Robert Fiorelli, the primary author of AIDS-III, described it not as a “database management system” but as a “data-management system”:
AIDS-III is a data-management system. This is different from a data-base management system. The former is generally faster, more flexible, and is suited for selecting and ordering information in a highly dynamic fashion. By contrast, the latter has higher capacity, is slower and more cumbersome, and is suited for easily accessing individual items of data. Think of it as the difference between driving a station wagon and a bus.
According to Robert Fiorelli, the first version of the AIDS software came about after he was asked to make a presentation about information management to the Northern Ohio TRS‑80 Business Users Group (NOBUG) in August 1979. To go along with the presentation, he (with help from Alan Becker, Wendy Sayer, and Robert Schneider) wrote a simple data-management program called AIDS (Automated Information Directory System).
The AIDS program was a hit with the attendees, who requested an enhanced version. That enhanced version was called AIDSPLUS and was sold through Meta Technologies Corporation.
With the success of AIDSPLUS, Meta Technologies decided to enter the national TRS‑80 market in 1980 with another improved version named AIDS-II. AIDS-II was advertised in the premier issue of 80 Microcomputing in January 1980:
Ailing Information? Doctor it up with AIDS-II. This Automated Information Directory System is user-defined, features user-specified fields and print/display formats, conditional record selection, updating of fields within records, sorting by any combination of fields, and more! Directory size is limited by available memory — will typically handle 200 records or more in 32K. Greatly expanded product based on the very popular AIDS system.
The original price for AIDS-II was $49.94 for the Model I version and $79.95 for the Model II version.
In May 1980, Meta Technologies released an upgraded version called AIDS-III. AIDS-III cost $69.95 for the Model I version and $99.95 for the Model II version. Existing AIDS-II users could upgrade for $25.00.
AIDS-III was the best known of the AIDS program versions and won multiple 80 Micro Reader’s Choice Awards.
In June 1982, SofTrends (Robert Fiorelli’s company) took over development of AIDS-III from Meta Technologies. Alan Becker and Scott Raymond, assisted by Fiorelli, rewrote AIDS-III in pure machine language. The new version, called AIDS-III Version 2, was ten times faster than the earlier BASIC version of AIDS-III.
In an unusual move, Robert Fiorelli published the complete source code for the now deprecated BASIC version of AIDS-III in 80 Micro. “Inside AIDS-III” was a two part series that was published in the March and April 1983 issues. The first part contained the full source code for AIDS-III. The second part contained full source code for MAPS-III, CALCS-III, and MERGE-III, three utilities that accompanied AIDS-III.
In late 1982, the Centers for Disease Control in the United States standardized on the name AIDS for a disease that had been first clinically observed in 1981. The news media and public began using the name AIDS soon after.
This common usage suddenly gave the name AIDS-III a very bad connotation. Much like the Ayds appetite-suppressant (which was popular in the early 1980’s), sales of AIDS-III must have suffered badly as a result. SofTrends renamed AIDS-III to Promise! sometime in 1983.
Meta Technologies went out of business in early 1984. SofTrends continued selling Promise! until at least 1985.