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Thread: Olivetti BCS

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    1,348

    Default Olivetti BCS

    I have a story about an Olivetti Business Computer System! I've never seen another one, so it might be interesting, but unfortunately my Olivetti no longer exists

    My Grandfather bought it in about 1978, I think for around 3,000 (I wasn't born then...). The computer was an Olivetti BCS 2030, it was used in the company and caught on fire in 1994 , but was repaired and used until it until 1996, when they ran out of discs, ink and storage cards.

    It was an intriguing piece of equipment, having a long thin screen that scrolled the text. The company used it to keep track of account records. The details were kept on a A4-sized card that had a magnetic strip along one side, when you wanted to add some transaction to it, you put the card in the slot and it came back out with the new details printed on it, and (I assume) the new information stored on the magnetic strip.

    It also had a "Mini Disc" drive!! But these mini disc are not the same as today's mini disc. They were grey and looked liked the inside of a 3.5" floppy. You put it in a slot in the disc drive and it whirred around...

    The whole thing was the size of a desk. I remember as a child looking at it when I visited the company and thinking it was so cool to have a key start!!! It made a really bog noise when you turned it on.

    Unfortunately this story has a sad ending. In 1996 when the computer was replaced with a 166MHz Pentium running Windows 95 (), the Olivetti was put in a leaky storage room. It was going to be thrown away, but in 1999 I "rescued" it and brought it home where it sat on my parents driveway under a tarpaulin. Unfortunately it no longer worked. I advertised it on the Internet and in newspapers "Free to collector" for 2 years, but nobody phoned up.

    I took it to the tip in 2001

    I did keep the keyboard, minidisc drive and some internal cards though! I still have lots of discs and cards (used), and I think the operating manuals!!

    It was a very cool computer system, I just wish I could have kept it... Are there any of these surviving out there?

    Here's a photo!


  2. #2

    Default OLivetti BCS 2030

    dongfeng,

    I used to sell those computer (if you could callthem computers) 30 years ago in Melbourne Australia.

    Im not supprised to hear that it caught fire. The prevous models the A5 and A6 also had problems were they would catch on fire.

    The 2030 you showed the picture of used magnetic stiped cards independent of ledger card (as least in Australia). Some airlines still use those same card as boarding passes.

    The Mini disk drive was used to store the programs. As ther was only 2K of ram upgradable to 4k the programs were not bery big by todays standards.

    It would seem that the Olivelli Mini disk was the forrunner of the 3.5" floppy disk.

    Im not supprised that no one took up you offer to take it as a collectors item. They were not the sort of thing that you would want cloging up your garage.

    Considering the space they took up and the fact that proberly not a lot of them were ever sold (proberly only 100 in Australia) it is very unlikely any other would be still be around.

    It was a machine that was designed to meet a use that was quickly dying out at the time Visual record computers. That is electronic ledger machines. These were fast being replaced by screen based computer of the CPM ilk.

    The BCS2030 was however a vast improvement on the the machine it replaced the Olivitti Audit 5 or A5. The A5 was largely electro mechanical. It printed via a golf ball typewritter mechanism at the astonishing speed of 16 character per second (CPS). Better still the BCS2030 Floppy disk version replaced the A6. The A6 was an A5 with a duel 128K floppy drives. But still the 16 CPS printer.

    Some of the customers I had would start printing a report at close of business one day and come in the next morning to find it still printing.

    However the print mechanism being so mechanical often such a big print run would result in a breakdown. I tink Olivetti in Australia made more money out of Maintaince agreements than selling computers.

    And the sound was liike a machine gun. Not the sort of thing you would was to having printing beside you. Some people even made giant sound boxes to put them it to try and reduce the noise.

    The 2030 had a dot matrix printer that printed at the outstandind 100 cps and was much more reliable

    Interesting according to Wikipdia the remains of Olivetti now only build and sell printers.

    Geoff Greig
    Brisbane Australia

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    London, England
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    Default

    Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for your post, it is very interesting to hear more about this computer!

    From what I can remember, it was very noisy when in use and became very unreliable later in life. Amazingly, it was used in the company until the mid 1990's, by which time there was only one person in the UK who still maintained them. It also weighed an absolute ton, and it took two people to move it!

    I still have some of the magnetic ledger cards, as well as the keyboard, screen, MiniDisc drive and some expansion boards from the machine itself, as a memento

    Can you remember the cost new? My father seems to recall it was around 3,000 in the late '70s, the price of an average family car. Amazing how times change!

  4. #4

    Default OLivetti BCS 2030

    Dongfeng,

    In Australia we used to sell them for about A$12,000 which may have been about equivelent to 3,000 pound in the late 70's.

    An Australia at the time you could bi 2 new cars for $12,000

    The floppy disk version sold for A$18,000

    Geoff

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Northern Ontario
    Posts
    1

    Default

    Just outta curiosity, Geoff, when did you work at Olivetti? I worked for them in Adelaide from 81 to 90 as a tech.

  6. #6

    Default

    I had about 5 of these machines complete with crates full of cards, manuals etc etc.
    I still have some parts but not much. I gave everything to Getronics who has started a private collection of Olivetti equipment (as they own the brand now).

  7. #7

    Default

    Well this is a bit modern for me. It reminds me a little of the A5.
    It is a little sad that there is a slice of computing history being lost here.
    Olivetti introduced a mainframe about 1960 which I think was called ELEA, the in 1965 the Programma 101 - which was probably the world's first real desktop computer. Then a little later they introduced the Audiotronic range of "office computers". The first was the A770, which was replaced by the A7. The A5 was the desktop version. My first job was programming the A770 starting in 1971, followed by the A7. ALso the P101 was followed by the P203, P602, P652. I remember all of them - in fact I've still got the manuals and coding sticks and some mag cards. I suspect if put in front of one I could still programme it - S.O.B. that I am!!!
    The BCS 2030 must have come after these.
    But this bit of history is being lost. The histories mention the P101 as the first desktop then whizz onto the 1980s M20 - their first IBM PC clone.
    Sad huh? Is there a museum anywhere?

  8. #8

    Default

    Blondin,

    Sorry it has taken 2 years to reply, just noticed your post.

    I worked for Olivetti in Melbourne Australia from Nov 1977 to October 1981 as a sales rep trying to sell old ledger card technology against the then coming out screen based PC's.

    Later with other ex-olivetti employees I joined a small PC company, but still sold some of the Olivetti office machines such at ther electronic memory typewritters

    Geoff Greig
    Brisbane Australia

  9. #9

    Default

    Hi
    The M20 is still a cool machine. It was Olivetti's first
    shot at a PC.
    It was too expensive and wasn't an IBM so it lost favor.
    If any have programs we are still looking for a number
    of different items.
    Dwight

  10. #10

    Default

    Hi
    I worked for Olivetii in the uk as a service engineer and worked on all of the machines you mention, and like you could probably do some bits of programming on a P653 lol

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