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A Computer Called Leo: Lyons Teashops and the World's First Office Computer

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This is 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, the war, austerity and on into the 1960s and 1970s. Yet Lyons also has a m This is 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, the war, austerity and on into the 1960s and 1970s. Yet Lyons also has a more surprising claim to history. In the 1930s John Simmons, a young graduate in charge of the clerks' offices that totalled all the bills issued by the Nippies and kept track of the costs of all the tea, cakes and other goods distributed to the nation's cafes and shops, became obsessed by the new ideas of scientific management. He had a dream: to build a machine that would automate the millions of tedious transactions and process them in as little time as possible.


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This is 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, the war, austerity and on into the 1960s and 1970s. Yet Lyons also has a m This is 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, the war, austerity and on into the 1960s and 1970s. Yet Lyons also has a more surprising claim to history. In the 1930s John Simmons, a young graduate in charge of the clerks' offices that totalled all the bills issued by the Nippies and kept track of the costs of all the tea, cakes and other goods distributed to the nation's cafes and shops, became obsessed by the new ideas of scientific management. He had a dream: to build a machine that would automate the millions of tedious transactions and process them in as little time as possible.

30 review for A Computer Called Leo: Lyons Teashops and the World's First Office Computer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Caminer

    A beautifully crafted account of the early pioneering days of the British Computer Industry, when Lyons, the household name in tea shops, cakes, ice cream, tea, coffee and event catering, beat the big boys by launching the world's first programmable business computer. Since one of the key players was my late father I have a special interest in the book, and can just remember being taken to Cadby Hall to see one of the LEO computers, a huge monster housed in laboratory conditions, with less power A beautifully crafted account of the early pioneering days of the British Computer Industry, when Lyons, the household name in tea shops, cakes, ice cream, tea, coffee and event catering, beat the big boys by launching the world's first programmable business computer. Since one of the key players was my late father I have a special interest in the book, and can just remember being taken to Cadby Hall to see one of the LEO computers, a huge monster housed in laboratory conditions, with less power than one of today's singing birthday cards, and yet performing a wide array of highly complex tasks. Georgina Ferry tells the story in a very readable way. It's a story that needs to be remembered and retold!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    Having lived through computer history and even worked on a relative of the LEO (English Electric Leo KDF6) I found the book fascinating. Gripping even. The author gives an excellent account of the early conception and development of LEO. It was clearly a superior computer ahead of it's time, developed by an enthusiastic bunch of people. It is interesting that the developers believed in strong system methodology as much as computerisation of business systems. The ending was sad to read how the ma Having lived through computer history and even worked on a relative of the LEO (English Electric Leo KDF6) I found the book fascinating. Gripping even. The author gives an excellent account of the early conception and development of LEO. It was clearly a superior computer ahead of it's time, developed by an enthusiastic bunch of people. It is interesting that the developers believed in strong system methodology as much as computerisation of business systems. The ending was sad to read how the machine and people faded away.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Boneist

    This was really interesting. I'm not old enough to remember Lyons tea shops, but I do remember Lyons Maid ice lollies! This was an interesting read on how the early office computers came to be - the amount of business analysis required was mind boggling, but still relevant today. I would recommend all computer programmers/developers read this book. This was really interesting. I'm not old enough to remember Lyons tea shops, but I do remember Lyons Maid ice lollies! This was an interesting read on how the early office computers came to be - the amount of business analysis required was mind boggling, but still relevant today. I would recommend all computer programmers/developers read this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Dee

    I enjoyed this book so much I wrote a blog post about it : http://www.hannahdee.eu/blog/?p=1747 I enjoyed this book so much I wrote a blog post about it : http://www.hannahdee.eu/blog/?p=1747

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caolan McMahon

    An interesting account of the very early days of the British computer industry. It makes a good introduction to the topic with well organised sources presented at the back. The writing is engaging and the level of technical detail well judged.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Brilliant! I work in IT and so often projects fail because they forget the lessons that the company that set up the original computer learned!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Duncan Maccoll

    This was great fun to read. It is a true adventure story and so well written.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    The standard story of British History: Cutting edge innovation let down by incompetent management.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Williams

    Very good read, explains the beginnings, (and end) of the British Computer manufacturing industry.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alain van Hoof

    Very nicely written and gives a detailed insight of the creation of the LEO computer.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ann elizaberth combe

  12. 5 out of 5

    Phil Bouwman

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nia Wearn

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  17. 5 out of 5

    Martin Fitzpatrick

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ma

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kim Plowright

  20. 4 out of 5

    Wail

  21. 5 out of 5

    S DAVIES

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul Paradigm

  24. 5 out of 5

    Callum

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Hood

  26. 5 out of 5

    James

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mario

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rick Dikeman

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian Rogers

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