L.E.O.: Incredible Story of the World's First Business Computer

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9780070095014: L.E.O.: Incredible Story of the World's First Business Computer

This book takes you behind the scenes at the creation of the world's first business computer - the precursor to every computer in every office around the world. It places you in the midst of a dynamic group of creative people - visionaries who were the first to recognize the potential and harness the power of computing for business purposes. Written by the real-life participants in these exciting events, it "depicts the scene frankly, warts and all, " as David Caminer, the pioneering team leader, writes in his preface. LEO reveals the strange and remarkable tale of how Lyons - a venerable tea-and-cake company - bred, incubated, and hatched that history-making business computer. In 1951, less than 2 years after the project was initiated, LEO went on-line as the world's first business computer. A forerunner to the IBM mainframes, LEO was the first computer to run a payroll, the first to perform inventories, and the first to track product distribution - as well as the first to calculate the blending of fine, flavorful, and cost-effective cups of tea.

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From the Author:

A selection of extracts from published reviews
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 ... tell the story of how they and others built and put to work the world's first business computer. This did not happen in California's Silicon Valley, but at Cadby Hall, the ... west London premises of Lyons.

An important facet was that they felt they should always take a strategic view of the whole function to be computerised and make recommendations for improvements before going to work."

From Dr John Pinkerton, review in ICL Technical Journal

"Telling the story of how the foundations of data processing were laid from 1949 onwards has evidently been a labour of love.

This is a work of scholarship but eminently readable nevertheless. It will be seen as a major contribution to the history of business computing; it is strongly recommended for anyone already working in or studying to enter the field of IT."

From Michael Braithwaite, Deloitte, Touche, European Journal of Information Systems.

"I commend this book to a wide audience. To the general reader it stands as a very well written and exciting account of technological innovation. To the business school student it presents a remarkable story of technological success that, as a commercial venture was flawed, perhaps by factors beyond the control of the players."

From Professor George Mitchell, review published Journal of Operational Research Society..

"This fascinating book tells the life story of LEO. Rather over a third of the book is the historical record, carefully researched and engagingly written up by Caminer. The rest is largely personal memoirs of those involved in the early days, including accounts of several innovative applications. The whole is rounded off by an evaluation by Aris. The book's value is enhanced by the style of writing. Those who worked in LEO, especially in its earlier days, including many of the book's authors, exercised an influence on the development of business computing in the UK quite disproportionate to their numbers.

I found this book a good read and one which exited several strands of thought. Although its main market will be among scholars and students of IT and business studies, it deserves a wide readership in the OR community."

From John Perkins, National Computer Centre Newsletter,

"The book, ...., is a fascinating adventure story in which the dynamics of an extraordinary group of people made the seemingly impossible happen."

From Professor John Ward in the Journal of Strategic Information Systems.

"The story of that first business computer: Leo - Lyons Electronic Office - is told in this book. Whilst it is history, reflection on what was achieved and not achieved and why still has many lessons of relevance to the successful use of IT today - we seem to be learning painfully and slowly!.

.... a review by John Aris of what of what he calls the ‘LEO approach' - an integrated combination of technology innovation, application and consultancy designed to enable significant business improvements from computer use in a range of situation. Many of these applications would be called ‘business process redesign' in the 1990s!

The wide range of contributors provide many different perspectives on what happened and views on why things evolved the way they did. It is a set of memoirs - often very personal ones - of a time when Britain could be said to have led the world in the application of this new technology.

... it is a book that we should all be grateful the authors took the time and trouble to get together and write. It is a story of extraordinary achievements , by a talented team..."

From I. A. Lovelock in Management Accounting.

"This book is a first-hand account of how this astounding innovation came about. It is a flesh and blood, warts and all story related by the participants, brimming over with the same enthusiasm that enabled the unlikeliest of organisations to lead the way into the future that we are all familiar with today.

It concludes with different strands coming together to provide the essence of the LEO credo of comprehensive, integrated, secure, action stimulated implementations.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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