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Thread: I got an Olivetti P500

  1. #1
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    Post I got an Olivetti P500

    I bought this Olivetti P500 from Italy. I was expecting the worst but it didn't arrive in that bad of a shape.. It's a 386SX Microchannel PC from 1989.

    I believe development on it started in 1988, that's even the copyright date on the motherboard, but it was released in '89. There are a couple of things I find noteworthy about the P500. It was Olivetti's first Microchannel PC, it was the first PC to use the XP 2650/2670 chassis, and since it was the first to use the XP 2650/2670 chassis, it was also the first to have the famous square-type front control panel. The front control panel it uses is unique, you will only find it on the P500. Its layout is different than the later ones, and its iconography is that of older 80's PCs. Its cable is also different than the one used on later models.

    One of the reason I wanted a P500 was to investigate the front control panel. Notice how there's a gap between the power LED and the reset button. Well I've disassembled it and sure enough there is space to put an hard disk activity LED. I don't know if a P500 with that space occupied was ever made as I have never seen one, but it appears that everything was ready for it in the case that it happened. This is how Olivetti chose this. When a computer didn't have an activity LED on the drive bay, they put in a front control panel with one. When a computer did have an activity LED on the drive bay, they put in a front control panel without one. All of the P500s I have seen had the activity LED on the drive bay, so that's why I have never seen a P500 front control panel with one.

    Unfortunately I was told that the Imprimis 94216-106 hard disk is broken. It does not spin up, it does not emit a code, its a brick.

    The P500 was succeeded in the early 90's by the M300-25 (P500/E).

    Photos
    https://i.ibb.co/hBGWYzN/DSC00166-min.jpg - Front. I still don't know what the "ITALIA" is for. The P500 was one of the last model to have an ITALIA variant, and it was the only one with a modern chassis to have one.

    https://i.ibb.co/DCHZ3YY/DSC00167-min.jpg - Back. Notice the label...

    https://i.ibb.co/WK44TCk/DSC00165-min.jpg - The front control panel, disassembled.

    https://i.ibb.co/XyPQYG1/DSC00163-min.jpg - Motherboard. It uses the Intel 82310 chipset. All of the programmable circuits are socketed, except for the keyboard&mouse controller. If you tell me how to read them, I could share their content online. The reason I did not remove the disk controller is pretty funny. The plastic clip to hold cards inserted in that slot broke. The previous owner glued it back on but this removed any flexibility it had. I'll have to break the clip again when I want to remove the card.

    https://i.ibb.co/Dknhdwg/DSC00164-min.jpg - Now this is mysterious. Is anyone familiar with this power supply? If you read the label on the back of the computer it says the PC will accept any mains electricity. However on the PSU I did not find any voltage selector switch. Is it automatic? To this day computer power supplies have a voltage switch, so why would this old one be automatic? And Olivetti always used crippled PSUs that only worked with one type of mains electricity. I think the P500 is the only old Olivetti PC I've seen with a label that says it will work with any voltage. So, is what the label says true? Is the PSU really automatic?

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by 6885P5H View Post
    I bought this Olivetti P500 from Italy. I was expecting the worst but it didn't arrive in that bad of a shape.. It's a 386SX Microchannel PC from 1989.

    I believe development on it started in 1988, that's even the copyright date on the motherboard, but it was released in '89. There are a couple of things I find noteworthy about the P500. It was Olivetti's first Microchannel PC, it was the first PC to use the XP 2650/2670 chassis, and since it was the first to use the XP 2650/2670 chassis, it was also the first to have the famous square-type front control panel. The front control panel it uses is unique, you will only find it on the P500. Its layout is different than the later ones, and its iconography is that of older 80's PCs. Its cable is also different than the one used on later models.

    One of the reason I wanted a P500 was to investigate the front control panel. Notice how there's a gap between the power LED and the reset button. Well I've disassembled it and sure enough there is space to put an hard disk activity LED. I don't know if a P500 with that space occupied was ever made as I have never seen one, but it appears that everything was ready for it in the case that it happened. This is how Olivetti chose this. When a computer didn't have an activity LED on the drive bay, they put in a front control panel with one. When a computer did have an activity LED on the drive bay, they put in a front control panel without one. All of the P500s I have seen had the activity LED on the drive bay, so that's why I have never seen a P500 front control panel with one.

    Unfortunately I was told that the Imprimis 94216-106 hard disk is broken. It does not spin up, it does not emit a code, its a brick.

    The P500 was succeeded in the early 90's by the M300-25 (P500/E).

