When the Phonola Marziano (meaning “Martian”) was launched in 1956, official television broadcasting was only two years old in Italy.
The device was manufactured by Fimi (Fabbrica italiana materiali isolanti) – which was founded in Lombardy in 1929, and added the “Phonola” brand to its acronym in 1931 –, and really looked like something from outer space.
Conceived and designed by Dario Montagni, Cesare Buttè and Sergio Berizzi, the Marziano was 17 inches wide, 64 centimeters tall, and made of wood, metal, plastic and glass. As soon as the newborn Italian TV audience met this unidentified object, it was intrigued by its aerodynamic profile, symmetry, use of humble materials and simplified technology. But what really set the Marziano apart was the separation between the screen and the controls: the wooden case on which the screen was mounted included a remote control plug… such a futuristic luxury was finally near at hand.
The Marziano was manufactured until 1961. Of the very few surviving models, one can be seen on display at Milan’s Triennale and another at the MoMa in New York.