The Olivetti “Program 101” computer (P101), presented in 1965, is considered by some to be the first “personal computer” in history, as it had all the main features of large computers of the time, but its size allowed it to be used comfortably on your desk, so much so that it was then called “desktop computer”.
The success of the P101
The P101 was a huge commercial success.
The P101 wanted to be a consumer product capable of meeting the working needs of the highest possible number of people.
Presented at the New York fair in ’65, it had sold over 44,000 copies all over the world in just a few years, 90% of which in the United States.
Olivetti decided to focus on the competitive cost of the machine: $ 3,200 against the $ 18,000 needed for the purchase of a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8.
In addition to the competitive price, the progenitor of the PC was easily programmable, making the intervention of specialized technicians unnecessary.
These two fundamental aspects ensured an unimaginable success.
The innovations of the P101
What innovations were introduced in the tech and IT scene?
Born before the invention of the microprocessor, this revolutionary programmable computer was ahead of its time for various characteristics: monolithic physical structure, incorporated processing unit, internal dynamic memory, inputs and outputs incorporated in the same box and an alphanumeric keyboard.
The choice of providing the system with a language that is easy to learn even by a non-specialized user was fundamental, thanks to the vast library of mathematical, statistical, financial, etc. programs. This made programming easier, which used a maximum of 120 instructions, chosen from 15 available functions, including I / O, conditional jump and basic arithmetic operations.
One of the greatest innovations is the “magnetic card” for storing data, which goes alongside a fast and compact drum printer with 30 columns.
The P101 was a very powerful calculator by the standards of its time.
The P101 also contributed to the Apollo 11 astronauts landing on the moon in 1969. NASA bought a dozen P101s and used them to plan some fundamental aspects of the mission, such as the compilation of the lunar maps, the choice of the landing location and the travel trajectory calculation.
But what can this story teach us?
The appearance of the Olivetti P101 in the 1960s changed the history of technology, delivering a prime first example of a desktop computer conceived and designed in Italy to the rest of the world
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