The LEO Computers Society celebrated today with a lunch of at the Science Museum. The first regular business application used within the world was used 60 years ago today. This was the LEO computer, built and deployed by J Lyons and Co, to manage the operations of their tea-shops. It completely took over the Bakery Valuation calculations 60 years ago today, having been running test programs since the 5th of September.
LEO was based on the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) design built in Cambridge in 1949. LEO Computers Ltd was formed to manufacture the LEO computer for other companies in 1954. This technology was installed in some interesting locations, such as both the Parts and Payroll departments of the Ford Motor Company, the British Oxygen Company, and the Ministry of Pensions. These all received a LEO/II version of the system, the first system installed in May 1957.
An updated platform the LEO/III was released in 1962, and most of these were deployed within the GPO (General Post Office), with others in HM Customs and Excise, HM Dockyards. Indeed, by this time the government had got to grips with the benefits of computers. The LEO/III was also used by many corporate customers, both within the UK and further abroad, with deployments in Shell in Melbourne, Australia, and a LEO office in Johannesburg, South Africa. The LEO/III was one of the first solid-state computers, and used a ferrite-core memory. Later improved versions the LEO 360 and LEO 326 were manufactured by English Electric after it took over LEO computer in 1963, later being formed into ICL in 1968 with International Tabulators and Calculators.
One of the interesting things about the LEO was the use of sound to provide an indication of the internal state of the system. This lead to some interesting developments, such as the use of this to generate seasonal sounds by using specific programming commands. Perhaps the first use of corporate compute resource for recreational purposes? Listen to this MP3 to find out..