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 Olivetti 
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Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:41 am
Posts: 68
Recently I was on a trip to Trieste, Italy to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics to visit their new fab lab.
Among laser cutters, 3d scanners, 3d printers, and lots of other hi tech gear I found a retro corner with some old Olivetti stuff in it.

First thing I saw was the Programma 101.
Image
It is a rare computer, made in Italy back in the 60' using only discrete transistors.
There is a documentary about the creation of the machine on youtube, but it is in Italian.
As far as I understand the Programma 101 used a metal wire as memory which acted as an acoustic loop.
But how did they count the bytes? Digital counters? Or something else?

There were some other devices as well:
Image


Tue Oct 28, 2014 11:00 pm
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Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
Posts: 1284
That Programma 101 is a very interesting machine! The first desktop computer, and many ideas "borrowed" by HP for their 9100. (In truth, both machines are programmable calculators, but general enough programmability to qualify as computers)

Amusing that the (small) design team made a last-minute adjustment to their categorisation, to become "calculator" people, and so avoid being sold to General Electric, as all the "computer" people were. So the whole building changed ownership except for one small office.

Quote:
As far as I understand the Programma 101 used a metal wire as memory which acted as an acoustic loop.
But how did they count the bytes? Digital counters? Or something else?

Yes, it's normal for the control logic in a bit-serial machine to dedicate some expensive state bits to counting out bits within a word, and words within memory. The whole programmer-visible machine state is forever recirculating as mechanical waves in that wire loop, so every addressing operation becomes a timing operation. The ALU becomes bit-serial and needs hardly any state.

I found a lot of resources, including some video:
http://vimeo.com/6543275 - talk at SIGGRAPH 2009, "Programma 101 Memories of the future"
http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/08/28/the ... from-1965/ "The incredible story of the first PC, from 1965"
http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/ ... 000257.htm Gordon Bell devotes a chapter to the machine
http://www.curtamania.com/curta/databas ... index.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programma_101
https://plus.google.com/u/0/s/Programma ... 20olivetti various posts on gplus might be worth a look


Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:05 pm
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Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
Posts: 1284
A couple more links:
http://www.silab.it/frox/p101/_index.html Lots of technical info
http://www.marcogaleotti.com/P101Simulator.html


Sat Nov 01, 2014 5:25 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:03 am
Posts: 271
Location: California
Looking back at history's pre-integrated-circuit computers, it's amazing what lengths were taken to make those early beasts that had huge price tags and laughable performance. Yet if they hadn't done it, we still wouldn't have computers.

Dig those cordwood modules. At least it didn't have tubes. Dieter (ttlworks on the 6502.org forum) made a computer with discrete SMT transistors! When I was in junior high school, our math textbook had a picture of the matrix weave of torroids in core memory.

I faintly remember Olivetti typewriters in my childhood. My next contact with Olivetti was that the engineering manager around 1990 where I worked had an Olivetti laptop computer with a black-and-white screen. We used to ask him to format floppy discs on it when we wanted the wider tracks of its low-density disc drive. I can't really reamember why.

_________________
http://WilsonMinesCo.com/ lots of 6502 resources


Sat Nov 01, 2014 6:53 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:41 am
Posts: 68
I was at the mini maker fare in Trieste, Italy, and I found a retro computer corner, and on my surprise I found a working Programma 101 with one of the original engineers, Giovanni De Sandre.
I talked to him a bit, asked how some details about how the memory was implemented, and he even showed me the original schematics of the device.
I never expected to meet any of the pioneering engineers of computer history.
I also got a nice photo of him with the machine.

Image


Thu May 14, 2015 11:49 pm
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Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
Posts: 1284
That's fantastic!
Looks like the machine was repaired at the same event last year by 3D-printing a belt - video within:
http://scifablab.ictp.it/2014/10/31/fir ... -funzione/
[Edit: perhaps not the same event, but the same city perhaps...]
Direct video link:
First Desktop Computer at Work After 45 Years! / Olivetti Programma 101 Rimesso in Funzione!
(Soundtrack in Italian)


Fri May 15, 2015 4:45 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:11 am
Posts: 114
Location: Norway/Japan
Fabulous! Thanks for posting!

-Tor


Fri May 15, 2015 12:03 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:41 am
Posts: 68
BigEd wrote:
That's fantastic!
Looks like the machine was repaired at the same event last year by 3D-printing a belt - video within:
http://scifablab.ictp.it/2014/10/31/fir ... -funzione/
[Edit: perhaps not the same event, but the same city perhaps...]
Direct video link:
First Desktop Computer at Work After 45 Years! / Olivetti Programma 101 Rimesso in Funzione!
(Soundtrack in Italian)

That was another event, but it was in the fablab which is the building next door to where I took that photo, it is the same place I took the first photo in this topic.
The ICTP stands for International Centre for Theoretical Physics located in Trieste, Italy.
They have this science popularization division that holds the fablab and mini maker fare, where anyone can come and use the equipment to work on projects for free.


Fri May 15, 2015 8:08 pm
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