Paul is right about MAME's lack of "cartridge hot swapping." This is a missing feature that I should have already mentioned. So, special thanks to Paul for pointing it out to us.

"Hot swapping" was used extensively back in the 1980s on real hardware. Probably the most common reason that it was used was to switch-out the "AstroBASIC" cart for the Bally BASIC cartridge. Using a specific technique, this allowed a user to load a program into "AstroBASIC," then put in the Bally BASIC cartridge, which supported printing to a serial printer via a modified 300-baud interface. Once the Bally BASIC cartridge was inserted into the astrocade, then the command :PRINT could be used to list a BASIC program to a printer.

Here are the details of how users would swap the two different Astrocade BASIC cartridges:

As Paul also mentioned, there are many cartridges, now referred to as BASICarts, that will load a BASIC program from the cartridge. This method didn't become very popular in the 1980s until around 1986 and wasn't mentioned until the very last issue of the Arcadian newsletter was published. Therefore, it didn't get much use back then. However, once the astrocade library began to be archived extensively in the early 2000's, many BASIC programs were converted by an Astrocade fan named Mike White to run from cartridge. Many of these are now on the various versions of multicarts that exist for the astrocade. They're also available from if you want to burn them to EPROM.

Since BASICarts are so prevalent in the astrocade library, it would be great if cartridge swapping was supported under the astrocade's MAME driver.

Paul also mentioned support for Music Maker. As Paul said, this uses the same 2000-baud interface as the "AstroBASIC" cartridge. I have been told, but have been unable to verify, that there is one significant difference between how the data is handled between Music Maker and "AstroBASIC." Apparently, what Music Maker outputs as a '1,' "AstroBASIC outputs is a '0' and vice-versa.

The outside of the Music Maker cart looks like this:

[Linked Image]

There are no recordings of any music or sounds in 2000-baud format that can be loaded into the Music Maker cartridge. There were only a few Music Maker cartridges available. I have one of them and it works, but I think my EPROM may be going bad in it, as when I tried to save music, the program now crashes.

The modem driver that Paul archived is for use with a Star-brand modem. I think it is also supported with the Blue Ram Utility 3.0. The Blue Ram hardware uses an Intel 8154 for I/O. I guess that would have to be emulated for input/ouput to work correctly. Then again, earlier in this thread, I did see that a Blue Ram BASIC program was loaded into MAME. In order for the I/O of the Blue Ram to work, I presume it must support the 8154 chip. So maybe that hardware is already emulated?

Yes, I do have the voice recognition hardware called the Computer Ear. The software for it, written in BASIC, is not archived in "tape" format (a WAV file). However, the BASIC listing of the program is available. I've always meant to type it in, but I have never done it before now. As far as I'm aware, even though about about eighty of the Computer Ear devices were made, I am the only person who has one now.


Oh, and thanks for letting me know to link to pictures rather than expecting support for in-line pictures for posts.