Getting started with Commodore 64:  PART 2: COMMODORE DOS & uIEC

This is part two of a series designed to help folks who are getting into (or getting back into) the Commodore 64 retrocomputing hobby.  I will assume you have already read part one.  If you haven't, please at least go back and review the section on the uIEC/SD device.

FASTLOAD: One more piece of hardware you might want:

Regardless if you are using a 1541 floppy disk drive, or a uIEC device, any storage device which plugs into the Commodore's IEC serial bus will be slow.    You will want to invest of some sort of fastloading device.   JiffyDOS is one very best options, but does involve opening the Commodore and installing a special chip.   Any easy way to speed things up painlessly is to obtain a simple FASTLOAD cartridge.

The Commodore pages at 80's Island

The FASTLOAD cartridge offers two benefits, first being it speeds up the Commodore serial bus.  All IEC devices will load much faster.   The second benefit is that it will greatly shorten the commands you'll be typing to open folders, .d64 images, and general disk commands.  Put a FASTLOAD on your list of "must have" items for your C64 hobby.

In the meantime, if you don't have a FASTLOAD cartridge (or other compatible fastloader), you can use a copy of the Commdore DOS 5.1 Wedge to provide easy command access to the advanced features of your uIEC/SD device.  
(Download and extract this archive to the root of your SD card.)   

Load the DOS wedge at startup with the command: LOAD"DOS 5.1",8,1 and SYS52224.
I'll provide examples along the way for both FASTLOAD and DOS WEDGE options.

Let's take a minute and talk about device numbers.

Commodore configurations using a single drive (or single storage device) generally default to "device #8".   This is a well established standard that dates back to the 80s.   This means that the act of simply loading a directory into memory would look like this:

LOAD "$",8

The uIEC/SD device is shipped configured as device #10.   This will be perfect if you have a another drive already connected to your Commodore, but can be harder to use if it is your primary storage device.   Thankfully, you can write a little BASIC program which will allow you to change the device assignment to the uIEC/SD device anytime you want.

Type in the following BASIC program and RUN it.

30 OPEN 15,A,15
40 PRINT#15,"U0>"+CHR$(B)
50 CLOSE 15
60 OPEN 15,B,15
70 PRINT#15,"XW"
80 CLOSE 15 
Important notes: In line 40, the U0 is "U" and "Zero", not O.  In lines 40 & 70, take care not to put a space in between PRINT and #.

Once you've run the program, you can change the device number of the uIEC from it's "current drive number" of 10 to 8.   Be sure and save the program, SAVE "DEVICENUM",8 after you are done.  It will be handy to have a way to easily change the device assignment down the road if you decide to add an actual 1541 disk drive to your collection.

In the first part of this series, I introduced you to the NAV program which will allow you to use the joystick to select files, folders, .d61, and .d81 files.   If you've followed my instructions of copying the NAV program to your SD card as it's first file, you probably found you can load it with a simple LOAD "*",8,1 and RUN (8 if you have changed your device number as indicated above.)

If you have a FASTLOAD cart, you can launch it even easier with a C= & RUN/STOP finger-sweep.  While NAV is a fantastic program, there are a few times when it may have incompatibilities.   There are a few games which have trouble with it, and certainly if you plan to use Qlink or do some TelBBSing, you'll need to skip loading NAV and use direct disk commands.

Here are some of the most common shortcuts for FASTLOAD & DOS WEDGE:


$                        =        Load directory from device 8.  (LOAD "$",8 & LIST)
@CD:{name}   =        Change into directory or .d64, .d81 image.
/{name prg}      =        Load BASIC program from device 8 (LOAD "{name prg}",8)
%{name prg}    =        Load ML program from device 8 (LOAD"{name prg}",8,1)


@$                     =        Load directory from device 8. (LOAD "$",8 & LIST)
@"CD:{name}"=        Change into directory or .d64, .d81 image.
/{name prg}      =        Load BASIC program from device 8 (LOAD "{name prg}",8)
%{name prg}    =        Load ML program from device 8 (LOAD"{name prg}",8,1)

Naturally, the standard LOAD/SAVE commands work as well.

More about DOS Wedge can be found here, as well as further documentation on FASTLOAD.