Ing. C. Olivetti &
Co., SpA., known as Olivetti, is an
Italian manufacturer of computers,
printer and other business
An Olivetti Valentine, 1969, designed
by Ettore Sottsass.
company was founded as a typewriter
manufacturer in 1908 in Ivrea, near
Turin, by Camillo
The firm was mainly developed by his son
. Olivetti opened
its first overseas manufacturing plant in 1930, and its Divisumma
was launched in 1948.
Olivetti produced Italy's first electronic
computer, the transistorised
Elea 9003, in 1959, and purchased
the Underwood Typewriter
that year. In 1964 the company sold its electronics
division to the American company
continued to develop new computing products on its own; one of
these was Programma 101
, one of the
first commercially-produced personal
was famous for the attention it gave to design: In 1952, the
Museum of Modern
Art held an exhibit titled "Olivetti: Design in
Industry"; today, many Olivetti products are still part of the
museum's permanent collection.
Another major show, mounted
by the Musée des
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
, Gae Aulenti
, and many
From the 1940s to the 1960s, Olivetti industrial design
was led by Marcello Nizzoli
, responsible for the
Lexicon 80 (1948) and the portable Lettera
(1950). Later, Mario Bellini
and Ettore Sottsass
Bellini designed the Programma 101
(1965), Divisumma 18
(1973) and Logos
68 (1973) calculators and the TCV-250 video display terminal
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 inkjet printer
(winner of the Compasso d'Oro
the Gioconda calculator (2001). During the 1970s Olivetti
manufactured and sold two range of minicomputers. The 'A' series
started with the typewriter-sized A4 through to the large A8, and
the desk-sized DE500 and DE700 series. George Sowden
worked for Olivetti from 1970
until 1990, and designed their first desktop
computer, Olivetti L1, in 1978 (following ergonomic research
lasting two years). In 1991, Sowden won the prestigious ADI Compasso d'Oro
for the design of the Olivetti fax
Olivetti paid attention to more than the importance of product
design; graphic and architectural design were also considered
pivotal to the company. Giovanni Pintori was hired by Adriano
Olivetti in 1936 to work in the publicity department. Pintori was
the creator of the Olivetti logo and many promotional posters used
to advertise the company and it's products.
Olivetti's first modern personal
, the Olivetti M20, featuring a Zilog Z8000 CPU
, was released in 1982.
Olivetti introduced 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 company acquired a controlling share in the British computer manufacturer Acorn Computers Ltd; a third partner was
Olivetti sold the
Thomson MO6 and Acorn BBC Master Compact
with brand names Olivetti Prodest PC128 and PC128s
The Olivetti M24 was a successful product and became a reference in
Europe. However, as Intel moved on to the faster Intel 386
CPU, Olivetti failed to deliver reliable
new products based on the new processor.
Olivetti also sold quasi-portable 8086/8088-based PCs with an
and one or
two integrated 3.5" floppy disk
running DOS 3.27, an Olivetti OEM
3.20 with minor improvements.
End of computer production
Olivetti did attempt to recover its position by introducing the
, a full multimedia
, to be used in the living room
this project was a failure, and it might have been 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 innovation with the
quality standards it had committed itself to, at a time when the
margins on the PC market were diminishing as not only the market
but also the amount of PC clone producers grew . The company
continued to develop personal computers until it sold its PC
business in 1997.
End of Olivetti as a separate company
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.
2003 Olivetti was absorbed into the Telecom Italia
group, maintaining a separate
identity as Olivetti Tecnost
today operates in Italy and Switzerland, and has sales associates in 83 countries.
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
- Nathan H. Shapira, Renzo Zorzi, Design Process: Olivetti
1908-1978, catalogue of a show at the Frederick S. Wight Art
Gallery of UCLA, 1979.
- Ultimate Console Database - Olivetti