Olivetti

Olivetti

Ing. C. Olivetti & Co., SpA., known as Olivetti, is an Italian manufacturer of computers, printers and other business machines.

History

The company was founded as a typewriter manufacturer in 1908 in Ivrea, near Turin, by Camillo Olivetti. The firm was mainly developed by his son Adriano Olivetti. Olivetti opened its first overseas manufacturing plant in 1930, and its Divisumma electric calculator was launched in 1948. Olivetti produced Italy's first electronic computer, the transistorised Elea 9003, in 1959, and purchased the Underwood Typewriter Company that year. In 1964 the company sold its electronics division to the American company General Electric. It continued to develop new computing products on its own such as Programma 101, regarded as the first personal computer produced by a company.

Olivetti was famous for the attention it gave to design: "[a] preoccupation with design developed into a comprehensive corporate philosophy, which embraced everything from the shape of a space bar to the color scheme for an advertising poster". In 1952, the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibit titled "Olivetti: Design in Industry"; many Olivetti products remain part of the museum's permanent collection. Another major show, mounted by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1969, toured five other cities. Olivetti was also renowned for the caliber of the architects it engaged to design its factories and offices, including Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Gae Aulenti, and many others.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, Olivetti industrial design was led by Marcello Nizzoli, responsible for the Lexicon 80 (1948) and the iconic portable Lettera 22 (1950). Later, Mario Bellini and Ettore Sottsass directed design. Bellini designed the Programma 101 (1965), Divisumma 18 (1973) and Logos 68 (1973) calculators and the TCV-250 video display terminal (1966), among others. Sottsass designed the Tekne 3 typewriter (1958), Elea 9003 computer (1959), the Praxis 48 typewriter (1964), the Valentine portable typewriter (1969), and others. Michele De Lucchi designed the Art Jet 10 ink-jet printer (1999) (winner of the Compasso d'Oro) and the Gioconda calculator (2001). George Sowden worked for Olivetti from 1970 until 1990, and designed their first desk top computer, L1, in 1978 (following ergonomic research lasting two years). In 1991, Sowden won the prestigious ADI Compasso d'Oro Award for the design of the Olivetti fax OFX420.

Olivetti's first modern personal computer, the M20 with Zilog Z8000 CPU, was released in 1982. In 1983 Olivetti introduced the M24, a clone of the IBM PC using DOS and the 8086 processor (at 8 MHz) instead of the 8088 used by IBM (at 4.77 MHz). In 1985 it acquired a controlling share in the British computer manufacturer Acorn Computers Ltd; a third partner was Thomson SA. Olivetti sold the Thomson MO6 and Acorn BBC Master Compact with brand names Olivetti Prodest PC128 and PC128s respectively.

The M24 was a successful product and became a reference in Europe, used by many public administrations{{Fact}. Olivetti failed to deliver reliable products based on the Intel 386 CPUs, and kept only living from the position it had before for a while. Olivetti attempted to recover its position even introducing a fully multimedia PC (reference required) to be used in the living room, that was possibly too advanced for its time (Packard Bell managed to successfully introduce a similar product in the US but only some years later. The main problem of the company was its inability to conjugate the quality standards it had at the beginning, with innovation while the margins from the PC market were diminishing with the explosion of the market and of the PC clone producers.

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

The Luxembourg-based company Bell S.A. acquired a controlling stake in Olivetti in 1999, but sold it to a consortium including the Pirelli and Benetton groups two years later. In 2003 Olivetti was absorbed into the Telecom Italia group, maintaining a separate identity as Olivetti Tecnost.

Olivetti today operates in Italy and Switzerland, and has sales associates in 83 countries. Research and development are located in Agliè, Arnad, Carsoli, and Scarmagno in Italy, and Yverdon, Switzerland. Recently the company has started to sell again a line of office fax/scanners/printers devices.

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