1980s Vintage Computers


AES Data Superplus IV

AES Data were a Canadian company, the Superplus IV was sold in 1981 as a dedicated word processor but could have been much more. On the outside can be seen the twin 5.25" floppy drives (standard Tandon TM-100-4 units), a 12" monochrome display and a separate keyboard (which needs cleaning!). The machine uses hard-sector floppies (16-sector) but I have no details on capacity. Inside is a set of five PCBs mounted on a passive backplane, which are an Intel 8080A processor board, RAM board, floppy controller and I/O board, memory board, video board and serial comms board. The main unit is very well made, and extremely heavy - it uses a cast aluminium chassis for example.

I checked it out by first removing the PSU. This powered up OK with a dummy load. I put it back together, switched on and a tantalum capacitor failed in a dramatic fashion, but once this was replaced the machine powered up OK. The machine beeps until a floppy disk is inserted. If the disk doesn't have the boot code the screen is then filled with 0s or 1s (depending on which floppy drive was used). Luckily the machine came with a boot disk, which takes about 20s to load, and it comes up with the Plus word processor, as pictured here. There is one utility disk to copy data disks, but no means to copy the boot or program disks, or to format data disks. This machine came with a set of floppy disks and a manual. The other software looks like extensions to the WP for record management. I haven't fully explored all the features, but everything looks to be OK.

 

 

 

My machine came with an AES daisy wheel printer, this is powered from the base unit and uses a custom lead to connect to an edge connector on the rear of the floppy controller & I/O card. 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the five boards, click on the image for a full-sized view
CPU board - 8080A processor and 32K of RAM. Note the edge connector on the left. The passive back-plane provides power, and has tabs so that certain cards have to go into fixed slots.

Other chips include 16 x 4116 (giving 32K of dynamic RAM), Intel P8212, Intel D3242 memory interface.D8257 DMA controller.

There is one 82S147 PROM chip, 4Kbit (512 byte) which I assume is used to boot-strap the machine from floppy.

Memory board. Chips used include 32 x MM5290 RAM, which I think is 64K. Not sure if bank switching is used as the 8080A can only address 64K of memory. Includes a D3242 memory interface IC. 
Floppy disk controller. The two floppy disk cables are shown connected in the top right corner. The keyboard connector is to the left of the floppy cables, and the printer connects to an edge connector on the right (not shown).

Chips used include COM2601 - Universal sync receiver/transmitter. The rest appear to be TTL except for a NE558.

Video board. The connection to the display is the 9-pin header in the top right corner

Chips used include Motorola SCM37706 (?), MC3242 DRAM controller, 8 x MCM6616 giving 16K of video RAM. 82S129 1Kbit (256 byte) PROM.

Serial comms board. There is an edge connector on the right (not shown), which connects to a lead with two 25-pin D type connectors. This scan was taken before one of the tantalum capacitors failed, now replaced.

Here is a close-up of the badge, there is also a label on the bottom which says:

AES Model 103C 220 / 240V 50Hz 4.0A.
AES Data Ltd Montreal, Canada.

There is very little on the web about this machine. There are several mentions of the earlier AES Model 90, and one page on the AES 7100. The manual has a picture of the earlier 'AES Plus', which is similar but has an integrated keyboard. I also read that AES were sold under the Lanier brand in the US, so perhaps the Lanier Model 103 in this collection is the same machine. I understand that the Lanier No Problem was a re-badged 'AES Plus', and the Lanier Super No Problem was a re-badged AES Superplus.

The previous owner told me something of the history of this machine. She said is was bought in 1981 by the International Baccalaureate Office in London for around 13,000 - a lot of money even then. She used it from 1989 to 1991 for word processing and also for accessing Telecom Gold, and was given it to take it home when they upgraded. The word processor had some strange features, such as each page had to be stored as a separate file, which made adding text to page 1 quite a chore!

nb as of 2012 I have sold this machine, many thanks for the emails from users and previous AES/Lanier employees.

 

 

 


This page was last revised on: 21/09/12