Just 2KB of memory: LEO the world's first business computer celebrates its 60th birthdayIt had 2KB of memory formed from tubes of mercury but still managed to perform an astonishing array of tasks.Yesterday
LEO, the world’s first business computer, built by British
food-manufacturer J Lyons & Co, celebrated its 60th birthday.It was on November 17 1951 that it was given its first office task - calculating weekly margins on bread, cakes and pies.
Georgina Ferry, author of A Computer Called Leo, described it as ‘one of the most remarkable advances of the 20th century’.
She added ‘No one had thought of using a computer like this before.’
inspiration for the device came from the U.S. military’s ENIAC, or
Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, which was constructed
during the Second World War.Managers at Lyons were convinced that
such a machine could be used to improve the efficiency of their
business so they ordered the building of LEO – the Lyons Electronic
Office.Its chief designer, Dr John Pinkerton, oversaw a machine so remarkable that it was able to cope with multiple calculating tasks.
Its clock speed was 500 kHz, which meant it was able to complete one instruction every 1.5 milliseconds.
It wasn’t long before other businesses began eyeing it up and it was eventually leased out when it wasn’t being used at Lyons.
Ford Motor Company, for example, hired it to compute its UK payroll.
week a Google-sponsored birthday party was held for the machine and
some of the people who worked on it at London’s Science Museum.Tilly
Blyth, curator of computing and information at the Science Museum,
which has a display dedicated to the first LEO machine, said: 'The Lyons
Electronic Office computer is a fantastic British story of how our love
for tea and cakes powered a new computing industry. We have at the
Science Museum part of LEO’s computing memory, and it shows what a
technical feat it was to build this versatile machine.'These
days, computers are at the core of virtually every business in the
Western world, but Google, in a blog post about LEO, remarks on just how
alien computers were in the 1950s.It
quotes a 1954 issue of The Economist: ‘There are those who do not
believe in the desirability of introducing anything as esoteric as
electronics into business routine.’
In: Science and Technology
Tags: LEO, world's, business, computer, celebrates, 60th, birthday, Pioneers
Location: United Kingdom (UK/GB) (load item map)
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