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J Lyons executives report on the potential of computers to automate clerical work

October 1947
J Lyons executives report on the potential of computers to automate clerical work

Oliver Standingford and Raymond Thompson, two senior executives of British catering giant J Lyons & Co., visit the USA on a business research trip.  They recognise that computers could help Lyons make their data processing procedures more efficient.  The idea is accepted by the company board, leading to the building of their own computer: the Lyons Electronic Office (LEO).  The LEO becomes the first computer used for commercial business applications.

Extract from LEO; The First Business Computer by Peter Bird, Hasler Publishing, 1994, pages 37-38.

"On 20th October 1947 copies of Thompson’s and Standingford’s North American visit report were submitted to members of the Lyons Board with a covering memorandum from which the following is extracted:  We believe we have been given a glimpse of a development which will, in a few years’ time, have a profound effect on the way in which clerical work (at least) is performed. Here, for the first time, there is a possibility of  a machine which will be able to cope, at almost incredible speed, with any variations in clerical procedures, providing the conditions which govern the variations can be predetermined. What effect such machines can have on the semi-repetitive work of the office needs only the slightest effort of imagination.  The possible saving from such a machine should be at least £50,000 a year.  The capital cost would be of the order of £100,000.

We feel, therefore, that the Company might wish to take a lead in the development of the machine and indeed that, unless organisations such as ours, the potential users, are prepared to do so, the time they come commercially available will be unnecessarily postponed by many years.

Despite the radical nature of the proposal … even without a full cost analysis, they were successful in influencing the Lyons Board.”





J Lyons executives report on the potential of computers to automate clerical work

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