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L.E.O.: The Incredible Story of the World's First Business Computer Hardcover – November 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Mcgraw-Hill; First Edition edition (November 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070095019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070095014
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,875,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A variety of machines mark the milestones on the way to modern cyberculture. Many, such as ENIAC, UNIVAC, the TRS-80, and the Apple II are well known. Less celebrated but vitally important was the Lyons Electronic Office (LEO), the first business computer. Rather than being built by an electronic firm, LEO was built by J. Lyons & Co., a British food company that kept Great Britain in tea and cakes throughout World War II. J. Lyons & Co. operated in constant innovation, leaping into business history right after the war with the vision that the growing mountain of paperwork could be tamed by machine--if they only had the courage to build it. LEO tells the story of what many believed to be, at best, a quixotic effort. LEO's success was demonstrated when the world's first routine office job--weekly bakery valuations--was computerized in 1951. Within a few years, LEO computers were running payrolls for Ford Motor Company and working for British railroads, military, and businesses. This is not just a story about technology, but about individual and corporate vision and the people who made a dream work despite mistakes.

Review

Who developed the first business computer? It was J. Lyons & Co., a British catering company. Lyons first went "online" in 1951 with product-valuation jobs that ran on the Lyons Electronic Office (LEO), which the company developed and built in-house. LEO, the book, consists of firsthand accounts from many of the people involved with the LEO project during its 20-year span. The memories of those involved in LEO's development are as vivid and compelling as the startup sagas familiar to members of the American computer industry. -- Upside, Ron Hogan

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tim Brady on August 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a teenager in London in the late 1960s I remember the daily ritual of nipping in to Joe Lyons Corner House to sneak a cup of tea and a last cigarette before going to school. Little did I (or any other customer) know what had been going on behind the scenes. This book lets us in on the secret.
It tells how a UK catering company, J. Lyons and Co, got involved in the design, development and building of an electronic computer initially for their own use but subsequently for other customers. Written and edited by many of the people involved, the book is a mix of personal recollection and documentation from the period. It is the story of an extraordinary innovation, conceived and developed by a group of talented and incredibly hard-working people, made possible by the vision of the senior management who in 1949 "resolved to introduce, before anyone else in the world, what it called an `automatic calculator'"
The book has four parts. Part I, by David Caminer gives a brief description of the successful running on a stored program electronic computer of the world's first regular routine office job in November 1951, and some background on Lyons. The rest of Part I charts the history of the development and use of the Leo computer and its derivatives from its conception in the late 1940s up to the demise of the Leo computers in 1968 by which time some 82 Leo systems had been installed. The last few, located at the Post Office, continued in service until 1981.
The rest of the book consists of personal contributions from many of the individuals who worked for Leo Computers. Part 2 provides an insight into the early task of programming - a non-trivial task in the days before computer languages had been developed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By F. Frank Land on January 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Review 21 January 2000
Professor Dick Nolan of the Harvard University Business School writes in his introduction to the book:
"This story has the best qualities of a Harvard Business School case study: it is an important event in the history of the business.
It is a study about extraordinary people ... As confident executives they look outside their company, in other countries, at universities to discover new ways of doing things and fresh ideas. In their bold actions, trust shows through as a foundation in implementing their vision. Young people are given free reign and do not disappoint. A resulting exiting, challenging `can-do' culture is heard in the words of the people who were there."
From Dr Terry Gourvish, Director Business History Unit, LSE, in Business History Newssheet,
"This is a major contribution to the history of computing and computers in the UK. A full scale case study of LEO computers, written by members of the team who experienced all its trials and tribulations, it provides a fascinating insight into the development by J. Lyons & Co. of the first business computer in the UK."
From Neil Fitzgerald, editor of CA magazine, in The Scotsman, Business section. .
"Can-do culture, empowerment, user-driven innovation, business process re-engineering, flat organisations, quality, short lines of communications and decision making. We are led to believe that these are radical, modern ideas. However, a book that has come into my hands shows that they were being successfully harnesses almost half a century ago, to create the most significant event ever in business management.
The editors ...
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