Ivrea is a town 56 km north of Turin, whose main industry for much of the twentieth century was the manufacture of office equipment by Olivetti, founded in 1908 by the electrical engineer Camillo Olivetti (1868-1943) and carried on by his descendants Adriano Olivetti (1901-60) and Roberto Olivetti (1928-85). The company was always noted for the attention paid to high quality design. It first became famous for its typewriters, then for mechanical calculators, and subsequently for electric calculators which were developed by Pier Giorgio Perotto (1930-2002). From the 1960s the company manufactured computers, initially with great success. The Programma 101, produced from 1965, was the first commercial programmable desktop computer. Subsequently while discarding traditional products, such as typewriters, last made in 1994, the company encountered difficulties, and from 2003 became part of the Telecom Italia Group. Olivetti no longer has an independent existence, although its brand name is still used by other manufacturers of office equipment.
The Laboratorio-Museo pays due attention to the history of Olivetti, but is principally concerned with stimulating curiosity amongst young people, focussing on means of writing, calculating and digital imaging.
In 2018 Ivrea was inscribed in the Unesco World Heritage list as an "industrial city of the 20th century, developed as the testing ground for Olivetti. It comprises a large factory and buildings designed to serve the administration and social services, as well as residential units. Designed by leading Italian urban planners and architects, mostly between 1930 and the 1960s, this architectural ensemble reflects the ideas of the Community Movement (Movimento Comunità). A model social project, Ivrea expresses a modern vision of the relationship between industrial production and architecture."