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Object Record

Catalog Number 89.0001.013
Object Name Computer, Digital
Title Olivetti Electronic Printing Calculator Microcomputer, P652
Description Tan metal. Large box in back. Number keypad is small, four program buttons above board. Small printer on side with plastic window (paper inside).
Date circa 1960
Accession number 89.0001.013
Caption Olivetti Electronic Printing Calculator, P652
Catalog date 2002-11-27
Catalog type History
Provenance The invention of integrated circuits (ICs) played a very large role in the move away from massive mainframe computers to today's desk- and lap-top machines. ICs in essence comprise small chips, usually silicon that contain microscopic areas each of which emulates the function of the traditional parts of an electronic circuit namely a transistor, a resistor or a capacitor as well as electrically conducting stripes that serve as wiring. IC's are manufactured by serial deposition on a small chip of layers of materials that act as semiconductors, conductors, resistors and insulating materials. Selected areas are etching away between steps. Olivetti is a large Italian manufacturer of office machine renowned especially for its lightweight portable mechanical typewriters. In the early 1960s the company seized on the availability of IC's to develop a desktop computer to supplement or even replace their line of electrical calculators. That machine, the Programa 101, which was launched in 1965 at the New York World Fair, incorporated in early form many of the features of modern desktop computer such as memory, a keyboard an onboard printer and a magnetic card reader/recorder. The Programa 101 is often considered the first generally available desktop computer. Moore's rule would later posit that the number of transistors on a chip would double about every two years. The availability of more capable chips in the early 1970s led Olivetti engineers to design a new computer based on the Programa 101. The original design would have used a core processor similar to those used on IBM mainframes. This was replaced by a chip that served as the central data processing unit (CPU) in the final design. The P652 had a read only memory (ROM) of only 8000 (8K) bytes and random access memory (RAM) of 4K bytes that could be extended to 71K bytes. This computer nonetheless had increased capability for handling trigonometric and logarithmic calculations compared to the Programa 101. The P652 had a standard keyboard for common mathematical functions as well as a number of special keys for entering routines and programs. The built-in printer recorded the input data as well as results of calculations on a roll of paper. Programs could be input directly on the keyboard, by means of a built-in magnetic card reader or alternately by way of a punched paper tape reader. A number of peripheral devices, which were sold separately, increased the utility of this microcomputer. These included a typewriter, an auxiliary disk data storage unit, and a cassette tape unit for storage of data and programs and an X-Y flat bed plotter. Olivetti made available to users a software library of programs for various technical routines. The P652 found wide for collecting data from biomedical experiments and subjecting that data to statistical analysis. Footnotes on publications from that era list use of the P652 for analyzing experimental results.
Notes Very hard to access.
Number of images 1
Updated 2017-03-15
Condition Very Good
Credit line Courtesy of Mr. James Cox
Organizations NIH; NHLI (National Heart and Lung Institute) (1969-1975)
Buildings Building 10C ("ACRF" Ambulatory Care Research Facility)
NIH Property # none
Old NIH Property # 360953
Serial # none
People Keiser, Harry R.