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The Last Working Olivetti Mainframe Sits In a Tuscan High School

How an encounter with the ELEA 9003 inspired a tech historian's career

2 min read
Photograph of Elisabetta Mori at the console of the last working ELEA 9003 in Tuscany.
Computer historian Elisabetta Mori visits the last working ELEA 9003 mainframe computer.
Photo: Armin Linke

About 10 years ago, Elisabetta Mori and some friends were doing research for an art exhibit on the theme of “archives of memories.”

“We approached the theme literally, and so we looked for old examples of physical memories—computer memories,” Mori recalls. “We tried to see the oldest computers built in Italy.” At the Museum of Computing Machinery in Pisa, they saw the Calcolatrice Elettronica Pisana, an early digital computer built by the University of Pisa in 1957 with the support of the Olivetti company. But the machine had long ago stopped working.

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The Unsung Inventor Who Chased the LED Rainbow

LEDs came only in shades of red—until George Craford expanded the palette

10 min read
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Man  with grey hair wearing dress shirt and tie standing in front of an LED stoplight and holding a panel with yellow and red LEDs glowing
DarkBlue2

Walk through half a football field’s worth of low partitions, filing cabinets, and desks. Note the curved mirrors hanging from the ceiling, the better to view the maze of engineers, technicians, and support staff of the development laboratory. Shrug when you spot the plastic taped over a few of the mirrors to obstruct that view.

Go to the heart of this labyrinth and there find M. George Craford, R&D manager for the optoelectronics division of Hewlett-Packard Co., San Jose, Calif. Sitting in his shirtsleeves at an industrial beige metal desk piled with papers, amid dented bookcases, gym bag in the corner, he does not look like anybody’s definition of a star engineer.

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