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John Page: My time at LEO
I joined LEO right after getting my O levels at St Clement Danes Grammar School, joining their apprentice program. I was assigned Mr Lenearts as my mentor and guide and did some time in various departments and so got a broad introduction to what was going on at Minerva Road. As a teenager I had an electronics hobby, building stereo amplifiers and mending neighbours radios, so as you can imagine, every time I walked by one of the computers on the commissioning floor I was utterly awestruck. I had never imagined so much electronics in one place and its sheer scale was intoxicating.
Eventually, by making a bit of a pest of myself with Tony Morgan, I got to work on a new machine on the floor that was being assembled for the GPO. Since they were busy they let me work with Sid Markham bolting the cabinets together and powering them up. Since nobody was around I just started getting it to work - poring over the logic diagrams and learning the machine instruction set.
I can honestly say that I was the happiest guy on the planet. Never before or since have I felt so much excitement about working on what even the BBC was calling an “electronic brain”. I got so engrossed I lost track of time and looked up sometimes realizing I had forgotten dinner and the factory was deserted and dark.
I ended up building and delivering several machines - the most memorable being to Prague, leaving there in 1968 just as the Russians invaded to oust Alexander Dubcek for being too westernized.
It was a sad but inevitable day when Minerva Road closed down. After a couple of false starts I saw an ad for an opening at Hewlett Packard who were just starting to sell minicomputers. They had zero people in the sales office that understood them so I got the job. That led to an opportunity to go to California to be part of the launch of a new design. Eventually I joined some other HP people and started up a company to make software for the Apple II. I am still in California as I write this in April 2022.
So all in all, I have lived through the birth and evolution of computers - probably the most important invention in the history of man. The two turning points for me were being lucky enough to be part of the LEO story, and my time in Silicon Valley. Those two things gave me a ringside seat to an astonishing technological revolution.
LEO was an amazing company. Created and led by people of real vision. Thank you to all the people that made it possible and for giving me the opportunity to play a part.Date : 2022
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