Lyons Electronic OfficeLyons Electronic Office

Today is a day that you should celebrate if you are currently employed in the IT field. Be you a project or programme manager or an IT analyst,  it is exactly 60 years ago to the day that the world’s first business computer was turned on and processed its first data. The business that created this machine was a catering company that sold tea and ran teashops called Lyons. The machine was called LEO (Lyons Electronic Office).

In the 40’s and 50’s Lyons was renowned for technological innovation and always looking for efficiencies. On a trip to the USA in 1947 2 mangers returned from a trip to the USA and reported that electronic computer held the secret to efficiencies and that investing £100,000 in this endeavor and building their own  could realize savings of £50,000 a year. They were granted the funds and the project went ahead. Work formally started in early 1949.

Over the next couple of years the project moved forward in building their own machine employing many difference skills and technologies that we would find really amusing by todays standards.

LEO First Operation

If was on 17th November 1951 that the first operation run was initiated to calculate the costs of Lyons’ weekly bakery distribution run. This task had previously been carried manually by accounts clerks. Initially the machine was unreliable but over the following weeks improvements were made and within 2 years LEO was trusted enough to run the Lyons Payroll.

The team that developed LEO were eventually spun off into a separate business that built machines for other business and was eventually nationalized by Harold Wilsons government in the 1960’s.

So there we have it from a British Catering company in the 1950’s we now have an IT industry worth trillions of pounds globally and employing millions of people. If it wasn’t for Lyons Electronic office where would we be today.