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No Threat to Workers

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Article in the Shields Daily News on 17th February 1954 about LEO I.

Date : 17th February 1954

Transcript :

No threat to workers

LEO, the electronic brain that Messrs Lyons have installed to compute the pay packets of the 33,000 men and women in the firmís employ, will truly do the lionís share of the clerks daily drudgery. But will it mean that firms who can afford such machines will be able to dispense with large staffs of clerks, or will it mean that the clerking departments will be able to do a more efficient, and more interesting, job of work without a reduction of numbers?

There is a threat inherent in the use of machines that many white collar workers will now begin to fear as much as many manual workers in the past feared the automatic machines of the industrial revolution.

Judging by past experience, however, there is little that manís ingenuity can do to save labour in one direction that does not make it in another.

Mr Isidore Gluckstein, a director of Lyons, is convinced that no clerk need fear redundancy because of the brain installed at Cadby Hall, the firmís London headquarters. And if other large firms follow his example, and acquire these £150,000 machines, there is certainly no cause for alarm and despondency among clerks as to their future. Their work will not be the same, but this does not mean there will not be work for them.

We've got to accept that such an advance at this stage is a normal part of progress. The machine that today costs £150,000 and is a rarity, like Leo, will tomorrow cost much less and become a general and accepted part of industrial and commercial equipment. And its effect on commerce and industry will be a stimulant both to the work and to the worker.

The clerk who now envisages dismissal because a machine is in existence which will do the work of many clerks even quicker and more reliably than they can, is in much the same position as the weaver who was suspicious of steam driven looms. Yet what was the result of extra power in industry? Simply that output increased, more workers and technicians were required, wages increased and conditions improved, working hours diminished and time and money for leisure were given to those who never previously dreamed of it.

These are the benefits of progress - though they were not at all obvious to those who smashed the looms in resentment at their displacement by automatic machines.

The simile is not far-fetched and mercifully we already have the example, which our forebears had not, of the advantages of this sort of progress.

What the clerk of today can expect in the long run, therefore, is not so much dismissal as transference to more interesting work. Just as many labourerís places were taken by technicians, so many a clerkís place may be filled by skilled interpreters of facts such as statisticians, costing experts, etc. The prospect for Leo is full of promise.

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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH64164. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

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