Okay, I just couldn't wait any more. I've waited for tape support since 2001: I could wait no longer. I don't have time to really play around with this updated astrocade driver for MAME, but I did give it a quick whirl.
I loaded the current build of it with the support for 2000-baud tape loading and saving. I was able to successfully load an AstroBASIC game (I choose The Gate Escape, by WaveMakers). I also wrote a two-line "Hello, World!" program and managed to save it and reload it after I reset the astrocade emulator.
Here are some of my initial comments:
1) It took me a little while to figure out the procedure to load and save, but eventually I worked it out. I don't think I've ever user MAME to load any software via tape or disk. I've always just loaded ROMs into various emulators. I presume the method used for the Astrocade's "tape player" is similar or the same as used on other systems?
2) When I played The Gate Escape under emulation, it seems to play a little slower than on real hardware. Maybe that's my imagination? Without tape support, it's been really difficult to test "AstroBASIC" under emulation with a full program. Either way, if it runs slower under emulation, then that has nothing to do with the tape loading at all-- it would be a general emulation issue.
3) Saving a program worked fine. I did notice that the size of the WAV file that was created was zero bytes until I reset the emulator. When does the WAV file get closed properly from the emulator? Can it be closed manually. Perhaps the "tape" (the WAV file) can be ejected from the player and this will close the WAV file?
4) Control of the "tape player" works well, and I like how there is an on-screen display of the "tape counter" that overlays the emulator.
5) I opened up the 2000-baud WAV file that was created and played it through my speaker. It sounds slightly different than one created on real hardware. That might seem strange to say, but I've heard hundreds of 2000-baud programs in the last twenty years, and there is a difference of some sort.
6) Will the 300-baud emulated tape interface support the Machine Language Manager cartridge? I have a four-part video series about that cart. You can watch it here:
Here is what I still need to try:
1) Load a 2000-baud Blue Ram BASIC Program.
2) Load a WAV file created under emulation on real hardware.
3) Load a 300-baud Bally BASIC program.
4) Try running a 2000-baud program WAV file created under emulation through the archiving tools for the astrocade called BallyBIN and AstroWAV. I'd like to see how they handle to format.
For a speed test, which has nothing to do with the tape-loading ability, I'd like to choose a BASIC program that can be used as a timer and then start it at the same time on real hardware and under emulation and see how they compare. I'm not sure what would be a good program for that yet. I might ask around.
I'm thrilled with the results I've seen. When I saw the The Gate Escape's title screen load on the emulation screen I about had a heart attack. After all of these years, I never thought that I'd see that happen.
Are there any tests that anyone would like to see me run? Also, I still can't figure out how to place inline images into these posts.