Olivetti Programma 101

Olivetti Programma 101  is an Early programmable commercial desktop computer released in 1965 . This Computer is often referred to as a “printable program calculator ” or “desktop calculator”. Programma 101 was used by  NASA and used for the Apollo 11 lunar landing program. Early computers were expensive and could only be handled by professionals. The Programma 10 1was easy, economical, and able to program on a magnetic card without any knowledge of programming languages.

It was advertised as a “portable calculator . Hewlett-Packard adopted several technologies of Olivetti programmer on the HP 9100, and later paid Olivetti  royalties .

Invented by Italian engineer Pier Giorgio Perot and manufactured by Olivetti, a manufacturer based in Piedmont, Italy .

The Olivetti Programma 101 had the functionality of a large computer at the time. It was announced at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and mass production began in 1965. The futuristic design programmer 101 at the time was launched for US $ 3,200  By the early 1970s, about 44,000 units had been sold, mainly in the United States.

Capabilities and Functions of Programma 101

Programma 101 consists of six main parts

  • the keyboard which allows you to immediately execute operations such as addition or entering a program;
  • the memory that stores data and instructions  ;
  • a roll printer ;
  • a magnetic card reader-writer;
  • an arithmetic and logical unit  ;
  • and finally a control unit .
Italy’s Olivetti Programma 101.

Programma 101 had four basic arithmetic functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), as well as square root , absolute value , and fractional part extraction. In addition to erasing, transferring, and exchanging storage registers, it is equipped with printing and input standby functions. Functions such as conditional jump instructions, alphanumeric programming languages, internal memory, and data storage mechanisms could be defined as “computers.” Thirty-two label statements could be used as jump instructions and jump destinations to the four start keys (V, W, Y, Z) [10] . Magnetic card routines could be used without any programming knowledge.

Like a calculator or cash register , this machine prints programs and results on tape roll paper.

Programming was similar to assembly language , but with simpler and fewer choices. I was able to instruct the exchange of the storage register, the arithmetic register, and the instructions in the register. The instructions occupied 1 byte, and the magnetic card could store 120 instructions. On large computers such as the Elea 9003 ( Italian version ) , instructions occupy 8 bytes, and 120 instructions occupy nearly 1KB of the basic model’s total memory of 20KB.

Olivetti Programma 101

The program could be saved on a plastic card of about 10 cm x 20 cm with a magnetic coating on one side and a note on the other side. Each card was recorded on two lines and could store two programs. Four registers were stored on the card and two registers were dedicated to the program code. The other three registers (D, E, F) could be used for chords or numbers.

Technical characteristics 

  • Size: 275 mm ( A ) x 465 mm ( L ) x 610 mm ( P )
  • Weight: 35.5 kg
  • Consumption: 0.35 kW
  • Output device: 30 column printer on 9 cm paper
  • Accuracy: 22 digits and up to 15 decimal places
  • Operations: add, subtract, multiply, divide, square root and absolute value
  • Total memory: 240 bytes in the ALU (estimated) [AP 10]
  • Keyboard: 36 keys.
  • Archive: magnetic card reader


Olivetti was famous for his focus on both technology and design, as evidenced by the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York .

This machine was designed by Olivetti engineer Pier Giorgio Perot in Iberia. Marco Zanuso’s ( Italian ) design, Mario Bellini’s styling was ergonomic and innovative at the time, and Bellini won the Compasso d’Oro ( Italian ) Industrial Design Award.

Programma 101 Simulator

History of Personal Computer 

  1. Programma 101 – Wikipedia
  2. The incredible story of the first PC, from 1965