Error handling and related issues

Before we can look at the details of constructing applications it is necessary to look at the way in which the Z88 deals with errors. System calls are accessed by using a Z80 RST instruction followed by one or two bytes which determine the system function to be accessed. If an error occurs the routine will return with the Carry of the flags register F (Fc) to be set = 1 and a return code in register A. The return codes are symbolically represented by "RC_xxxx", where "xxxx" is a mnemonic for the error. Most errors may be handled in a straightforward way, with the Carry flag being examined and appropriate action being taken depending on the value of register A. However, a mechanism exists to trap errors before they return to the part of code from which they were called. This mechanism is called an 'error handler' and the programmer may install one or more of these for use with the application. More than one error handler could be used if different parts of the application had different error handling requirements. An error handler will in general ignore most errors, returning to the code from which the call originated with Fc = 1 and the error code intact in A, however other errors may be trapped, dealt with and whatever return code is thought fit can be returned to the running program. The error handler should perform a RET instruction when it has finished it's work. Note that this returns control to the operating system and not to the program which made the original call.

If an error occurs in a system call, then after the call has finished, insofar as it is able, the error handler is called with Fc = 1, and a return code in A, and possibly Fz = 1 to indicate a fatal error. Fatal errors, such as RC_HAND, are so called because the system can take no reasonable action to recover. On exit from the error handler a fatal error will generate an interactive error box and following this RC_QUIT will be returned. For non-fatal errors the error handler may take whatever action it wishes, such as displaying an error message, but must always return control to the error handler supervisor, with Fc = 0, by a RET instruction. This will then pass control back to the program just after the call.

NOTE: The error handler is programmer defined. The reference section of these notes describes in detail which registers will be affected by system calls on return to your application. When you install an error handler, possibly other registers will be affected as well (which you use in the error handler). If you wish the error handler to act neutral, then preserve the Z80 registers before executing your error handler, and restore them when the error handler has finished its work.

Some errors occur because of some action by the user, such as pressing the <ESC> key or switching between applications. The causes of these kind of errors are:

An Escape condition occurs.

The <ESC> key has been pressed while Escape detection is enabled, eg. file transfer calls can be interrupted by <ESC>. This condition gives rise to the RC_ESC code.

Possibility of pre-emption or suspension.

This can happen when the SQUARE or DIAMOND keys are used, menu or help access has occurred, the machine has been switched off and back on, or genuine pre-emption has occurred, ie. the user has switched tasks and subsequently returned. This condition can give rise to RC_SUSP,RC_DRAW or RC_QUIT.


Suspicion of pre-emption, the computer was switched off. This code indicates that the screen is intact, but unsafe workspace may be changed.


Similar to RC_SUSP except that the application's screen has been corrupted and the application should attempt to redraw it. Applications which might find it very difficult to redraw a screen can ask the operating system to preserve it for them before they are pre-empted. This can only take place if there is enough memory to do so - some way of dealing with RC_DRAW is still required. Note, it is also possible for applications to save a particular screen image and restore it later - see OS_Sr in "Miscellaneous useful routines".


The process has been pre-empted and a KILL request made for it from the INDEX (or by own suicide request). The reader may have noticed from the screen that a KILL request causes the relevant process to be re-entered momentarily - processes are always expected to kill themselves off in resonse to this error; they are not killed BY the INDEX. RC_QUIT may also be returned when after a fatal error has occurred.


An Escape condition has been detected. This means <ESC> has been pressed while Escape Detection is enabled. Note the Escape condition must be acknowledged by OS_Esc, otherwise the Escape condition will continue to flag errors - acknowledging Escape is an ideal job for an error handler.

Pre-emptable Calls

Only calls which read the keyboard can be pre-empted. Since the keyboard is usually bound to standard input the most common pre-emptable calls are:

            OS_In       get character from standard input
            OS_Tin      as OS_In, but with timeout
            GN_Sip      get line from standard input
            OS_Sr       used to generate a "Page Wait"

However, if file I/O is bound to the keyboard, then file read operations will also be pre-emptable. Primarily the suspendable calls are all file I/O and the delay routine (OS_Dly), but again other calls may be if they take their input from a stream which is opened to the keyboard device. Remember some re-binding may be done by the user using the CLI, covered later in "Standard I/O and the CLI".

