Camillo Olivetti was born 145 years ago

Camillo OlivettiThe famous designer of typewriters and calculators, the founder of a company named after him, Camillo Olivetti was born on 13 August 1868 in Ivrea, a small town in Piemont, 50 kilometres from Turin, in northwest Italy. He studied electrical engineering at the Technical School of Engineering, now Technical University of Turin. After graduation, he worked at Stanford University in California, and also attended lectures there.

The first typewriter Olivetti had designed was exhibited at the World Exposition held in Turin in 1911. MC 4S Summa, the first calculator and adding machine, was introduced in 1940, the release of MC 4 Multisumma followed a year later. The machines he designed were aesthetically pleasing and carefully considered. Camillo Olivetti died on 4 December 1943 in Biella, near Ivrea.

Olivetti set up his company in 1908, which manufactured typewriters in the first place. The firm’s first overseas depot was opened in 1930. Initially, one thousand typewriters were manufactured annually, however, production increased to 13 thousand by 1929. In 1933, Camillo handed over the management of Olivetti & Co. ( to his son, Adriano (1901-1960), who was a chemical engineer by profession. Olivetti products grew world famous, and became world brands under his management. Adriano was quick to recognise the role of advertising and promotion, and incorporated them as important elements in the company’s business strategy.

In addition to typewriters and calculators, the company also manufactured computers (for instance the Elea 900 mainframe series or the Olivetti M24 PC launched in 1982), tablets and printers in later years to come. Since 2003 the company operates under the name Olivetti Tecnost and is part of Telecom Italia. Ever since its establishment, its headquarters has remained in Ivrea.

Italy has issued two stamps to honour the Olivetti brand: the stamp released in 1986 represented the personal computer introduced four years earlier, while the other stamp, which came out in 2008, commemorated the 100 anniversary of the company’s establishment.

To honour the company, an exhibition entitled "Olivetti: Design in Industry" was staged by the New York City Museum of Modern Art in 1952. The museum’s permanent collection includes a number of Olivetti machines.