Olivetti BSC 2035. A desktop computer 1 meter long and 70 cm deep.

Olivetti S.p.A. is an Italian manufacturer of computers, tablets, smartphones, printers and other such business products as calculators and fax machines. Headquartered in Ivrea, in the Metropolitan City of Turin, the company has been part of the TIM Group since 2003. One of the first commercial programmable desktop calculators, the Programma 101, was produced by Olivetti in 1964 and was a commercial success.

Between 1955 and 1964 Olivetti developed some of the first transistorized mainframe computer systems, such as the Elea 9003. Although 40 large commercial 9003 and over 100 smaller 6001 scientific machines were completed and leased to customers to 1964, low sales, loss of two key managers and financial instability caused Olivetti to withdraw from the field in 1964.

In 1965 Olivetti released the Programma 101, considered one of the first commercial desktop programmable calculators. It was saved from the sale of the computer division to GE thanks to an employee, Gastone Garziera, who spent successive nights changing the internal categorization of the product from “computer” to “calculator”, so leaving the small team in Olivetti and creating some awkward situations in the office, since that space was now owned by GE. In 1974 the firm released the TC800, an intelligent terminal designed to be attached to a mainframe and used in the finance sector. It was followed in 1977 by the TC1800.

During the 1970s Olivetti also manufactured and sold two ranges of minicomputers. The ‘A’ series started with the typewriter-sized A4 through to the large A8, and the desk-sized DE500 and DE700 series.

Olivetti’s first modern personal computer, the M20, featuring a Zilog Z8000 CPU, was released in 1982. The M20 was followed in 1983 by the M24, a clone of the IBM PC using DOS and the Intel 8086 processor (at 8 MHz) instead of the Intel 8088 used by IBM (at 4.77 MHz). The M24 was sold in North America as the AT&T 6300. Olivetti also manufactured the AT&T 6300 Plus, which could run both DOS and Unix.

The M24 in the US also was sold as Xerox 6060. The Olivetti M28 was the firm’s first PC to have the Intel 80286 processor. The same year Olivetti produced its M10 laptop computer, a 8085-based workalike of the successful Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100, which it marketed in Europe. These were the first laptops to sell in million-unit quantities, though the Olivetti M10 itself only attained sales figures in the tens of thousands and went out of production within two years.

During the 1980s and 1990s Olivetti continued to release PC compatible machines, facing mounting competition from other brands. It turned to laptops, introducing in 1991 the D33, a laptop in a carry case, and continuing with the M111, M211, S20, D33, Philos and Echos series. A very interesting subnotebook was the Quaderno, about the same size as an A5 paper – it was the grandfather of the netbooks introduced 20 years later.

Olivetti did attempt to recover its position by introducing the Envision in 1995, a full multimedia PC, to be used in the living room; this project was a failure. Packard Bell managed to successfully introduce a similar product in the U.S. but only some years later.[citation needed]

The company continued to develop personal computers until it sold its PC business in 1997.


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