The Olympia Boss was developed an build in Germany and France (assembled in the Olympia Bueromaschinenwerk, either Wilhelmshaven or Munich). Olympia was Germany's most respected and advanced typewriter and desktop calculator company at that time. But, they couldn't hold the pace of the upcoming office-computer industry and fell back.
Several models were marketed :
- Boss A: two 5.25" FDD of 128 kb each,
- Boss B: two 5.25" FDD of 256 kb each,
- Boss C: two 5.25" FDD of 600 kb each,
- Boss D: one 5.25" HD of 5Mb and one FDD of 600 kb,
- Boss M (for Multipost): up to 4 Boss systems can work together and share a total of 20Mb from the four 5Mb hard-disks (4x5=20).
- Boss 2: Z80A instead of the Intel 8085.
It was sold with a monochrom monitor and a dot matrix printer. It runs under Prologue or CP/M, and was delivered with MicroSoft Basic 5.21 and BAL. BAL is a programming language which looks like Basic and Cobol rolled together. It is associated always with the Prologue OS and allows files management. A few other languages were available : Fortran 80, Cobol 80, Pascal MT+ and assembler.
By patching the CP/M System the machine could read any standard or non-standard CP/M formatted disk up to 720 KB, even 3.5'' disks were easily pluggable. This way user could import/export data and programms from/to any CP/M based computers, even the very popular Amstrad/Schneider CPC series.
Steve Spring, who was technical project manager for the Boss at Olympia's UK division in Marylebone, London for eight months at the time it was launched, reports :
The existing sales staff in Olympia did not have the first clue what they were dealing with, totally failing to understand the fundamental difference between the type of post sales support required for an electric type writer and that required for a PC (and in those fledgling days life was a lot simpler!!!).
Erik van Asperen reports :
I've been a programmer for years using BAL, and it's definitively a (Business) BASIC dialect. The only language constructs resembling COBOL are variable structures known in COBOL as redefines and filedescriptors. But I guess these are language features also known in other languages under different names. BAL certainly is not COBOL as I used to program in both languages. In the early nineties a BAL version (then already rechristened ABAL) for DOS and UNIX was available.