Medieval methods... (was Re: Got a question....PDP? VAX?)

From: <(>
Date: Tue Mar 16 11:38:58 1999

>> I guess it is time to auction off some punch cards now ... one at a time
>> :). Actually, I am toying around with putting one punch card on ebay just
>> to see what would happen. It is a bit unusual though in that it is imprinted
>> with "Leo Computers", and just to keep it a set, perhaps putting one sheet
>> of original Leo Computers stationary. Anyone here remember Leo Computers
>> (late 40's, early 50's)?
> You mean Lyons, the people who produced the LEO? I think it was the first
> commercially sold computer; it was a cleaned-up version of one of the
> British research machines (Manchester Mark I? EDSAC?).

The story as it is usually told here in the UK:

Lyons had a large chain of tea shops across the UK. They had a system that
worked well for ordering stock for the shops and dispatching it, but it was
data-processing-intensive and they knew they needed to streamline in order to

What do you do if you have a system that's DP-intensive and needs streamlining?
Obvious! You computerise it! (All Lyons' DP was being done by hand at that

Right. Who sells computers for business? Well, a few DP machines (tabulators
etc.) exist, and can probably be bought, but nobody sells computers at all!

Lyons had the far-sightedness to push ahead with their plans to computerise, and
sent two (?) technicians to Cambridge to work on the EDSAC project (a rare
example of collaborative research actually working!)

The technicians duly went and worked on EDSAC, and came back to Lyons well
knowledgeable about computers. Lyons then set out to design their own computer,
which they called LEO.

They soon discovered that other companies, seeing the benefit that computerising
the business had had for Lyons, wanted business computers too. And thus Leo
Computers was born - a subsidiary of Lyons, who made and sold business
computers. I think there's about one each of their later (solid state) and
original (hollow state) machines still around...

I think Leo Computers may be regarded as the world's first commercial computer
manufacturer. But I don't think they existed as early as the '40s. I think the
original LEO project was early '50s, and Leo Computers (as a manufacturer) mid
'50s and later. But I'm not sure...

Anyone care to add to the above? Correct my mistakes? Etc.?


PS Let us know how the Leo Computers punched card sells! Should fetch a lot!
Received on Tue Mar 16 1999 - 11:38:58 GMT

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