            OS_Gb       get byte from file or stream
            OS_Gbt      get byte from file or stream, with timeout
            OS_Pb       put byte to file or stream
            OS_Pbt      put byte to file or stream, with timeout
            OS_Mv       move bytes between memory and file or stream
            OS_Dly      delay a certain period

System error routines

The system provides four routines to handle errors:


Set error handler. This call installs a new error handler, returnning the address of the old handler so that it may be re-installed at a later date if required.


Examine special conditions. This call covers the details of working with the Escape key, which can generate errors if required.


Return a pointer to a system error message. A subset of error codes have messages associated with them. This call returns an extended pointer to an error message in the operating system ROM, if it exists.


Display system error box. This draws an error box on screen which asks the user to press <ESC> to continue, RC_DRAW or RC_SUSP will be returned. In the case of fatal errors, eg. RC_BAD or RC_HAND, the user is asked to press Q to quit and the routine exits with an RC_QUIT error. The routine always exits with Fc = 1, ie. an error condition.

An error handling routine may be set up by using the system OS_Erh whose specification is:

RST 20H, DEFW $75
     A = 0, other values reserved for system use
     B = 0
     HL = address of new error handler
     HL = 0, use default system error handler (in lower 8K of segment 0)

     Fc = 0
     A = old call level
     HL = address of old error handler

Registers changed after return:
     ...CDE../IXIY same
     AFB...HL/.... different


We can now consider the code the error handler should include. Fatal errors may be ignored (include a RET Z at the start), because there is no reasonable action to take anyway except termination of this instantiation of the application. An RC_SUSP error code will generally be completely ignored by the error handler whereas RC_ESC may want to be acknowledged using OS_Esc, or left pending for the main part of the application to acknowledge. RC_DRAW could be responded to by calling a routine to regenerate the screen and then quitting the error handler with A = RC_SUSP and Fc = 0 as though nothing had ever happended. Other errors may want to be reported, by outputting an error message.

Finally, the error handler, rather than the main application, will generally respond to a KILL request in the form of the RC_QUIT code. It must close down it's application using OS_Bye, but it is first essential to close open resources like files, filters, streams and de-allocate memory. If an application has not properly closed resources, in the form of memory, handles and buffers, will be lost to the system. Files left open will be permantently marked as "In Use" and so cannot be deleted or opened for updating. To regain lost handles and resources to the system, a soft reset must be issued. 


The following example illustrates the structure of an error handler with a few responding error codes:

include "errors.def"                ; error call/code definitions
include "stdio.def"                 ; standard input/output definitions
include "director.def"              ; director call definitions

.install    xor  a                  ; zero A
            ld   b,a                ; zero B
            ld   hl,error_han       ; address of error handler
            oz   OS_Erh             ; install new error handler...
            ...                     ; main application goes here...
; error handler entry:

.error_han  ret  z                  ; error is fatal, so exit back to system
            cp   RC_ESC             ; check for <ESC>
            jr   nz, not_escape
            ld   a, SC_ACK          ; acknowledge RC_ESC = SC_ACK
            oz   OS_Esc             ; escape processing call
            ld   a, RC_ESC          ; error code
            oz   GN_Esp             ; get extended address to error message
            oz   GN_Soe             ; write message to standard output
            or   a                  ; Fc = 0, Fz = 0

.not_escape cp   rc_quit            ; check for KILL request
            jr   nz, not_quit
                                    ; code to close files and de-allocate
                                    ; memory goes here...
            xor  a                  ; no error message on exit...
            oz   OS_Bye             ; force remove application from system

.not_quit   or   a                  ; Fc = 0, Fz = 0

The error handler above responds to an Escape condition and a KILL request. All other errors are 'ignored' with a display of the system message corresponding to the error code. Please note that no registers are changed, except Fc (Carry) and Fz (Zero) flags. Your error handler might respond to RC_DRAW and issue a routine to redraw the application windows. Remember that your routines might change registers that they're not supposed to regarding the outside world of the error handler.

NOTE: When an error handler is installed, the system relies on having it available in the corresponding segment (which the address of the error handler identifies). If you change the bank binding state in the segment of the error handler, thereby removing the original code, a call to that address by the system would most likely crash the machine (executing random instructions)!

Further, we suspect a bug in OZ that crashes popdowns if the error handler is resided in segment 2. Always keep error handlers in segment 3 - all system applications do it.

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