A Brief History of Olivetti Computing
Olivetti Inc launched its international operation in 1930 and it opened its very first overseas production facility in the same year. One of its first electronic breakthroughs was the Divisumma Electric calculator, which it launched almost 20 years later in 1948.
First Italian Computer
The first computer of note to exist in Italy, was the Olivetti Elea 9003, created in 1959 and manufactured using a transistor array. Not long after that, the company bought the Underwood Typewriter Company.
In 1964, the electronics division of Olivetti was sold off to the US giant General Electric (GE), but it carried on producing its own computer products. These included the Programma 101 (the first commercially available home computer) and a host of other notable models during the 1980s.
The Dragon computer was one of those models and it was released during a time when Olivetti was experiencing a meteoric rise in the industry. It became the largest office machine manufacturer in Europe and the 2nd largest PC supplier in Europe, second only to IBM.
Moving forward to the mid 50s, the company was responsible for some of the very first mainframe computer systems using transistors, like the Elea 9003. This model and the much more diminutive 6001 enjoyed some success in the computer lease market, however, poor sales led to the company withdrawing from the sector in ‘64.
The Programma 101
The Olivetti Programma 101, released in 1965, (mentioned earlier) is regarded as the world’s first commercially available desktop PC, a prototype model of which currently resides in the National Science Museum in Milan. The model would have been owned by GE after it acquired the electronics arm of Olivetti, but for a last minute change in category from calculator to computer.
By the mid 80s, the company continued to jostle for position in the burgeoning computer market, as it purchased the majority share in british computer firm, Acorn Computers.
1987 witnessed the rise of the LSX line, which used the Motorola 68k processor as a template. These computers could run both MOS and Unix.
Just 10 years had passed when Olivetti ceased production, having tried to save itself at the eleventh hour by launching the ‘Envision’, the first ‘Multimedia’ home computer. The world it seems wasn’t quite ready for it and it was a commercial failure. This resulted in it selling its PC arm lock stock and barrel in 1997.