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O > OLIVETTI  > A5


 

This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the Olivetti  A5 computer. If you want to share your own experience or memories, or add relevant information about this system: post a message! For other purposes like sales messages, hardware & software questions or information requests, please use our main forum.

  Click Here to add a message in the forum

 

Wednesday 16th March 2011
jan (Melbourne)

I worked with this machine a5 in a banks stock and share dept. 6 7 years I was the main operator of 2 a5s I was full time and ended up with the dreaded RSI. A lot of data was with the numerical keyboard with my arm suspended I was quite fast some batches took 3 hours and I estimated 100,000 strokes on peak days . The a5 broke down a lot and the technician said they were not meant to do so much work. Data was recorded on a cassette and print out paper. It was fazed out 1983 with the VDUs installed. I have no photos I had 6 months off to recover from tenosynovitis and neck bursitis no compensation really only improving now with constant chiropractic new methods no work breaks then and because I was only one not good memories but a zippy machine that typed well on certificates and was a bit noisy. With the VDUs came ergonomic chairs


Thursday 10th August 2017
POK (New Zealand)

I worked on the A5 from 1979 as a programmer. Yes it used BAL - Basic Assembler Language.
I also spent time with the engineers and helped them pull many apart.
Because i had time on my hands when not programming the A5 I learnt the A4, P603 and Auditronic 1530 series.


Saturday 29th July 2017
R J Grace (United Kingdom)
I

I was engineer on A5 it was fun. Needed a lot of attention as it was not built to do what the programmers wanted it to do or what the salesmen told the customers it would do. We took them all back to retrofit with stronger components. We wanted them to work but sometimes they broke and this was not good for a machine that printed people''s pay slips. There was no shortage of effort to make them work but they just wouldn''t do what they were asked to do. Those were interesting times.


Thursday 25th May 2017
Ken Macumber (Boston, MA)

The Programma 101 was the first computer I ever used. I was in summer school in 1968 (junior high) and I wrote a program to calculate the area of a truncated triangular pyramid (I was a math geek). It got me addicted to computers!


Monday 14th September 2015
Manuel L. Dominguez A. (Spain)

They both were my first computers at work: an Olivetti Audit 5 and an Olivetti BCS 2030. Used for accountancy and invoicing.

"My" BCS 2030 was equipped with 4K of RAM (on a memory board bigger than a whole actual ATX PC)
I don''t know about the A5 total memory.

Both of them equipped with 2 units of 8 inches floppies and magnetic card readers.
We shared programs on the floppies and information about clients / suppliers between the computers on those cards$ surprisingly, manual ordering and search of the cards, not very clever.

They were the reason I studied and programming and change my life, but I''ve never found again that language (or pseudo?) the programs were written in B.A.L. (for Basic Assembly Language).


Monday 1st June 2015
Gary VanderPutten (Brooklyn, USA)

This was the first computer I ever programmed - it was 1974 at Olivetti NY. It was programmed in an IBM based assembler and machine language and had sufficient instructions set to address a wide variety of small business application. We relied heavily on logical orations to get the most out of the 2k of usable ram. The machine had a realtime interpreter of code manually entered into the machine. It taught a lot about programing. I loved it and could make it fly.


Monday 1st June 2015
Gary VanderPutten (Brooklyn, USA)

This was the first computer I ever programmed - it was 1974 at Olivetti NY. It was programmed in an IBM based assembler and machine language and had sufficient instructions set to address a wide variety of small business application. We relied heavily on logical orations to get the most out of the 2k of usable ram. The machine had a realtime interpreter of code manually entered into the machine. It taught a lot about programing. I loved it and could make it fly.


Monday 1st June 2015
Gary VanderPutten (Brooklyn, USA)

This was the first computer I ever programmed - it was 1974 at Olivetti NY. It was programmed in an IBM based assembler and machine language and had sufficient instructions set to address a wide variety of small business application. We relied heavily on logical orations to get the most out of the 2k of usable ram. The machine had a realtime interpreter of code manually entered into the machine. It taught a lot about programing. I loved it and could make it fly.


Tuesday 17th March 2015
Michele Bordanzi (ITALY)

Hi,
We have a OLIVETTI A5 in our office, we are a Study of Business Consultant and Public Accountants, the studio is run by my father and myself, my father bought this wonderful product in the early years of our study, (at the time, cost as much as a Ferrari, it’s not a joke.. ) was a major investment, after being used for many years, with the arrival of PC, Laptop, Tablet etc this machine was shut in stock and submerged by a thousand other items obsolete.
Aesthetically was not damaged, the electronic part is to be reviewed, I would like to know if any of you know someone interested in purchasing this machine or what could be the value in the vintage market , for individuals, associations or even a pawnshop, thanks Michele


Tuesday 17th March 2015
Michele Bordanzi (ITALY)

