By AIT Director, Tom Abram. May 2023

I was privileged in May to attend a celebration of the end of a National Lottery Heritage Fund project to capture and tell the story of Lyons Electronic Office, the first business computer.

Archives of IT counts LEO as about the start of our story of the creation and success of the British “tech” industry – computing, internet and telecommunications, so it was delightful to meet a gathering of people who were involved in the development of LEO (including Professor Frank Land), who operated and programmed LEO machines and produced the heritage material.

Documentary film

Two standout items that will preserve the heritage are a documentary film, made by Richard Hollingham of Boffin Media, and a virtual model which allows you to walk around the computer.

The film tells the story of the team, the machine and, of course, of Lyons, Swiss Rolls and tea rooms. It was interesting to hear what important “props” authentic Lyons products were in the film: look out for the cakes in every interview scene.

The virtual model is only available to see at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge at the moment but is coming soon to a tablet near you and will allow you to open cabinets, inspect every capacitor on each half-adder board. Chris Monk described a heroic programme of painstaking work to record every hardware detail for audiences to marvel at in perpetuity.

All of this is underpinned by a huge archive of material in the Leopedia and teaching resources at the museum. A most impressive contribution to the story of computing history.


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