Epyx Fast Load commands

Epyx’s Fast Load cartridge did more than just speed up disk access. It also added a fair bit of functionality in the form of utilities and additional commands. Here’s a look at the Epyx Fast Load commands and how to use them.

Most Fast Load commands followed the convention of Commodore’s DOS Wedge, but it only implemented a subset of it. The cartridge also contained some simple disk utilities, including copiers, a disk editor, and simple file utilities. Also keep in mind if you use a Fast Load cartridge with a Pi1541, you need to reconfigure your Pi1541.

The ultimate keyboard shortcut

Epyx Fast Load commands
Here’s my favorite use of Epyx Fast Load commands. After you list a directory with @$ or $, you can cursor up to the file you want to load, hit / in front of it, then hit return to load it. This is very convenient compared to an unmodified C-64.

The first and best thing Fast Load implements is the C= Run/Stop keyboard shortcut. You may know hitting Shift and Run/Stop loads the first program from tape. With Fast Load, the C= Run/Stop combination issues the LOAD”*”,8,1 command that loads most games from disk.

It’s not really a command, per se, but once you know this shortcut is there, you’ll probably use it a lot.

Epyx Fast Load wedge commands

The Fast Load Cartridge contained a DOS Wedge, which implemented the most important commands from Commodore’s DOS Wedge, included on a disk that shipped with the 1541. Putting it on the cartridge was convenient because then you didn’t have to remember to load it. The commands were cryptic, but easy to type, so they caught on.

$ command

The $ command lists a disk directory. It’s equivalent to LOAD “$”,8 but it doesn’t overwrite the program in memory, making it super convenient. To view the contents of the disk in drive 8, simply issue the command $.

/ command

The / command loads a Basic program from disk. It’s equivalent to LOAD “FILENAME”,8. To load a file, simply issue the command /FILENAME.

Tip: Conveniently, when you list a disk directory, you can arrow up to the file you want, then simply type the / character over the file size, space over the rest of the numbers in the size, and hit enter. The command will ignore whatever is on screen after the filename.

% command

The % command loads a machine language program from disk. It’s equivalent to LOAD “FILENAME”,8,1. To load a file, simply issue the command %FILENAME. If the program doesn’t auto run, you’ll have to follow with the appropriate SYS command to start the program.

Tip: Just like the / command, you can list a disk directory, then arrow up to a file you want, and hit the % key in front of the filename to load it.

? command

The ? command saves a Basic program to disk. It’s equivalent to SAVE “FILENAME”,8. To load a file, simply issue the command ?FILENAME.

Epyx Fast Load @ or > commands

The @ command sends a command to the disk drive, saving you from typing OPEN 15,18,15: PRINT#15, “command”: CLOSE 15. If you’re a power user, this saves you a lot of typing.

These commands are cryptic but incredibly powerful. Issuing just the @ or > command (they are interchangeable) with nothing else reads the drive’s error channel, so you can tell why your disk drive’s light is blinking at you. But you can follow the @ sign with Commodore DOS commands to do other things:

@$ – view the disk directory. Same as typing just $.

@I – initialize the drive. Clears the error channel and returns the drive head to track 18.

@N0:diskname,id – formats a new blank disk. The ID must be 2 characters. It’s a good practice to use a different ID on each disk if you can, to avoid confusing your drive.

@N0:diskname – omitting the ID just wipes track 18, a so-called “fast format.”

@S0:filename – scratch (delete) a file.

@V0: – validate the disk, freeing incorrectly allocated space and deleting incomplete (splat) files.

You can substitute the > character for @ if you wish. I learned @, so that’s what I use.

Epyx Fast Load £ commands

Hitting the £ (British Pound) key and hitting return brings up a utilities menu. Fast Load’s built in utilities aren’t flashy, but they work and they’re convenient.

A – Directory

This displays the disk directory, or the contents of the disk in layperson’s terms. It’s completely equivalent to the $ or @$ commands, but might be easier to remember.

B – Return to Basic

Use this command when you’re finished running the cartridge’s utilities.

C – Copy

This is a simple but functional copy utility, with several options.

A – list the contents of the disk

B – return to the previous menu

C – copy an entire disk. This copies every track and sector of a disk to another formatted disk. The target disk must be formatted first, unlike some other similar utilities. Also note this is just a simple copier, not a nibbler that can copy protected disks.

D – BAM copy. This option is cryptic but extremely useful. It just copies the used parts of the disk, so it’s faster than a full disk copy. Like the other option, the target disk has to be formatted first.

E – copy a single program file from one disk to another.

F – format a disk. This prepares a new disk for use, or erases the contents of a disk for reuse. Issue this command before you use either of the disk copy commands.

D – Disable Fast Load

This disables the Fast Load cartridge. Some games won’t work with it, and issuing this command lets you load those games without removing the cartridge. It doesn’t make the cartridge completely invisible, so some people add a switch to fully disable it, but usually this command is enough.

E – Edit disk

This brings up a simple track and sector editor. Use the cursor keys to move around within a sector. To read a sector, hit R. To write a modified sector, hit W. To exit, hit Q.

F – File utilities

This is a simple but functional collection of file utilities, with several options. This can be easier than remembering the Commodore DOS commands for everything.

A – list the contents of the disk

B – return to the previous menu

C – copy a file from one disk to another.

D – Delete a file.

E – lock a file so you can’t delete it.

F – unlock a file so you can delete it again. Use caution with this command, since if you’re in the disk utilities and think you’re in the file utilities, you can accidentally format a disk.

This is a simple but functional copy utility, with several options.

A – list the contents of the disk

B – return to the previous menu

C – copy an entire disk. This copies every track and sector of a disk to another formatted disk. The target disk must be formatted first, unlike some other similar utilities.

D – BAM copy. This option is cryptic but extremely useful. It just copies the used parts of the disk, so it’s faster than a full disk copy. Like the other option, the target disk has to be formatted first.

E – copy a single program file from one disk to another.

G – rename a file

! – the machine language monitor

The Fast Load cartridge also contains a machine language monitor, for debugging machine language programs. Anymore, you’ll probably use an emulator with a built in debugger for this kind of thing, which will be more powerful. Anymore, the most important machine language monitor command is %, to exit, since if you got in it, you probably did it by hitting ! when you meant to hit another key.

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