Olivetti and the Seven Dwarfs
Posted on September 2, 2016
The term “IBM and the Seven Dwarfs” was coined in 1965 and reflected IBM’s domination of the computer industry.
“Seven Dwarf” computer systems were incompatible with IBM systems, the de facto standard at the time, and this made selling against IBM in the commercial data processing market a nigh impossible task.
The “Seven” were Sperry Rand, Burroughs, Control Data, Honeywell, General Electric, RCA, and NCR. Olivetti might have had “Dwarf” status conferred upon them too (as Olivetti-General Electric) had they not divested their American computer and electronics business to GE in 1964.
While it’s true to say that Olivetti did not dominate the typewriter industry to the extent that IBM dominated the computing industry (a significant part of Olivetti’s revenue came from the sale of calculating machines) by 1965 they were arguably the biggest global player.
So if we accept Olivetti as the “Snow White” of typewriter manufacturers, who were the “Seven Dwarfs” in that halcyon period before the Evil Queen ruined any prospect of a happy ending?
Underwood: The weakest of the dwarfs, Woody’s reputation was undermined after he was caught trying on the dresses in Snow White’s wardrobe. From then on, Snow White felt obliged to keep a very close eye on him, not least because he was being picked-on by the other dwarfs, who accused him of not pulling his weight.
Woody was rejected by Roly, who only showed an interest in him later, after it was noticed that Oly and Woody were becoming increasingly friendly. It was this that prompted Snow White to take Woody under her wing and put him on light duties.
AEG Olympia and Triumph-Adler: Oly and Ady liked to play hide and seek in the Black Forest. Every now and then they would jump out of the bushes, just to keep Snow White on her toes.
Remington Rand and Smith-Corona Marchant: Remy and Smitty came good after a misspent youth, which they often spent fooling around with guns. They were arguably (see Bluey) the dwarfs with the quickest “shovels and picks” having invested heavily in electric tools.
Royal Litton: Roly was a greedy, grasping little dwarf who would think nothing of stealing the lunch boxes of the other dwarfs while their backs were turned.
IBM: A contender for the title “King of the Electric Dwarfs” Bluey was often heard to remark that his competitors “lacked balls”. Ultimately though, Bluey had bigger fish to fry, starring as “Snow White” in a fairy tale franchise of his own.
“Hi-ho, hi-ho, es ist aus gehen wir zu schreiben, mit ein Selectric Kugelkopf, und ein Triumph Perfekt …”