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The Mysterious Affair at Olivetti: IBM, the CIA, and the Cold War Conspiracy to Shut Down Production of the World's First Desktop Computer
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The Mysterious Affair at Olivetti: IBM, the CIA, and the Cold War Conspiracy to Shut Down Production of the World's First Desktop Computer

3.22  ·  Rating details ·  18 ratings  ·  7 reviews
The never-before-told true account of the design and development of the first desktop computer by the world's most famous high-styled typewriter company, more than a decade before the arrival of the Osborne 1, the Apple 1, the first Intel microprocessor, and IBM's PC5150.

The human, business, design, engineering, cold war, and tech story of how the Olivetti company came to
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Dale Bentz
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting read of the trials and successes of the Olivetti dynasty in Italy. While Secrest succeeds as a historian and author, however, she fails as a detective. The conjectures concerning the deaths of key members of the Olivetti team are lacking in any new facts that would elevate them beyond the class of pure speculation. Perhaps one day, the true stories will be uncovered and presented in a new book. Hope so!
JDK1962
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I had a special interest in this, since I lived and worked in Ivrea in 1989, at an Olivetti joint venture company. Had I not, I doubt I would have finished this.

Despite the title, the majority of this book is simply a history of Olivetti, and on that score, I found it interesting. Three chapters before the end, the story turns to the P101 (which the author terms "the world's first desktop computer", which is a pretty weak contention...maybe the world's first programmable calculator, but
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Craig Evans
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A family business growing and changing. World War 2. Trysts and deceit. Mechanical and electronic engineering. Marriages and divorces. Geopolitical machinations.
These set some of the background and content for the authors exploration of the Olivetti corporation, once one of the largest manufacturers of business machines in the world.
A fascinating read, with much family history and the culmination of great thought and activity in engineering, social activism, art, design, and architecture.
It
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Sean S
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Having little background on Olivetti, I found myself simultaneously intrigued and disappointed by this book. The premise of the story is that Olivetti invented the first PC as we generally recognize the term, and there was some nefarious intelligence play to shut it down. The reality of this book is as follows:
* haphazard background on various parts of the Olivetti clan, with weak writing mixed in
* eventually getting to the PC part and realizing the machine was cutting edge but not the PC we
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Harley
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I did not finish this book. I read up to page 73 and had to stop.

The cover and description are beautiful. There is so much excitement and intrigue in both. However, it feels like Meryle and her marketing team have two different agendas. The book is written in a very dry tone and discusses politics and architecture quite a bit. And while these both have a part in the main story, I felt as if I were reading through a bunch of Wikipedia articles.

I wanted to keep reading, but increasingly found
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Margit
Dec 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review.

This book was basically a hodgepodge history of the Olivetti family: what they manufactured, where they had offices, who lived where and with whom, who they liked, what their politics were, and so forth. As a dynastic history, it was barely adequate. As a book about the history of desktop computers, it was a failure. If there was a conspiracy, I must have skipped over it because I don't remember reading about one.
Pat
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting read. I recommend this book!
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