LEO, the World’s First Business Computer, Debuts on November 17, 1951

by Michael on Nov. 17th, 2011

Today marks the 60th anniversary of LEO (Lyons Electronic Office), the world’s first business computer, which was created by J. Lyons & Company, an organization known for operation of tea shops in Great Britain, as well as being a biscuit manufacturer and founder of the Wimpy burger chain.

After World War II ended, the increase in office costs made Lyons realize that some form of automation was needed to bring these costs under control. Before World War II, Lyons had developed a reputation for factory and office efficiency. Lyons' policy was to control their own service departments (legal, shipping, laundries, box making, food laboratories, tea estates, wine cellars, etc.), so they tackled the ambitious task of building an electronic computer, even though they had no history of electronics. Nothing was available to them at this time to meet their needs, so they set about designing and building one themselves.

LEO's first task, and the world’s first business Close-Up of LEO/1 Control Desk
Close-Up of LEO/1 Control DeskCourtesy LEO Computers Society

computing application, was to calculate the costs of Lyons’ weekly bakery distribution run. Previously, this task had been carried out by hand by accounts clerks. At first, LEO was unreliable, but improvements were made on a weekly basis. Two years later, in December 1953, LEO was given the important job of calculating Lyons’ payroll. A milestone was reached on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1953, when the task of calculating a employees pay took LEO only 1.5 seconds, whereas before it took an experienced clerk a total of 8 minutes.

News Article: How a chain of tea shops kickstarted the computer age

Website for LEO Computers Society: http://www.leo-computers.org.uk

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Garrett.C's picture
Garrett.C says:

Wow, it is really hard to believe that the world's first business computer is sixty years old. To think that we all thought that computers were invented in our lifetime alone, we knew there were some but not this far back.

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think it is cool

posted on Mon, 11/21/2011 - 2:53pm

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