Image: AES logo

AES 7100 Office System

The AES 7100 Office System is primarily a word processing machine, but I have been told that there was a version of CP/M for it. This is not surprising considering that its CPU is a Zilog Z80.

I haven't managed to get this unit running yet, but I think that the hardware is functional because it gives me an error indication on the screen when I put a Training Disk in one of the drives. The screen fills with the number "2", meaning that I have inserted a data disk instead of a software disk. With the only "Software Disk" that I have, it sounds like it is loading for a while, and then the disk drive's heads start shaking back and forth. Probably the disk is damaged and it can't read something. Another possibility is that it requires that the printer be connected and powered up in order to operate. I don't have the printer.

This machine caught my eye because of the unusual case design. Here are some photographs from different angles so you can see what it looks like:

Image: AES 7100 from front right Image: AES 7100 from back left
Image: AES 7100 from back right Image: AES 7100 from front left
Image: Plate with serial number

Yes, folks, apparently AES Data Inc. was a Canadian company based in Montreal. It's always nice to find local stuff. The address of the company, as listed in the manuals, was:

AES Data Inc.
100, boul. Alexis-Nihon
Bureau 600
Montréal (Québec)
Canada H4M 2P2

The front plate says "7100", this plate says "Model 203", so was this an AES 7100 Model 203?

Image: 12-pin printer port

That thing to the left has to be the most bizarre printer port I've ever seen. But there's also another port with a printer pictogram beside it which looks nothing like this, and just about every other hole in the back has a telephone handset drawn next to it, so I don't know if the labels mean anything.

To the right is a picture of the portion of the keyboard that, on a normal computer, would be the numeric keypad. The pictograms represent word processing and control functions.

Image: WP function keypad

Only two screws have to be removed from the back, and the motherboard and power supply can be pulled out on a tray.

An inspection of the motherboard reveals a Z80A microprocessor, three Z80A PIO chips, two Z80A CTC chips, 192KB of DRAM with space for another 64KB, several other large chips, and lots of TTL. Basically, it looks like a system that could run CP/M as its operating system, although CP/M can't use that much memory.

Image: Motherboard tray
Image: System fan

The system fan sits horizontally behind the disk drive mechanisms. It sucks air through the drives and blows down onto the board below.

The vertical black grating is part of the metal box that the drives live in. The drives are full-height and single-sided.

The port below the fan is labeled with a printer pictogram. It's a 50-pin male edge connector, living on a small daughter card that is supported above the motherboard by plastic posts.

Just as a note of scale, the system fan has a diameter of 4½ inches. :-)

I found the matching manuals and disks several months after picking up the unit. I don't know if this is the complete set of manuals or not, but it is definitely not the complete set of disks.

The manuals are AES 7100 Advanced Operator Instruction and Reference Manual, AES 7100 Operator Instruction Manual, and AES 7100 Operator Handbook and Reference Manual. All manuals bear a 1983 copyright date.

The disks are Training Diskette numbers 1 through 4, and one Software Diskette which bears a registration date of August 1985. The Software diskette is registered to Sun Life du Canada.

The disks are hard-sectored, with 16 sectors, which means that there is no way for any common computer to access them. I cannot inspect the contents or make backups.

Image: AES documentation and disks

Skimming through the manuals I can find some interesting things: The machine's standard software can do some database functions, and can do financial functions such as adding up columns of numbers and inserting results in a word processing document. It handles block moves and copies, and search and replace. It performs automatic hyphenation. It handles columns, floating footnotes, repagination, creation of table of contents, glossaries, and indeces. It multitasks, and it is capable of networking with other machines. There is a programming language in the word processor. Also, screen controls (brightness and centering) are performed from the keyboard.

The AES 7100 Office System appears to be quite capable, but with the rise of general purpose computers which could run word processing programs, database management tools, and spreadsheets, this kind of system couldn't last. With CP/M Plus it would make a decent computer, probably more capable than many of the others on the market at the time, but from what I've heard it sounds as if AES Data Inc. didn't want to even include a disk formatting utility with its machines. With that kind of thinking, no wonder it became outmoded.

[Hrothgar's Cool Old Junk Page] 1999-08-22