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Daily Mail Obituary for LEO I

Daily Mail Obituary for LEO I, 9th January 1965 (anon). Plus other items about LEO initiatives in Eastern Europe.

The text of the 'obituary' was also published in the first edition of the book LEO Remembered. The text is available to view in person for reference only.

Date : 9th January 1965

Creator : LEO

Transcript :
OBITUARY FOR LEO I – FROM THE DAILY MAIL 9th January 1965 TODAY we mourn the passing of a computer. Leo I has reached the end of a long and useful life. With appropriate toasts and a funeral oration, he has been switched off. It remains only to write his obituary. Leo was the pioneer of his race. He was the oldest working computer in the world. When he was born, on February 15th 1951, the world was a simpler, more rugged, uncomputed place. The few elder brothers he had, like EDSAC, lived in the rarified air of university laboratories. Young Leo was the first to go into commerce. He was installed at Cadby Hall by his creators – the Lyons Electronic Office, from whom he took his name – and soon began to concern himself with tea-shops and tea and toasted tea-cakes and the problems of getting the right amount to the right place at the right time. Versatility Nor was that all. Apart from spewing out the weekly payrolls for Lyons, Fords and other large firms, Leo showed he could turn his hand to almost any problem. He set about calculating disease among miners, the ballistic problems of Blue Streak, mortality rates for insurance companies, ‘flutter’ in new aircraft. He worked out to make rain by ‘seeding’ clouds. He computed tax tables. And, as a piece of extra night work, he calculated the distance between each of 7,000 railway stations. Not bad going for an old-timer. For an old-timer is what he was, a grandfather among computers. Towards the end he must have felt his position keenly as brash young whipper-snappers of computers such as his offspring the Leo Threes, with ten times the speed of calculation, shouldered him aside. Simplicity Beside them he cut a rather ridiculous figure, with his immense bulk (the size of a room), his 7,000 cumbersome valves, his ability to do only three things at once, and a memory that could remember a mere 1,000 combinations of digits, compared with the 32,000 we expect of sophisticated computers. But he had the simple virtues of an older generation – hardihood and a willingness to tackle something new, combined with a quirky sense of fun. He actually used to hum, rather boisterously at his work. He even played a hornpipe to Prince Philip. Finally, let it be remembered that throughout almost 14 years of life he worked a 24-hour shift on one dreary problem after another without complaining and spent, at the most, only a few hours off sick. We shall not see his like again – and, such is the pace of electronic progress, we do not need to. But he will be remembered and his remains – that agile, pioneering central brain of his – will be interred in the Science Museum by a grateful nation.

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH51044. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Daily Mail Obituary for LEO I

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