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Shell Wars

Posted on 17 September 1997

The following text was written by Michael Wyman:

Although I've retired myself from active TI-85 programming, I've kept up with the events occuring with the newest programs, shells, etc. most noticable of which is what many people have termed "The Shell Wars."

Since my release of CShell, it seems that many people have decided to release their own shells, all aimed (in my opinion) at becoming the next standard, as ZShell was the first! Please understand that I'm not saying that CShell was better than the newer shells.. In fact, I've almost completely stopped programming for the '85 (I'm currently learning C and Pascal for the PC), and have removed myself from the mailing lists.. I've decided to stay impartial to the shell wars, not saying that any shell is better than another. After its release, Usgard became the standard for many of the experience programmers. This was due to its support of many more functions.. Relocation, libraries, TSRs and interrupts, plus many more ROM calls. Later, PhatOS came out, a smaller shell, with relocation, though no libraries, TSRs or interrupts. This didn't quite gain the popularity of Usgard, and eventually it seemed that the authors had given up on it.

Programmers' support of Usgard was at times almost fanatical. Whenever someone would say that they didn't program for Usgard, and prefered to program for ZShell compatible shells, or something like PhatOS, regardless of their programming competence people would often flame them! Just read the ASM85 archives... You'll see a number of such exchanges; sometimes rational arguements, sometimes just flames...

Recently a new shell, Rigel, has come out, and promissing all of the features of Usgard in a far smaller space. If true, this shell could become the next victor in the "Shell Wars." I would hope, however, that whoever the victor is, that they can win so on, so as to keep new shell from popping up so often that programs are being written for a hundred different shells at once.

I also would caution people about the merits of certain features in the shells. My main concern would be libraries... If libraries become too numorous, and too large, program users would become discouraged and confused at the size and number of libraries they are required to have to run the games they want. I recommend that libraries be kept few and small! Remember, we only have 28K to work with...

I would certainly hope (for the sanity of calculator gamers everywhere) that the shell wars soon turn out a clear victor, and let programming return to normal (i.e. programs and games, not shells) soon.

"Of course, these are my opinions; I could be wrong..."

  Reply to this item

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"
Adam Zimmerman

What I have seen in schools (mainly) is that only a few (1 or 2) of the people in the school have a Graphlink or any sort of retail or home-made link.

If there is only one owner of a Graphlink (I'll use Graphlink instead of "computer-calculator link"), he/she decides which shell they like best. If they have Zshell, that shell is the one used. If they have some fancy, large shell, then all of the people are using a shell that eats up their space. This is not much of a problem.

Let's say that there are 2 owners of Graphlinks. Doesn't sound bad? Well, if they like the same shell (which is usually Zshell), there are more games provided. *But* let's say one likes Fargo and one likes Usgard. The games people can use are decided by which shell they have. Sure, they can still use Zshell games, but when one sees a game that only works on a different shell than they have, they can only give up their shell.

So let's use a better example. The two shells distributed are AShell and BShell. AShell and BShell can't run each other's. There are two favorites: Game A and Game B. Everyone likes Game A and everyone likes Game B. Unfortunately, Game A only runs on AShell, & Game B only runs on BShell. The game that one can play on his own calculator is decided by which shell they have.

Why have different shells? The only idea I have is that "Shell such-and-such doesn't have the features that I want". But when someone makes a new shell, adding new rom calls and functions, they inadvertently (or maybe on purpose) put up a wall between that shell's games and other shells.

I say, take out all the barriers and walls. Make some standard program functions. There can still be as many different shells as someone wants to make, but the shells will be totally compatible, and the TI-85 community will be for the better.

There's my two cents,
Adam Zimmerman

Reply to this comment    8 October 1998, 23:57 GMT

Re: Re: Article: "Shell Wars"

It seems to me that this is exactly the sort of thing TI had in mind when they designed the 86. (maybe they liked the games so much that they made a new calc! j/k :)

And this thing happens at my school all the time.

Reply to this comment    9 October 1998, 05:07 GMT

Re: Re: Article: Shell Wars
Mohammad Ebbini  Account Info

hi since every one is talking about the TI-85 can any please please send me the ROM file because i removed the batries and all the memory is lost and i live in the Middle East and there is no services for the TI calculaters. thanx

my email is : hommadi2001@hotmail.com

Reply to this comment    26 December 2004, 10:17 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Article: Shell Wars
Christopher Chancellor  Account Info
(Web Page)

It's illegal to distribute ROM files. Sorry.

