It is difficult to say when we really talk about personal computers in Italy. I mean it talks about it to the general public. Difficult but not impossible. In fact, on the Quattrobit blog a precious artifact from February 23, 1981 has been preserved. It is an article in Stampa Sera signed, “by our correspondent in Milan”, Girolamo Mangano. The title is already emblematic: “It’s a computer but it costs only one million”, the first line; “Play, teach the children and help around the house”, the second. Above, in a space called the eyelet, the news: “Domestic computers are about to arrive in Italy from the United States”. The article recounted what could be admired at the Bit 81 exhibition in Milan “where the latest miracles of information technology were exhibited”.
What miracles? “Computers that allow you from your home to participate in a conference held at the University of Michigan with three hundred experts, contraptions with which you can compose a symphony, who keep the accounts of the condominium in which you live and help you design a bridge of a thousand meters. Tens of thousands of “computers” are already at the service of as many homes in the United States: they cost little, about a million lire, but – the first, confident buyers assure – they are worth the expense. The “domestic computer” monitors the bank account, gives tuition to the son who has difficulty with French and, in the evening, entertains the whole family with a repertoire of about fifty games ”.
In short, the domestic computer revolution was upon us according to the journalist: “We must prepare to host a new tenant in our homes. He does not speak, he does not sleep, he does not walk but – we will soon realize – his services are very precious. It is the electronic calculator. He will be the protagonist of the only real revolution of the 80s. Do you remember what the “600” represented, the first small car of the Italians of the 50s? Well, the computer will have the same impact on our life… The American “IT multinationals” are ready to invade the Italian market. The first wave of “personal” computers will arrive later this year. The revolution is imminent because the prices of these prodigious contraptions have plummeted. Those small pocket brains that cost three hundred thousand lire up to 3-4 years ago, are bought today with thirty thousand lire: but compared to these exhibited in Milan they look like the devices of a medieval inventor … The experts in the sector assure that the “information revolution” will upset our life as only the invention of the wheel and movable type printing could do in the past “.
The technological explanation followed: “The soul of these” thinking machines “is made of silicon, one of the most abundant elements in nature. Miniaturization has meant that the space required by a “personal computer” is no larger than that occupied by an ordinary television. That silicon chip, which is called a “chip” in computer jargon, is no bigger than a salt crystal. From a computer made of more “chips” you get performance at the edge of science fiction ”. The reassuring ending on the man-machine relationship is discounted: “But isn’t there the risk that the habit of communicating with the computer influences – oversimplifying it – human language, which discourages social relations? Dr. Giovanni Lariccia, IT expert for the National Research Council, replies: «We must get used to thinking that man himself is a computer, the most perfected and powerful of all. He will be in charge of the future, not the computer »”.