What went wrong: The Corporate lies versus the truth
Local Area Network Failure
The first time the second voting system for the European Parliament, with the very first LAN – Local Area Network ever realized in the world, was used in Luxembourg it failed miserably and made 420 members of the Parliament laugh and scream, as you can see from the video from RAI, the Italian public television.
The official version from Olivetti, broadcast by RAI, the Italian state TV
Local Area Network Failure – The truth of what really happened
The first electronic voting system used in Strasbourg did not have any problem. It only had a very slow response time in delivering the results.
“La machine doit chauffer” – “the machine must warm-up” was the explanation of Simone Veil, the President of the Parliament. She had to explain what was going on to the general assembly waiting for the results to show up. Immediately after she approached one of the members of the Parliament. She knew he was working for Olivetti, and asked “You are going to fix this problem, aren’t you?” The answer was, of course, “Yes we will.”
They involved in the project Enzo Costa to do that. He was the engineer head of their technical maintenance centers worldwide. He was tasked to check-out the system and see what was wrong.
Enrico told him that they had to replace the P6060 central unit Olivetti had chosen for the system. It was running an interpreted basic polling software that was the source of the slow execution. They needed to replace it with an 8080 based computer, running a compiled PL/M language. This would take full advantage of the communication speed available. Enzo agreed, and Enrico prepared the new 8080 based computer for the second system in Luxembourg.
Mister Costa’s main focus in Olivetti was the maintenance of equipment and the cost of doing it. He saw that the test software needed to test and repair the terminals was separate from the operating software and asked to combine the two software pieces. He chose to activate the test mode with one voting button pressed at power-up.
The customer wishes always come first, was Enrico’s belief, he made the change.
Unfortunately, both did not consider the 420 people that interacted with the system. Someone was going to press the button when he shouldn’t have. A few terminals powered-up in test mode. The communication on the LAN was impacted and this made the first vote a failure.
Fortunately, Enrico designed the network in separate sections, with the possibility of separating their power. Warning lights were also monitoring the transmission activity on each section. When a terminal went in test mode, a red LED light was active for that section. Enrico had to momentarily manually switch off the power to the section and reset all its terminals.
That night It happened 500 times, for the 500 votes, it lasted for the five hours of voting. Without the electronic voting system, the Parliament would have spent three days to complete the vote instead of five hours.
Exhausting hours. Olivetti received compliments for the success of the first time an electronic voting system used in the European Parliament.
Enrico emigrated to the USA to repay the debt that the cost of testing the LAN during the night had left him.
The startup of a successful, financially stable small business
In 1987 Olivetti abandoned the business of Electronic Voting Systems. Enzo Costa founded in Rome the small company Eurel. They continued the maintenance and upgrading of the two voting systems. In addition to the one in the Italian Senate that Enrico had installed in Rome for Olivetti.
At the time Enrico was already in the USA.
The European Parliament is one of the most important institutions that has chosen Eurel informatica SpA for electronic voting. The collaboration began in 1987 (when Olivetti abandoned the field. ndr) and has continued in all these years until we have equipped our systems, in addition to the two hemicycles, with 25 commission rooms. Confidence in Eurel’s work has meant that over the years the hemicycle systems have been updated several times with increasingly advanced technologies. Eurel with its technicians residents in their respective offices (Strasbourg and Brussels) provides technical assistance and monitors the systems during the sessions.
From Eurel Informatica’s website
Senato della Repubblica – Votazione elettronica
The Senate of the Republic is the most representative customer for whom Eurel developed and installed the first electronic voting system for a National Parliament in the 1980s. (editor’s note: Enrico’s Elema S.p.a. did it all under a contract with Olivetti. Eurel started only in 1987 when Olivetti abandoned the business). Over all these years, Eurel has constantly updated the system for the necessary alignment with the most current technologies. Through its qualified technicians, Eurel provides technical assistance and operational supervision during the sessions.
From Eurel Informatica’s website