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The Mystery of the personal computer: a forgotten Italian Discovery 🇮🇹

Today, let's delve into some history...

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The first personal computer is considered to be the Altair 8800, created in 1975 by the American company MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems). However, Programma 101, developed by Olivetti in Italy in 1965, was the first successfully marketed personal computer with a compact design and simple user interface. Although Programma 101 is not considered a true "PC" because it was not programmable by the user, it laid the foundation for future personal computers that followed.


This story shows how the European industry could produce revolutionary innovations but fell victim to the misunderstanding of certain business leaders. Programma 101 was an extraordinary achievement for its time, but it was underestimated by investors, who preferred to sell the patents rather than develop them. It is important to remember this story not to forget the true inventors of the personal computer and to encourage the European industry to continue innovating and believing in its abilities.


Here is the full story by Andrea Longhi in Italian.

And a courtesy translation is below:

"No, it's not about Wozniak or Steve Jobs, but about the REAL inventors of the personal computer; it's an Italian story that changed the world.

Ivrea 1962, the visionary genius Adriano OLIVETTI had already passed away, and the company was handed over to his son Roberto.

However, an engineer named Pier Giorgio Perotto had a brilliant idea, worthy of the great Adriano, to build a data processing machine that offered functional autonomy and had reduced dimensions to fit in all offices, programmable, with memory, flexible and easy to use.

Perotto created a team of young engineers: Giovanni De Sandre, Gastone Garziera, and Giancarlo Toppiche, who worked on this "IMPOSSIBLE" project for the time, considering that until then, computers were as large as rooms and usable only by expert programmers.

One year after the launch of the project, the team managed to develop the first rudimentary prototype, renamed "Perottina", but unfortunately, Olivetti sank into a deep financial crisis, new partners entered and not understanding the enormous potential of the company's electronic department, sold it to the American General Electric with all patents, according to the motto... "No European company can enter the electronics market; it's not for us, we're not up to it, for that, there are the Americans".

Perotto managed to exempt himself and his team from the transfer and continued to work on his visionary project by having the machine design designed by Mario Bellini (a famous designer of the time).

1965 New York. The final prototype of the Programma 101 is finally ready, and at the BEMA (office automation machine show), the largest show of the time, it is presented to the public.

The FIRST PC had an incredible success, this time judged not by business executives (who understood little of electronics) but by ordinary people; everyone wondered where the cable was that connected this beautiful machine to a "real computer"; no one could believe that it was the computer itself.

The cost went from $100,000 for a traditional computer of the time to just over $3,200; everyone wanted one, and even NASA bought several copies.

Unfortunately, at Olivetti, apart from the small group of Perotto, there were no longer the indispensable electronic technicians and engineers to design other product developments or to organize a commercial network capable of selling a product very different from typewriters or calculators.

Olivetti tried to recall the technicians and engineers who ended up at OGE (General Electric), where they work for the Americans, but the times are long, while the American industry, having understood the importance of the novelties introduced by the P101, wastes no time in following the same path.

The rest is history..."


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