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£150,000 Machine Can Almost Think

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Article from Birmingham Daily Gazette, 17/02/1954, about LEO I.

Date : 17th February 1954

Transcript :

225 hours' work done in 40 minutes

A MACHINE which can almost think and may eventually make thousands of clerical workers redundant has for the first time, it is claimed, been put to practical use in British industry.

The machine, a high-speed electronic calculator, was shown publicly for the first time yesterday. It has been set up at Cadby Hall, London headquarters of J. Lyons and Co.. and is being used mainly for calculating the wages of 1,700 workers in the bakery departments, a task which normally takes about 225 man-hours.

The electronic "brain" does it in just over 40 minutes, virtually doing the work of 300 clerks. Although there is nothing new in electronic calculators—one at Manchester University, it is claimed, can play chess—they have been used mainly for scientific and abstruse mathematical calculations, and most firms have regarded them as too complicated and expensive for normal commercial use. 

Cost £150,000 
The one shown yesterday cost £150,000 and does the work of about 300 clerks. It was developed as it was built, and the guiding principle was that it should be adapted to suit the clerical system in use.

Two difficulties which had to be overcome were finding a method of feeding the information from which calculations are made at high speed and finding a method of recording results rapidly.

At present the speed at which the machine works is governed by that at which results can be printed.

The use of the machine to calculate wages is only a beginning. Directors of the firm are already finding it can provide statistics which could not be obtained economically otherwise.

It can be used for dealing with orders from tea shops, for cost accounting, and for stock control work.

Hired out
There is also a certain amount of business done in hiring out the machine to government and other departments who want calculations done in a hurry.

The usual charge for this is £75 an hour, and the brain has been used by the Ministry of Supply for ballistic calculation, such as working out the speed and angle of rise and fall of a shell fired from a gun and for working out data concerning guided missiles.

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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH64040. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

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