The Olivetti Programma 101 was released on the international market in 1965 as a low cost desktop computer. It was a successful product, selling over 44,000 units from 1965 through to the early 1970s. Ninety per cent of sales were to North America, where its market dominance was attributed to its simplicity, functionality, robust construction, appearance and low cost. The Programma 101's commercial life ended in the early 1970s with the introduction of competing products such as the Hewlett-Packard 9100.
The Programma's hardware architect, Pier Giorgio Perotto, has long been regarded as the "father of the PC" in Italy. He joined Olivetti in the late 1950s as part of its newly established electronics division. This division's first task was to develop a computer, and the result was the first computer designed and manufactured in Italy, the Olivetti Elea 9003 in 1959.
The Programma 101 grew out of a project that Perotto continued, without the endorsement of his managers, after Olivetti disposed of its electronics division in the early 1960s. Perotto's work drew upon his Elea experience and led to a product that helped Olivetti move beyond making mechanical calculators.
The design of the Programma 101 was undertaken by Mario Bellini, then Olivetti's chief design consultant. The story of the design process is well documented and contributes to the interpretive value of this computer (Design Journal, UK March 1971 & McCarty C Mario Bellini Designer, MoMa, NY 1987).
Campbell Bickerstaff, 2008