Hi,
We have a OLIVETTI A5 in our office, we are a Study of Business Consultant and Public Accountants, the studio is run by my father and myself, my father bought this wonderful product in the early years of our study, (at the time, cost as much as a Ferrari, it’s not a joke.. ) was a major investment, after being used for many years, with the arrival of PC, Laptop, Tablet etc this machine was shut in stock and submerged by a thousand other items obsolete.
Aesthetically was not damaged, the electronic part is to be reviewed, I would like to know if any of you know someone interested in purchasing this machine or what could be the value in the vintage market , for individuals, associations or even a pawnshop, thanks Michele


Friday 23rd January 2015
Glenda (Sydney, Australia)

I worked in a real estate office in the late 70''s early 80''s and we used the Olivetti A5 for trusting accounting. Each tenant had a card with a narrow magnetic strip and each owner had one as well. To receive the rent you would take their ledger card and wrap a receipt around the ledger card and $ it into the machine and then you would input the last 2 digit number and then $ the magnet card into the slot and then put the amount of rent etc and then it would print out your receipt and update the magnetic card. At the end of the month doing the landlord statements you would $ the blank owner statement and their magnetic card which would fill in their details and then you would put each tenants card through to add onto the owners statement. Thinking back it was time consuming and took a couple of days as we had a large rent roll and it would print out the ledgers as well and you had to add them manually to balance your trust a/c. Remember it being very noisy the constant golf ball tapping away. Certainly is a lot easier all done in an hour or two.


Monday 9th December 2013
Tim  (Denver CO, USA)

I was reading about the Babbage Difference Engine, a mechanical computer designed in the 19th century and it reminded me of the A5s i used to work on in the early 1980s. They took lots of care to keep running and when the mechanical interface would lock up, pieces and parts flew everywhere. You needed a strong back to take one of these back to the shop!!


Thursday 29th August 2013
Tom (Rochester NY, USA)

I just ran across my A5 training certificate. I worked in Boston, and was excited to get trained on it, but what a let down when I found out what it looked like inside. They also tried to come out with a typewriter that shared the same type ball as the A5 - enormous mistake, like trying to type with a Mack truck. In addition to insurmountable mechanical problems there were unsolvable software problems. The interpreter did not reliably execute the code as one would expect. Example. a business with several accounts would want to update data on mag stripe cards (one per account) based on activity, e.g. product delivery or payment. You read the card for current data, enter activity data, update and print the account data, and pass the card through to record the updated info. However the card would not get the new info and there was no notice to the operator who would then put in the card for the next account. Well the previous account''s data would then be written to the next account''s card, destroying that next account''s record. What a nightmare for the business owner. Also, salesmen sold them miles away from where we were based. Some of my service calls took me 2 hours driving each way.


Monday 7th January 2013
Steve (Shreveport, Louisiana USA)

I went to work for a small Olivetti franchise in Shreveport, after getting out of the Air Force in 1974. I was trained on the P603 accounting computer, a real hay baler. When the A5 came out one of the other techs was sent to school to be trained on it (there were only three of us and the shop manager). When the first unit arrived at the company, we took the covers off, and the first words out of my mouth were "Oh, my God, you NEVER mate nylon to metal like this," as I looked at the camshafts fitted with nylon gears meshing with metal gears, and watching the start/stop/reverse motion of the camshafts. Within a few months, the tech trained on the machine quit, so I had to make the service calls on the machines, not even being trained on the A5. Sure enough, the metal gears started shredding the nylon ones. Within a few months, I found another job and happily left that nightmare. The service manager told me years later the A5 almost bankrupted the small company, which went out of business when electronic computers came out.


Tuesday 20th November 2012
Ted (New York City, NY, USA)

I programmed the A5 in New York City in the late 1970''s at first with the ''national'' staff and then NYC sales office, both at 500 Park Avenue. The BAL language was a subset, at best. of IBM-type mainframe BAL and didn''t help in getting a mainframe job from there. The company had standard ''turnkey'' accounting programs (payables, receivables, payroll, all with reporting capabilities) but every customer wanted them customized and no salesman ever turned down a request, costing enough programming hours to probably kill any profit. This was my first job (though I started with their P-603) and it did make me realize the possibilities involved in such machines. Once a bookkeeper/secretary got over her fear of the thing she''d complain of the extra entries needed every day per transaction, on top of having to enter records (mag cards) for each account. But when monthly reporting time came it would shave a day and a half off the process. But, as stated, this depended on the machine not breaking down or the continuous sprocket-feed paper not running off the ''rails''. So in the end it was a bust, but again, I gained insight on how it COULD have been great. I liked the modern look of the machine and especially the lights above the keyboard which were in groups of four so that a hexadecimal number would light up the right combo of lights in each bank - to signify an error, prompt an action by the operator (what to enter next, or when to feed in the next program module, such as Daily Totals'' into the mag card reader. You''d read the new code in at a certain memory point making sure not to overwrite the part of the old code that told the program where to jump to in the newly entered module. Not a lot of memory to work with as you can imagine. Only later were 8" floppy drives added. I saw cassette units later on, too, and did work with them briefly for data. These were, of course, for sequential data, just as the big tape units were on big IBM 360''s I worked with later, using COBOL in my next job, so that was good experience. The big floppy disks (which really were floppy) relieved the need to load program modules via mag-stripe cards. I don''t recall using them for data per se.


