12th February 2021
This year promises to be chock-full of anniversaries of landmark events in LEO's history. The 15th February, in just a few days' time, marks the 70th anniversary of when the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) visited Cadby Hall in 1951. The Queen remembers her visit fondly. She witnessed LEO running a demonstration program (the news clipping below is from the Illustrated London News on 24th February 1951).
LEO wasn't yet fully functional then, and we now know that due to commercial sensitivities Lyons were loathe to publicise their new invention at that point in time, but the Princess's visit was a big deal to both Lyons and to the LEO team. The LEO Chronicle (written later) is typically understated about the event, simply stating "H.R,H. Princess Elizabeth visits Cadby Hall and sees LEO carrying out a simple test programme".
But amongst the John Simmons' papers held in Warwick there is a full itinerary for the visit detailing everything from who is responsible for painting the white arrows near the 'Blythe Road Gate' to what route the royal visitor will take through Cadby Hall if 'the weather is fine' and if it isn't, to the number of vases in the Board Room where 'Major Monte Gluckstein will present 12 or 14 old members of staff to the Visitor'.
The LEO section of the royal tour lasted less than 15 minutes and the itinerary explains that John Simmons presents Thomas Raymond Thompson (TRT) to the Princess, who then gives 'a brief description of what is occurring'. What was occurring was, in fact, the world's first business computer (then generally referred to as a 'calculator') running a small part of a clerical job in a way that no one outside of Lyons was even thinking about doing at that point in time.
Later in 2021 we'll encounter more 70th anniversaries including the Cadby Hall Bakeries job being run by LEO and 'producing accurate results' (though not reliably) on 5th September 1951 and then - finally - the job being successfully and fully run again for the week ending 30th November 1951, after which the team were 'able to carry out the job regularly' on LEO, according to the Chronicle. And before the end of 1951, LEO is set to work on calculations for the Meteorological Office - pioneering work in using computers for weather forecasting.
Posted by: Lisa McGerty