You had to know a command to load Commodore 64 games, because, unlike many other computers of its day, it didn’t automatically boot game disks when you turned it on.
Things worked best if you followed a process.
Connecting the 64
If you need help hooking up your 64, I have instructions for connecting the 64 to a TV and connecting disk drives. If you have a fast load cartridge to speed up the disk drive, plug the fast load cartridge into the cartridge slot before you power up the machine. It plugs into the slot in the back near the power switch.
Of course, if you’re using an emulator, you don’t need to connect anything. You’ll just need to get your emulator up and running.
If you’re using the real thing, turn on the disk drive first, then turn on the computer. The order isn’t incredibly important but Commodore recommended turning on the drive first.
It’s best not to turn the drive on or off with a disk in it. It’s remotely possible for a drive to write data to a disk as it powers off. It’s not supposed to do that, and I’ve never heard of anything bad happening by doing it, but removing the disk before powering off is an easy precaution to take.
Disks with one game on them
The 64 didn’t autoboot disks, unlike some of its competitors. To load the game off a disk that has one game on it (most commercial disks, or bit-for-bit copies of commercial disks), you can usually use the command LOAD “*”,8,1.
Every once in a while you need to use the more complex LOAD “0:*”,8,1. But if you reset the machine in between games, the simpler command should suffice.
Disks with multiple games on them
Many copied disks have more than one game on them. To see what’s on the disk, type LOAD “$”,8 and hit return, then type LIST and hit return. You’ll see a list of files on the disk.
To load one of the games you find, type LOAD “filename”,8 and hit return. After you get the READY prompt, type RUN and hit return.
If the game doesn’t run, try LOAD “filename”,8,1. Some games autorun when you load them that way.
In a few rare cases, games didn’t run themselves and you had to issue another command to run them. SYS 49152 was the most common of those oddball commands. For these odd cases, hopefully you have a copy of the manual or can find a copy online.
To load a tape, simply insert the tape, rewind it, then type LOAD and hit return, or hit the shift-Run/Stop key combination.
If a tape has more than one game on it, rewind it, type LOAD “7”,1 and hit return. As the computer finds files, it will print the names. To load a specific title, type LOAD “filename”,1 and hit return, then type RUN.
If you need some other commands, here’s a collection of other useful C-64 commands.