C64 : Epyx Fastload Cartridge Commands Overview

Epyx Fastload Cartridge logo

The Epyx Fast Load cartridge does more than just boost disk read/write speed. it also adds a hefty toolbox to the standard Commodore 64 with tools and additional commands.

Below is a brief overview of the commands, their functionality and how to use them.

Most Epyx Fast Load commands are analogous to Commodore's DOS Wedge commands, but are only a subset of the Commodore command set.
The Epyx Fastload cartridge also includes a number of disk utilities, including (disk) copying programs, a disk editor, and some simple file utilities.

If you want to use the Epyx Fast Load cartridge with a Pi1541, you have to adjust the configuration of the Pi1541!

Epyx Fast Load wedge commands

The Epyx Fast Load Cartridge contains a DOS Wedge, which contains the most important commands of the Commodore DOS Wedge, as supplied on the disk that came with the 1541 disk drive.
Storing these commands in the cartridge is a lot more user-friendly because you no longer have to search and load the toolset when you want to use it, but always have it available when you switch it on.

$ commando

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 $.

/ commando

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.

% commando

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.

? commando

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, it prevents you from having to send the entire syntax OPEN 15,18,15: PRINT#15, “command”: CLOSE 15 .
(Certainly for the more experienced users this is a huge time saver)

These commands are cryptic but very powerful . Using just the @ (or > ) character with no parameters reads the error channel of the disk drive, which you use for example when the LED of your disk drive is blinking.
You can also use the @ (or>) sign with the following Commodore DOS commands for the following 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

Pressing the £ (English Pound) key followed by a return displays a utilities menu.
The Fast Load Cartridge's built-in utilities are anything but flashy, but they work and are 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

! – De machine language monitor

The Fast Load cartridge also includes a machine language monitor, for example for debugging programs written in Assembler.
The most important command is % , to close it in case you accidentally started it by a ! to push.

The Ultimate key shortcuts for the Epyx Fastload Cartridge :

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 Epyx 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.

This page is a free adaptation and translation of :  Retro Computing

Epyx Fast Load Speed Comparison Chart

A small portion of a benchmark, to show the speed gain between a standard drive (or SD-IEC device) versus the same device but approximated using an Epyx Fastload cartridge.
The original benchmark also contains a number of other accelerators, which are not included in the overview here for clarity.

If you are interested in the full benchmark, you can find it here.

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