Dataman S4 Programmer Part 1

When I started out in electronics and discovered that I could program my own EPROMS / Memory from a computer, I always wanted a device to let do so. When I started working freelance I was able to purchase a Chinese HI-LO ALL02 programmer that achieved this result. The down side was was that it required a slot in my PC for the ISA card which then plugged into the external programmer. It wasn’t portable, and it required the PC to do all the heavy lifting. I still thought this was amazing; and it was used on many many projects all the way from the late 80′ to the early 00’s. It paid for itself several time. Only problem I have now, is the ISA card for the programmer has gone missing (suspect it was thrown out by mistake, during a cleanup). Still have the programmer and I’m actively looking for a ISA card for it.

When I joined Intermec Ireland in the mid 90’s, we had a programmer in the service department, which allows us to program PROMs and EEPROMs via the serial port on the PC, although it was slow it did work. It supported various devices and once the code was downloaded into the programmer, you could program multiple EPROMS in minuets. It demonstrated to me some the advantages of programmers with their own intelligence and memory.

At the same time the various magazines that I was reading were advertising an EPROM programmer that I thought was perfect. It was battery powered, you could download firmware into it and use it in the field. It support not only Memories but also Microcontrollers. To me it was the Holy Grail of programmers. It has a display just like my loved EPSON HX-20. The programmer allowed the user to view/edit the contents of the memory before programming a device. This was something I was doing manually to set serial numbers on new products. As you could connect it to your computer via an RS232 port. You have to remember that USB didn’t exist at this time in commercial PC, especially the IBM PS/2 range, which we had at Intermec.

It was called the Datamac S4; and I wanted one, one small problem, it was expensive, very expensive. If my memory is correct it was in around the £450 mark (€570) just for the basic model. So as time progressed I kept seeing this device in components catalogues from Radionics, Farnell as well as my regular magazines that I was getting. It was taunting me, please buy me, please but me, but I could never justify it. As more time progressed, and my requirements changed, I ended up purchasing high speed USB programmers at a much lower costs which supported more devices than the S4, but deep down I still wanted an S4 programmer.

Recently when looking on www.adverts.ie, I found someone selling a S4, it was too good to be true, the price was right, it looked in great condition and it was pulled from a working environment. So I pulled the trigger, a deal was struck and now it is mine, am I happy, yes I am. I now have a piece of equipment to add to my vintage equipment kit that was on my wish list for many years.

Dataman S4 looking good.

As you can see it is in good condition, clean and very few marks on it. I did notice that the contrast control was not working and was flapping around inside. When I opened the unit, I discovered that the contrast control knob was broken off the contrast trimmer. So this will need to be fixed. The inside of the unit looks clean and original, which I was happy to see. The batteries look original, so these may need to be changed.

Inside the S4 programmer, notice the centre pin of the contrast know is stuck inside the contrast trimmer. This will need fixing.
Inside the main PC (Logic side, 256KBit RAM)

It looks as if no-one has been inside this device, so if it is faulty I may be the first person trying to fix it. I have been informed that it was working, and all its needs is a new 9VAC power supply. What I did see was a HM628512 RAM Chip, on the bottom of the main PCB, it is a 512K x 8 (4MB) RAM. This is largest memory that the device supports, so it looks as if the device as already pimped out to the MAX, that’s another bonus.

Next Steps:
1) Find / purchase a 9VAC power supply for the programmer.
2) Download and setup drivers on the DOS / early Windows PC.
3) Test program some EEPROM’s and PAL’s/GAL’s.
3) Fix the contrast control.

What are my plans for the programmer?
I would like to use this program to program the firmware for the retro computer that is being built. Program the video character ROM, firmware for the computer and maybe a GAL for address decoding.

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