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.
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