BeebMaster - I Want an Econet! - Build your own Econet

Build your own Econet

Setting up the File Server

A file server provides storage for data to be saved and retrieved across the Econet. For the most part, Acorn file servers are utility programmes running on a BBC micro which may need to be expanded with the addition of a second processor. Stand-alone fileservers came later and included the Acorn FileStore range and the SJ Research MDFS.

Level 1 File Server

The Acorn Level 1 file server is, not surprisingly, the first file server released for the BBC micro. It came supplied as a disc containing the file server programme and various utilities.

The Level 1 file server disc can be downloaded from the 8BS website here.


The main advantage to the level 1 file server is that it is the original! This is how Econet began back in 1981! It is simple to operate and does not require any additional hardware.


The level 1 file server is primitive and does not offer many of the familiar features of Econet, such as directory structure, user names and passwords and the use of hard discs. It is also not suitable for BBC Master stations, although it can be modified.

Getting Started

First, you will need to decide which station is to be the file server. It must be a machine with a disc interface and disc drive.

Start the machine and put the level 1 disc in the drive. I can't remember if it is an autobooting disc as I have modified my level 1 disc from the original download. If the disc does not boot, run the file server by typing CHAIN "FS".

The file server programme will load and run. You will be prompted to enter "Number of files per user". If you wish to set a limit at this point, then enter a number. Otherwise press RETURN.

The next question is "Manual?". This refers to the allocation of DFS directories to station numbers. If you type yes, you will be prompted to allocate directory letters to station numbers. When stations log on, they will automatically be assigned the directory letter specified.

Press RETURN to finish.

If you type "no" or simply press RETURN, the file server will use the directory allocations contained in the NAMES file (if it exists).

The file server now says "Ready" and you can begin.

File Server Commands

Stations can now use the facilities of the file server to transfer data across the network.

The file server can accept a limited number of commands, as follows:

*DRIVESwitches between disc drives if you are using double drives or a double-sided disc.
*CAT (*.)This catalogues the current disc.
*INFODisplay full information about the specified file
*I AMLog on to the file server. This command has a different syntax in Level 1 Econet from the more familiar usage. There are no user names so *I AM simply identifies the user to the file server station. If you wanted to log on to station 1, for instance, you would type *I AM 1.

On the BBC Master, the alternative would be to type *FS 1 but as "FS" is not part of the Model B NFS, this cannot be used unless you are already logged on to the correct file server station.
*DELETEDelete the specified file.
LOAD/*LOADLoad a BASIC programme or machine code file.
SAVE/*SAVESave a BASIC programme or machine code file.
*ACCESSLock or unlock a file. The only attribute available in Level 1 Econet is "L" and there is no distinction between owner and public access attributes.

I am afraid that's about it for Level 1! Commands such as *DUMP, *TYPE, *PRINT, *SPOOL, *SRLOAD, *DIR, *EX and BASIC file handling keywords (OPENUP, OPENIN, OPENOUT) either do not work or do not produce the expected result.

Navigating around the Disc

In Level 1 Econet, the file server programme disc is also used as the storage disc. It is a standard Acorn DFS format disc. On file servers with double drives, a second disc can be used in drive 1.

If the station you are using has been allocated a directory letter, then you will have Owner access to that directory and all your files will be loaded and saved into that directory. You will not be able to see or access files in other directories.

If you have not been allocated a directory letter, then you will only have Public access to the disc and you will only be able to load files.

The library directory is "&" and is displayed every time the disc is catalogued. The library directory cannot be changed.

Utilities for Users

The library directory on the Level 1 master disc contains a set of utilities for use by network users. These are as follows:

*FSThis is the same as the BBC Master command and is for the BBC B only. It changes the file server number that you access. To log on initially, use *I AM <number> and then you can use *FS if it is present on the disc to the file server you are logged onto.
*NOTIFYYes, one of the all-time favourite network commands is available in level 1! Use *NOTIFY <station number> <message> to communicate with other users.
*PROTExactly the same as the BBC Master command, ie. turn protection on. This prevents your station being notified, remoted or viewed.
*PSThis is the same as the Master 128 command, ie. it specifies the printer server number to be used by your station.
*REMOTEAnother favourite, making an eary debut! This command allows you to control another station. Use *ROFF on the controlling station to end the remote.
*UNPROTThe opposite of *PROT, this turns off protection for your station.
*VIEWAnd *VIEW makes an appearance as well! Use this much-loved utility to copy somebody else's screen onto your screen.

Be careful when using NOTIFY, REMOTE and VIEW on a BBC Master station. The versions on Level 1 Econet are for the BBC Model B and load into page &E, ie. &E00 onwards, so they may overwrite any programmes current held in memory!

Utilities for the File Server

Acorn provided a number of utilities to help the network manager run the show. These are stored in the root directory of the Level 1 disc so cannot be seen by network users. They can only be used when the file server is not running.

FORM40Format a disc to 40 tracks.
FORM80Format a disc to 80 tracks.
FSThe file server programme, written in BASIC.
FSUTILA BASIC programme for setting up the directory letter allocations for user stations. These are saved in the file "NAMES" in the library directory and will be used whenever you say "no" to the "Manual?" prompt when starting the file server. The programme will report the current assignments in the NAMES file and allow you to add or change them.
NETMONA machine code utility for monitoring data packets across the network. I am not going to go into this here but apparently the monitor can be useful in diagnosing errors on a malfunctioning network.
VERIFYVerify a disc.

BBC Master 128 Compatibility

The Level 1 file server programme will run quite happily on a BBC Master but you may encounter problems when trying to access the server from a BBC Master station. In fact, you will probably find that hardly anything works.

Part of the reason is that all the network commands sent by the Master 128 are put into small letters and translated into their minimum abbreviation by the ANFS. This confuses the level 1 file server which has a limited command set to look out for.

To get round this, I have modified the Level 1 programme to convert every command received into capital letters before it is processed. This does not solve all of the problems, but it helps and it makes Level 1 workable on BBC Master stations.

You can download my version here.

That's all for this rather text-intensive guide to the Econet Level 1 file server. If you'd prefer to see it in pictures, there's an illustrated guide here.