Sunday 30th September 2012
Simon (Leicester, UK)

I was a service engineer on the A5 in the early 80''s, had an ex- Olivetti mentor (Chris) who knew the machine inside out, and could diagnose a fault over the phone and describe exactly how I should fix it.
It had an electro-mechanical interface, with a series of electro magnets, cams, shafts and levers, all of which wore out on a regular basis.
It came (IIRC) with 1/2k, 2k or 4k of ram, and the mag stripe cards held 255 bytes of information(!!)- enough to store the customers name and address and the closing balance.
One Budget killed off the A5 almost overnight, when it was no longer able to do payroll, but gave me the opportunity to move on to REAL electronic computers...


Wednesday 15th August 2012
DEVISE (france)

built in language for A was "BAL" (basic assembled language)
2 printing colors (black and red) with a ball as head printer


Saturday 26th May 2012
Dan E. (NV / USA)

I was an Olivetti dealer in the mid-70''s, and the A5 was an interesting computer to program and service. I was the sales person, programmer, and service technician. My first hire was a service tech after selling three systems because it did require a lot of support. The six week training program was in Tarrytown NY (home of Washington Irving) and Sleepy Hollow is just down the road. I programmed California Payroll in the basic assembly language, which is nothing like BASIC, and more like assembly. Applications also included Leasing Contracts of Auto Sales, Garbage Billing, Pharmacy, Credit Card Processing, Wholesale Distribution, John Deere Tractor Accounting, and much more. It competed with NCR and Burroughs accounting machines because it supported ledger card posting along with magnetic card storage. Many companies wanted electronic computers but did not want to give up the paper ledgers. Interesting times.


Friday 11th November 2011
David Boxold (Shropshire UK)

I worked for Olivetti as a service engineer from 1979 till 1998. The first few years were spent servicing audit 5 machines.
The training course was six weeks duration most of which was spent learning how the printer worked. The digital signal sent by the logic was interpreted by a series of electromagnets that set of a train of events that resulted in either a tabulation of the print head to a predetermined position or $ion of a character on the golf ball print head followed by a print operation. I am still amazed at the complex design and speed of operation of this printer. In the centre of this array of cams, sliders and rotating parts was the “tab barrel $ gears”. These were 3 plastic components that regularly wore away and needed to be replaced. It became a challenge to attempt to carry out the job in under 2 hours. I still have some manuals and mag-cards and even a micro-8 logic as a reminder of happy hours spent in a challenging but happy environment.


Saturday 22nd October 2011
Bryan Mehus

I don''t know what made me ''google'' the audit 5. I was a technician with Olivetti in the late 70s. They weighed about 70lbs. The printer interface was a bear, so many moving parts, IBMs ball printer was much more elegant. Clients loked it because the printer hit hard enough to go through several copies. Most of the machines I worked on were for posting ledgers in banks, but some city halls and even a provincial prison had them. There was a two 8" floppy bay that could be had, but they were expensive so most people just used the 256byte cards or the ctu(cassette tape unit). We called the language BAL basic assembler language, if I recall it did seem like most basic languages at the time. Breakdowns were prevelant, thus my full time job covering the NE corner of Alberta.
Bryan


Tuesday 23rd August 2011
Gianni Donadel (Conegliano italy)

I begin with A5 too.
No 2kb of memory, but 1984 bytes!
8 magnetic card (for read it the $1 and $3 slide on: Read Magnetic Card or Write Magnetic Card.
7 with 256 bytes and the last one with 192.
Code+data on that memory!
I''ve again my first prog (flow chart and instruction).
Ciao
Gianni


Friday 10th June 2011
Gary VP (US (New York))

This was the first computer I ever programed, and yes it was a mess of gears as well - still have a tool kit for it. It used a variant of IBM assembler, had a built in interpretor, and had 2k of memory to play with. We wrote some pretty heavy accounting and invoicing application on this - I loved that clanker.


Tuesday 26th April 2011
Randy Larson (USA)

I went to olivetti school on the a5 for 6 weeks,
these things were so bad about stripping gears, i could tear one down and put it back together in about an hour. we used them mainly for accounting and water billing systems.

they were fun to watch , we had a program to test that would pinp pong back and forth come to the middle and go back , if it survived that it would work for a fews days.

we replaced them with a system called the brd ,





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