Proceedings of the IEEE Article

The December 2013 issue of Proceedings of the IEEE has a nice little article about the history of electronic calculators. It features the HP-9100A and the HP-35 and a few early non-HP machines. It was written by Earl E. Swartzlander, Jr. and is part of the "Scanning Our Past" series of articles that they've had in the Proceedings for many years. (I love this series BTW.)

There's nothing in it that any frequent visitor to this site doens't already know, it's just nice to see that some of our interests are making it into the semi-mainstream media.


A nice article indeed. Thanks for mentioning it.

Here is the link to the pdf version: STARS: Electronic Calculators: Desktop to Pocket


The TI-30 is mentioned as the first 'scientific pocket calculator'. What features missing from the HP-35 make this calculator a scientific one?


Thank you Katie and Didier.


Not a word about the Programma 101 though...



Thanks for the link! From it:

"Hewlett-Packard was ordered to pay about $900,000 ($6.67 million in present day terms [11]) in royalties to Olivetti after copying some of the solutions adopted in Programma 101, like the magnetic card and the architecture, in the HP 9100."




The TI-30 is mentioned as the first 'scientific pocket calculator'.

That looks like a mistake only in the "timeline" box. The text just notes that it was selling for $24.95.


(I was in high school in the late 70's and remember the TI-30 taking the place by storm. Our textbooks had trig tables in the back but with the TI-30 costing so little, everyone bought the calculator instead. I think just a few years earlier people were using the tables.

I still have my TI-30 but I'm glad to say that I almost immediately moved to an HP-29C and never looked back.



Excerpt from Programma 101, The Machine That Changed the World



Grazie! Thanks for sharing!



Starting at 2m10s:

C'era molta gente invece che pensava di, di... [è?] impossibile, non è vero, c'è un cavo soterraneo... e andava a vedere intorno a macchina se c'erano dei cavi nascosti che la collegavano [intorno al?] calcolatore.

There is a similar story about the amazement the HP-35 caused when it was first presented in a press conference. People would look for hidden cables connecting it to a mainframe. But I can't find it right now.



Prego Walter. ;-)

The whole documentary was aired some months ago, in italian, but I understand there's an english version too.

Quite an interesting story, and a fascinating philosophy at the foundation of Olivetti.



I can imagine they were shocked...

I only found the whole footage dubbed in spanish.

@45:36 there's an old friend of us... :)

Edited: 28 Nov 2013, 4:59 p.m.


Grazie mille!

I've found the Italian version:

I can understand the Spanish version as well, even though I never studied Spanish in my life :-)



L'ho trovato anch'io! (e scaricato) :-)


L'ho stò vedendo (ne ho visto la metà già). Affascinante, come direbbe Spock! :-)




A couple of years ago i had the chance to work on a big project with Mario Bellini, the designer who conceived the form factor and the shell of the programma 101. Listening to him has reminded me the passion and involvement we have on these little calculating machines.

During a flight he explained the pioneer years of the design. I explained to him my collection of calculators and showed him my companion of that time the 49g+ (he didn't like it that much) and my 11c (he liked it a lot).

The big project was the costruction of the new islam department at the Louvre, in Paris.



Thanks for pointing out this documentary. The Programma 101 looks like a milestone in computer history which is perhaps overlooked in anglocentric accounts. Is there a link to an on-line version of the documentary in English?


Edited: 29 Nov 2013, 2:38 a.m.


Unfortunately I cannot find the complete english version online.

This is the project presentation with some (longer) excerpts.

Another short excerpt

And, finally, the home site of the project.



Thanks for the memories, Giancarlo.

You are a lucky guy: Bellini has been the designer behind so many space-age Olivetti products...


Thanks that is an interesting project. The fuzzy logic program for the using the Programma 101 computer, subject of the documentary, to direct the type of camera shorts is a nice idea and that it fits into the 240 byte memory...



When I was a child space age used to be the way to the future, now it’s the past …


That's true also for me, alas... :(




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