Reply to this comment    30 September 2006, 01:32 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"

I think that having so many shells available for the TI-85 is great. It allows a wide array of options for true TI fans. It also allows programmers the freedom to program for whichever shell they please. Sure, some shells are less stable than others, and others have fewer features, but all of them have good points. We don't need a standard shell beyond ZShell because standardizing leads to monopolization of the games. It's like on IBM compatibles...if you don't have Windows, you're out of luck. On the TI-85, you've got options...Usgard, PhatOS, OS-85, and even the classic ZShell. Sure, some games are incompatible with some shells, but in the long run, the majority of good games work with every one of them. Just try the original ZTetris. It works on every one of the shells I mentioned, and it's probably one of the best TI-85 games out there.

Reply to this comment    9 October 1998, 22:54 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"

I agree with what this article says. I just started learning assembly language about two weeks ago and was confused over the large number of choices. Each shell claims to be better than the others offering some advantage over its competitors. I would just like a standard shell so that I could be sure I was making the right choice. I hope a clear victor emerges, however I also believe that data on creating shells should remain out there so that people could write shells that fit them and only them specifically.

Reply to this comment    5 August 1998, 04:06 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"
Filip NorrgÄrd
(Web Page)

One good thing with the shell wars are that they encourage OS developement. Although Usgard is the "best" (according to some) I like to stick to a simple yet a good shell, OS 85. OS 85 has a graphical UI (user interface) which make it more attraktive than ZShell, and more simpler to use than Usgard (atleast for me; usgard just chrashed all of the time). So, what I want to point out is that make a simple and (graphical) UI containing shell! :)

Reply to this comment    9 December 1998, 14:30 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"
(Web Page)

Forget all this shell crap. why is everyone trying to make something new. Why go to something that is standerd. Take something like picoBSD and port it to the TI's now there would be a powerful tool.

Reply to this comment    11 December 1998, 11:10 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"
(Web Page)

Forget all this shell crap. why is everyone trying to make something new. Why go to something that is standerd. Take something like picoBSD and port it to the TI's now there would be a powerful tool.

Reply to this comment    11 December 1998, 11:11 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"
The Compu Cop

I agree, there "should" be a standard shell that all people will use. It is possible but it does seem unlikely. If it has a descent G.U.I. and a small size than it would be a great candidate. First, we will need a designates web page with all of its information. And, we will need a group of programers to get together and make one and port it to all TI calcs.......NOT VERY LIKELY!!!

Reply to this comment    14 February 1999, 21:30 GMT

What about a disassembler?
Paul Ryu

I always wanted a Z80 disassembler, because I want to make a shell and I don't know where to start. I hate to admit it but I guess I don't know which way is up in assembly shells. Anybody know how to disassemble 85S, 86P, 82P, and 83P files?

Also, how can you get rid of the header and all that stuff in a 8x file? At least, if I know what size the header is, I might be able to decode the binary code.

Any comments would be helpful!

Reply to this comment    21 February 1999, 23:13 GMT

Re: What about a disassembler?
meekzer0  Account Info

I think this topic is moot now, so this is just a test.

Reply to this comment    2 March 2000, 02:47 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"
Francis Colas

I'd just like to say that there are several shells that are quite instable : i've tried all the ones which are there and i've hanged my calc many times by trying assembly programs (which ran perfectly well on Zshell for example).
I'll just keep my (limitated) Zshell until i find another shell which could keep from hanging for a while.

P.S. : I apologize for my poor english : i'm french.

Reply to this comment    15 August 1998, 22:12 GMT

Re: Article: "Shell Wars"

Please Michael Myman I really need the source code to your CShellNT because I am going to make a shell that is specific to me and my friends: I will not post it to any web page to "try and win this outrageous shell war" I just need to make a shell for myself that will suport things that other shells won't!

If you could please send it to me with directions to compile the source and a list of everything needed to compile the source thanks!


Reply to this comment    18 August 1998, 20:55 GMT

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