Computer, Olivetti 'Programma 101', and documents (3), plastic / metal / paper / electronic components, hardware architect Pier Giorgio Perotto, designed by Mario Bellini, made by Olivetti, Italy, 1965-1971
The Olivetti Programma 101 was released on the international market in 1965 as a low cost desktop computer. It was a successful product, selling over 44,000 units from 1965 through to the early 1970s. Ninety per cent of sales were to North America, where its market dominance was attributed to its simplicity, functionality, robust construction, appearance and low cost. The Programma 101's commercial life ended in the early 1970s with the introduction of competing products such as the Hewlett-Packard 9100.
The Programma's hardware architect, Pier Giorgio Perotto, has long been regarded as the "father of the PC" in Italy. He joined Olivetti in the late 1950s as part of its newly established electronics division. This division's first task was to develop a computer, and the result was the first computer designed and manufactured in Italy, the Olivetti Elea 9003 in 1959.
The Programma 101 grew out of a project that Perotto continued, without the endorsement of his managers, after Olivetti disposed of its electronics division in the early 1960s. Perotto's work drew upon his Elea experience and led to a product that helped Olivetti move beyond making mechanical calculators.
The design of the Programma 101 was undertaken by Mario Bellini, then Olivetti's chief design consultant. The story of the design process is well documented and contributes to the interpretive value of this computer (Design Journal, UK March 1971 & McCarty C Mario Bellini Designer, MoMa, NY 1987).
Campbell Bickerstaff, 2008
Development of the Programma 101 commenced in the early 1960s. Although Olivetti had disposed of its electronic division following the death of Adriano Olivetti in 1960, Pier Perotto secretly began work on an electronic calculating machine. The Programma 101 was launched in Italy in 1964 and by the early 1970s had sold around 44,000 units.
The Programma 101 retained its status as the premier programmable desktop calculator for several years. The introduction of the Hewlett Packard 9100A calculator in 1968 heralded the end of this reign. Olivetti was awarded damages for patent infringements by Hewlett Packard.
The Programma product designer Mario Bellini grouped the mechanical and electronic components in sub-assemblies and employed cast aluminium as the casing material to reduce electrical interference from nearby sources. The final layout of the Programma was the result of over 40 prototype models.
This Programma 101 was used at the University of Sydney in the engineering faculty. It had been in storage for many years prior to being offered to the Museum in 2008.