ELEA 9003/2 (post #2)

November 7, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

The Olivetti computer division logotype, by Tomàs Maldonado

Hello there and welcome to our second instalment of our series on Tuscan Big Iron.

We just came back from Bibbiena, a small city in rural Tuscany, where the last working and complete assembly of an Olivetti ELEA 9003 is still whirring and churning in a high school basement.

The Olivetti ELEA 9003/2

The ELEA 9003, serial number 0000002 was leased to the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena in late 1960 and worked on bank accounts for circa 10 years. After that, when the machine was deemed obsolete and ripe for substitution it was donated by the bank to the ISIS Enrico Fermi, a tech high school, and one of the firsts in italy to offer courses in telecommunications and computer science.

The monster, which draws 1KW for every 1KB of RAM, (that is 20 of both) was installed in the basement of the institute and was administered until 2001 by one aging IT guy.

The magnetic tape control console

When the IT guy had to retire the machine worked almost perfectly. The “keeper” of the machine is now Stefano Del Furia, professor of computer science at the Fermi High.

The institute, and professor Del Furia, are looking for a sponsorship in order to maintain the machine in working condition, the ELEA is complete with a full complement of spare parts and technical diagrams.

The ELEA control console

The Olivetti ELEA 9003 is a milestone in computer industrial design. Its cabinets were designed by Ettore Sottsass and were revolutionary in terms of serviceability and user friendlyness. The human interface was designed by Tomás Maldonado. The Olivetti ELEA was also the first Italian commercial computer and one of the first fully transistorized mainframes in the world.

(photos by Liquid Cat, courtesy of ISIS Enrico Fermi, Bibbiena)


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