    Photos
    https://i.ibb.co/hBGWYzN/DSC00166-min.jpg - Front. I still don't know what the "ITALIA" is for. The P500 was one of the last model to have an ITALIA variant, and it was the only one with a modern chassis to have one.

    https://i.ibb.co/DCHZ3YY/DSC00167-min.jpg - Back. Notice the label...

    https://i.ibb.co/WK44TCk/DSC00165-min.jpg - The front control panel, disassembled.

    https://i.ibb.co/XyPQYG1/DSC00163-min.jpg - Motherboard. It uses the Intel 82310 chipset. All of the programmable circuits are socketed, except for the keyboard&mouse controller. If you tell me how to read them, I could share their content online. The reason I did not remove the disk controller is pretty funny. The plastic clip to hold cards inserted in that slot broke. The previous owner glued it back on but this removed any flexibility it had. I'll have to break the clip again when I want to remove the card.

    https://i.ibb.co/Dknhdwg/DSC00164-min.jpg - Now this is mysterious. Is anyone familiar with this power supply? If you read the label on the back of the computer it says the PC will accept any mains electricity. However on the PSU I did not find any voltage selector switch. Is it automatic? To this day computer power supplies have a voltage switch, so why would this old one be automatic? And Olivetti always used crippled PSUs that only worked with one type of mains electricity. I think the P500 is the only old Olivetti PC I've seen with a label that says it will work with any voltage. So, is what the label says true? Is the PSU really automatic?
    Olivetti was quite proud of being made in Italy. As for power supplies, my M20 has an internal jumper to be 240V or 120V. I've not looked into how the newer supplies handle the full range. It could be an auto switching or just better quality switching circuitry that can handle the full range of input voltages.
    Dwight

  3. #3
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    Hello. I am not familiar with the M20. I know that it's a PC that was released in 1982, I know that it's Olivetti's own platform, from before they entered the IBM PC market. It was part of the L1 (Linea 1) family of computers. M20, M30, M40, M60, M70... It went on throughout the 80's until it was discontinued sometime in the late 80's. The spiritual successor to this line could be considered to be the LSX 3000. Compare the L1 M30 to the LSX 3005... Looks pretty similar eh.

    I think on the back of the M20, it says the mains input is limited to a specific type. On the P500 it says it'll take them all, but I see no voltage selector anywhere.

    Are the manuals for this computer really not archived and available online? And what about the disks? What a shame...

    I tried it and it works. This power supply is amazing! Why couldn't Olivetti use PSUs like this for every model, instead of the crippled ones you always encounter? Also bewildering is that apparently even if they use the same chassis as the P500, the M386/25 and P750 use a different, crippled PSU. I do not own them so I cannot be 100% sure, but they are given a different part number in the pocket service guide (PS14 instead of PS13) and their back label specify only one type of mains input.

  4. #4

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    The M20 was a Z8000 processor, not a X86 machine. Although, built in Italy, it was designed in Campbell, Calif. I suspect the power supply was not a Olivetti design. It may have been made by any number of supply manufactures. It was made specifically for the M20 though. It had typical hooks that Olivetti mechanical engineers typically did on machines made in this time frame. Making supplies that are higher power and auto voltage switching is quite a bit more difficult than making one to charge your cell phone. Supplies with internal jumpers are a lot easier to design at higher powers.
    Dwight

  5. #5
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    Unfortunatelly also I can't help. I know some Olivetti PCs, but not the P500. P500 should be quite rare. I hope you also got the customer test diskettes for it which contain the MCA setup tool. I also asked a friend which was my colleague @ Olivetti, he used to have a P500 long time ago, but he doesn't remember.

  6. #6
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    Hello 1ST1. No I don't have the disks unfortunately, but a non-Olivetti disk came bundled with it, so it should be able to interact with it in some way.

    Also, I'd like to correct something I said. In the thread opener I said the following:
    "The P500 was one of the last model to have an ITALIA variant, and it was the only one with a modern chassis to have one."

    There was also the M200 and M250, I forgot about those. The M200 is this weird NEC V40 all-in-one PC from 1988. It was the first PC to have the "half-ladder" logo/name badge. I still do not know why but some M200s have an all-blue logo/name badge, with the logo and name a pale blue color instead of purple. It looks like it was sun-faded but I've seen different ones like that, they can't all be sun-faded... But it's hard to call the M200 a "modern chassis" since it's such a far-out unique design that does not resemble anything and was never used for something else. But it was indeed the first to have the modern (at the time) "half-ladder" logo/name badge.

    I think like the P500, the M250 was released in 1989 but its development started in '88. It's a 286 system that uses the same chipset as the older M290. Interestingly, it was the last PC to use Olivetti's proprietary keyboard interface.
    • The only computer from my childhood that I'm missing is an Olivetti M380-40... Please help me find a solution to this problem
    • Looking for pictures of the following Olivetti computers: M380 W, M380 XP4, M400-60, M480... Complete list: http://pastebin.ca/3629976

  7. #7
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    I have a service guide for an M250. Any use to anyone?
    Dave
    G4UGM

    Looking for Analog Computers, Drum Plotters, and Graphics Terminals

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    I'd love to have that.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by 6885P5H View Post
    There was also the M200 and M250, I forgot about those.
    I remember the M250, it was something very different from P500, a classic 286 AT, a nice one. And I have a working M200, and it's very the same as the "DOS-iMac" ETV 2900 & VM 2000 - but those miss the large box below of the floppy drives what the M200 has. I think I have already presented the M200 here.

    Currently I am trying to get a bigger harddisk into a M300-II (see pocket guides, early systems, last chapter).

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