Historic items from LEO II,world's first commercial computer
Ephemera and parts of LEO II from the steel firm of Stewarts and Lloyds purchased by Early Technology several years ago from one of the technicians who operated and finally decommissioned this computer,comprising:
- One bit of memory unit from LEO II, serial no. LGIA-30 There were nineteen of these for one byte! 27" x 10" x 6"
- One of the three display monitor tubes from the LEO II Control Desk
- Frequency Monitor Unit for the Delay Tube Box 10" x 15" x 9"
- Newspaper: "The Review News" July 1957 (A newspaper for the employees of Stewarts and Lloyds Limited), with the whole of the front page announcing the advent of LEO II under the headline:
"ELECTRONIC COMPUTER FOR CORBY"
"Leo II Will Make Its Bow Within The Year" It goes on to describe what an electronic computer is, "that it is phenomenally fast" "4,000 sums a second" and that the layout will be
80ft x 32ft 6ins.etc.
- Newspaper: "Steel News" 15 July 1971 (The newspaper of the British Steel Corporation) Front page bottom: "AFTER 13 YEARS LEO IS OUT OF COMMISSION" In this article it states..."during a special ceremony Leo printed its last payslips and a farewell message"...
Early Technology is proud to offer this
message on its original printout. Unique is a much abused word, but this piece of paper is unique: it is the final printout of the world's first genuinely commercial computer.....
- Original farewell printout from LEO II/3 which reads:
58 - 71
NOW IT IS
On three sheets total size 14" x 33"
There are many computer "firsts" some much more important than others.
Argueably one of the major landmarks was the introduction of the world's first commercial computer for business use,(as opposed to those previously made for the military or research purposes). The claim for this achievement goes to the catering firm of J.Lyons & Co in the UK and the world's first routine office job to be run regularly on a stored program electronic computer was started on Thursday 29 November 1951. The computer was was a one-off unit named "LEO", (Lyons Electronic Office), built by the company for its own use and modelled on the EDSAC computer developed at Cambridge University under the direction of Dr Maurice Wilkes. It was installed at the Lyons HQ in West London.
This prototype computer proved so successful that Lyons came to rely on it for numerous clerical tasks and realised that it would be in difficulties should it suffer a catastrophic breakdown. In addition over the following years Lyons had used LEO for agency work for other companies, so the management of Lyons decided to manufacture a second version and offer it for sale. They set up a subsiduary, Leo Computers Ltd, and commenced the manufacture of a new computer named LEO II. (Leo computers later merged with English Electric and subsequently became ICL).
In all about thirteen LEO II computers were sold after which a new generation LEO III was sold
The first LEO II/1 computer went to Lyons, the second one, LEO II/2 the first one sold, was purchased by the tabacco company W.D. & H.O.Wills. The next order, LEO II/3 was from the steel company Stewarts and Lloyds, the third order,LEO II/4 was from Ford UK for their parts department in Aveley in Essex. (It is interesting to note that Ford in the UK had a computer before their US parent company). All three orders were placed before the first LEO II/1 (Lyons), was operational,(which was May 1957), due to the continued high performance of LEO I.
LEO II/3 purchased by Stewarts and Llyods was commissioned in May 1958,the
LEO II/2 purchased by W.D.& H.O.Wills started in September 1958 and the
LEO II/4 (Ford) started in December 1958
LEO II/3 parts of which are on offer here can therefore justly claim to be the world's first business computer purchased from a manufacturer and put into business operation .
References and further reading:
"The World's First Business Computer -
- by David Caminer, Peter Hermon, John Aris and
Frank Land. ISBN 0-07-709236-8
"Early British Computers" by Simon Lavington; Manchester University Press
These items will be sold by auction on this web site details will be posted here shortly.
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