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A Computer Called LEO: Lyons Tea Shops and the World's First Office Computer Paperback – 26 Feb 2010
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'A COMPUTER CALLED LEO is as captivating a book as you could hope for, whether it's industrial history you're after, or a commentary on the development of computing, or social documentary, or an elegant tragedy. One reads it with a growing sense of gloomy fatalism and even gloomier recognition. But one also reads it with admiration and fascination, not just for Georgina Ferry's poised, cool and elegant storytelling but for the people involved in the making of LEO, who, before they were let down by the suits, did something extraordinary because nobody had told them it couldn't be done.' Michael Bywater, Daily Telegraph
‘Meticulously researched and cogently written, it sets the story in the wider context of early computer development both in America and the UK.' Fanny Blake, The Times
‘This is not a book for computer nerds, but one for anyone curious about mid-20th-century Britain's unique combination of engineering genius and economic frailty.' Sunday Telegraph
The eccentric story of one of the most bizarre marriages in the history of British business: the invention of the world's first office computer and the Lyons Teashop. The Lyons teashops were one of the great British institutions, providing a cup of tea and a penny bun through the depression and the war, though to the 1970s. Yet Lyons also has a more surprising claim to history. In the 1930s John Simmons, a young maths graduate in charge of the clerks' offices, had a dream: to build a machine that would automate the millions of tedious transactions and process them in as little time as possible. Simmons' quest for the first office computer -- the Lyons Electronic Office -- would take 20 years and involve some of the most brilliant young minds in Britain. Interwoven with the story of creating LEO is the story of early computing, from the Difference Engine of Charles Babbage to the codecracking computers at Bletchley Park and the instantly obsolescent ENIAC in the US. It is also the story of post war British computer business: why did it lose the initiative? Why did the US succeed while British design was often superior?See all Product description
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a major British business company. First in the world? Of course. Neglected by the Government of the
day? Naturally. Opportunity for expansion into global markets tried - and almost succeeded.
A fascinating tale that will appeal in particular to those with fond memories of Lyons tea shops
once such a familiar feature of hundreds of British towns until the early Sixties. Who would have
thought a giant 50 foot valve powered computer weighing many tons was behind all those cakes
and buns delivered with such efficiency to so many Corner Shops. It was called Leo, but might have been
dubbed 'Nippy.' Read on and be amazed.
Highly recommend if you are over 60 yrs old and worked in the computer industry in your youth!
The book is a great read with great characters. It's explains all the key elements of the computer's design without being over technical. It creates the atmosphere of early 20th century Britain were tea rooms abound brilliantly. I loved it and have recommended it to members of our IT department and our management team.
The most shocking aspect of the book is that all the management, computer and software issues discussed are still happening today even though they solved them years ago. When will we learn!
Many other commercial organisations purchsed LEO machines and the hardware architecture was emulated in the ICL 29xx range in the 1970s.
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