Gandalf SAM 201 modem

Dublin Core


Gandalf SAM 201 modem


hardware: modem


Historical context
(by Z. Stachniak)

The rapid development of computer technologies and applications in the 1950s and 1960s created demand for sharing data and resources by connecting computers and computer equipment together over short as well as long distances. A pair of dedicated hardware devices called modems (MOdulator/DEModulators) were used to encode digital information originated at one end of the communications link and to decode such information using the second modem on the other end without degradation in accuracy of transferred data.

By the end of the 1960s, there were over 2,000 digital computers installed in Canada and the number of new installations was steadily increasing in the following years. This advancement as well as the trend towards distributed processing and on-line remote access to data processing resources provided an opportunity to supply these new installations with made in Canada modems and other electronic data transmission devices. ESE Ltd. of Toronto and Gandalf Technologies Ltd. of Nepean were among the earliest and best known Canadian manufacturers of such products.

Gandalf Technologies

In April 1971, Desmond Cunningham and Colin Patterson incorporated Gandalf Data Communications Ltd. (later renamed as Gandalf Technologies, Inc.) with headquarters in Manotick, Ontario (later moved to Nepean). Gandalf's first product was the LDS 100 asynchronous modem (called Local Data Set or LDS). It's competitive price relative to the rental of modems offered by phone companies resulted in lucrative sales to major Canadian corporations and institutions including the federal government's Communication Research Centre, McGill University, Bell Northern Research, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Atomic Energy of Canada. The following year, Gandalf offerd the synchronous version of its modem -- the LDS 200. The success of these products led to the name 'Gandalf box' being adopted as a generic term for these and future Gandalf modems.

The PACX data switch (Private Automatic Computer eXchange) introduced in late 1972, was Gandalf's first product that put the company on the international map. The device allowed multiple user terminals to access any one of a number of available computers. Each terminal was connected to a Gandalf LDS 126 data set which, in turn communicated with a PACX switch. The data set had two thumb wheels on the front panel. To access a specific computer connected to a PACX switch, the user rolled the wheels to the two-digit number assigned to the selected computer. The PACX switch quickly found world-wide acceptance and made Gandalf one of the world's most innovative companies in the data communications industry of the 1970s.

Throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, Gandalf offered successive generations of modems (including the SAM 201), multiplexers, and PACX switches with enhanced performance features. These new products were manufactured and distributed through Gandalf manufacturing and sales facilities in Nepean as well as through newly established Gandalf Sales Inc. in Chicago, and Gandalf Digital Communications Ltd. located in Warrington UK. Gandalf's clients included some of the world's largest organizations such as British Steel, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, and Shell in the UK alone.

Although by 1981 annual revenues had reached $40 million, the company decided to go public in order to stay competitive in the data communications market which by then was already crowded with companies ranging from small enterprises such as Develcom of Saskatoon to large corporations including 3COM, AT&T, Northern Telecom, and British Telecom. By 1985, the company had grown into a multinational corporation with annual sales of approx. $85 million and subsidiaries in the US, UK, France, and the Netherlands.

Despite a wide range of innovative hardware and software products introduced in the 1980s and 1990s, including end-to-end network management system--Gandalf Passport--and the StarMaster local and wide area digital networking system (designed to carry a variety of traffic types such as video, data, voice, fax, LAN), the company could not sustain intense competition from companies such as Cisco Systems and Cabletron Systems in the rapidly developing remote access market. Financial losses incurred by the company in the 1990s forced Gandalf into bankruptcy in 1997.

Gandalf SAM 201 technical specifications and product information
  • year of introduction: the early 1980s,
  • price: $1,300-$1,450,
  • data rate: 1200, 2400 bps,
  • modulation method: DPSK,
  • transmission mode: full duplex,
  • synchronization: asynch/synch,
  • calling mode: orig/auto answer,
  • diagnostics: analog, digital loopback,
  • features: Bell 201 C and CCITT compatible; V.26 compatible.
Museum holdings
  • Gandalf SAM 201 modem,
  • Gandalf Access Series 24S modem,
  • Gandalf LDM 408 modem,
  • Gandalf TTS 400C, modem,
  • Gandalf 1980-81 Catalogue.


Gandalf Technologies, Inc.




world-wide, 1980s





Gandalf Technologies, Inc., “Gandalf SAM 201 modem,” York University Computer Museum Canada, accessed July 19, 2024,

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