores information on 4 sectors; 1240 tells about sectors 0 thru 3, the,next reports 4 thru 7, and so forth.

The patterns:


0000 0000 0 none
0000 0010 2 4th
0000 1000 8 3rd
0000 1010 10 3rd & 4th
0010 0000 32 2nd
0010 0010 34 2nd & 4th
0010 1000 40 2nd & 3rd
0010 1010 42 2nd, 3rd & 4th
1000 0000 128 1st
1000 0010 130 1st & 4th
1000 1000 136 1st & 3rd
1000 1010 138 1st, 3rd & 4th
1010 0000 160 1st & 2nd
1010 0010 162 1st, 2nd & 4th
1010 1000 168 1st, 2nd & 3rd
1010 1010 170 all

Keep in mind that these are patterns within 4 sector blocks and that sectors are counted (by the TDD software) from 0. (Sector 0 is, of course, the disk directory, and is always allocated.) To use this information, you have to keep track of which four sectors you are examining.

TDD uses the allocation table when it writes a new file to the disk; it checks it to see which sectors are in use and always writes to the lowest-numbered sector(s) available. When a file is erased, TDD also rewrites the allocation table. Note that erasures take more time than might be expected because the software must needs traipse 'round the disk to check the sectors being freed up.

TDD's internal software assumes the allocation table is correct, and NEVER corrects it (it only modifies it as noted above). If somehow the table's been changed, there's some risk that a file will be overwritten. Note that this behavior can also be used to take a disk damaged sector out of circulation.

One more byte: Byte number 1260 reports the number of sectors in use on the disk. This count does NOT include the directory sector.

TDD doesn't care if byte 1260 is correct. It modifies whatever number it finds here when you add or delete a file, but doesn't check to see if the number's accurate (or even reasonable).

That's everything I can tease out of the zero sector. I suspect there are things I've overlooked, but there's more information here than I expect we need to know to effectively use the drive.


Only Sector 0 is heavily formatted. The other 79 sectors are free-form through byte 1279; bytes 1280 through 1291 are apparently reserved for system use. In reality, however, it seems that only byte 1280 actually gets used. 1280 stores the next sector number in the file's "chain", so TDD can find the next portion of the file. If the sector's never been used, the number stored at 1280 is zero; if the sector is the last in the file, the number at 1280 is 255.

The remaining 11 bytes in the sector apparently never get used.

What happens if the number at 1280 is wrong? There seem to be three cases: If the vector's to the wrong sector, TDD has no way to recognize the problem. If the sector's the last in the file, TDD doesn't care and doesn't err (it just counts bytes until it locates however many the directory tells it to deliver to the computer). If it's not the last sector in the file, and the vector is to a non-existent sector, Powr-DOS reports a drive error (number 59) and FLOPPY.CO hangs. (This is the only condition I've discovered where FLOPPY doesn't gracefully handle problems, by the way).

A possible complication is that these vectors are NOT erased when a file is KILLed -- the sector is removed from the allocation table, but the "next" sector might be reassigned when another file is added. This should only be an issue with file recovery programs, though.


The TDD is what is commonly called an intelligent disk drive. This means that TDD contains software (in ROM and RAM) which it uses for such things as file management, disk head positioning, and other mundane tasks. This intelligence is important because it's the TDD, not your computer, which dictates the structure of the disk directory.

The intelligent disk drive arrangement has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that the drive's ROM routines don't need to be duplicated in the computer itself; this makes writing disk driver software mainly a matter of collecting and organizing the commands the drive's internal software expects (there are complications, especially in this case, but there's no reason to go into detail here.) This is advantageous both because it simplifies the composition task and because it saves precious memory.

There are trade-offs, however. The most important is that the computer is pretty much obliged to tolerate the ideosyncracies of the drive's design; for instance, while M100 and its kindred expect filenames to be 9 characters long (including a period), TDD reserves 24 spaces for this purpose. Near as I can tell, Tandy's FLOPPY.CO (by default the software standard, here) invariably used the SIMPLEST compromise. While the third party DOSses COULD adopt other solutions, they'd do so at the cost of software compatibility.

Such compatibility may or may not be important, by the way. Powr-DOS sticks to the standard, but offers facilities (DSKO$) with which individual programmers might choose to ignore those standards. This will be a gain only if software developers decide to utilize the added capabilities possible with such "non-standard" file formats. (This comment doubtless also applies to TS-RANDOM.)


There's a LOT of wasted space here. Most of it is due to the provision the drive's software makes for file names longer than 9 characters.

Not all the numbers in the directory are crucial. I see no evidence, for instance, that any software checks to see if the directory's accurate about which sector contains the last piece of the file. Nor does it particularly matter if the number reporting sectors-in-use is wrong. And while I wouldn't recommend modifying the allocation table, the drive doesn't use it when you LOAD a file to the computer, or just read the directory.

While the "F" at byte 24 in each file record appears to be a simple (and unnecessary) flag, modifying it results in some peculiar behavior. Seems that the drive's software doesn't really care what's there, but it sorts any files with an "F" there to the beginning of the list for LFILES or for FLOPPY's LIST function. Near as I can tell, this doesn't change any other behaviors. Odd. Inexplicable.

Acroatix' documentation for Powr-DOS seems to claim that the computer (probably the file transfer software, actually) recognizes the type of file by the first character in the extension. Must be true. There's certainly no better information in the directory.

There does not seem to be an explicit EOF marker for any file on the diskette. This implies that TDD uses the file length information in the directory to locate the precise end of the file. Tests suggest the same thing.

My Tandy Utilities disk has CHR$(255) at byte 1280 in Sector 0. (Note that this means EOF in any other sector. Wonder if it means something similar here.) No copy I've made of the disk has that. But the Powr-DOS source disk has what appears to be a machine language routine beginning at the same location. (Naturally: It doesn't copy either.) No other disk in my collection has ANYTHING beyond 1260 in that sector.

The directory is stored in alpha order and has no intermediate blank entries. Deleting or adding a file moves everything around.

On Renames. Using FLOPPY to rename a file rearranges the directory. POKEs to the same purpose have interesting effects: It appears that the TDD's built-in software cares what order the directory's in, as it stops reading the directory when it finds an out-of-order filename. Software which renames a file on the disk has to allow for this behavior.

The TDD software also cares about the name of a file to 24 digits: This means that "other" information (I have file creation/modification dates in mind) cannot be easily stored in all that empty space. (Presumably FLOPPY, P-DOS, et al, tack spaces onto the end of the name to accomodate TDD.)

It appears to me that a disk name (or other information) could be safely stored on the disk from 1261 to 1279 -- and quite likely beyond 1280.

My program MAPTDD.100 (in DL5) reports all of these numbers. If you're interested in more detailed explorations, see Phil Wheeler's TDDMON (a DANGEROUS program; use with CARE!) and DMPTDD, also in DL5. Don Ziekel's SECDOS (same DL), though its printout is similar to MAPTDD, could be more easily adapted to more general explorations than the mapper. See, too, Don's DOSTIP.004.

Remember: PEEKs are safe. POKEs are risky, but can teach.

Don and I are clearly tracing the same paths, and Phil's known to be interested. Anyone else chasing this information down? PLEASE share what you learn! Thanks!

My heartfelt thanks to Ed Giese for Powr-DOS, DSKO$, and for clues about some of these things.

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