Monday, June 30, 2008

A Bit of Retail History

Can you imagine Waterstones or Borders invented the latest microchip, or Folyes developing a new ebook reader technology? We now expect companies to do what they are good at and not to deviate into unknown and new ventures and we would not expect a retailer to become a computer company.

However, in 1951 David Caminer, an employee of the UK British tea shop chain, J. Lyons & Company, created the LEO ( Lyons Electronic Office) computer. LEOs were sold to Ford, tobacco companies, a steel maker, and around the world and it was choosen to handle the UK’s telephone billing system.

It has been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s first business computer and was ahead of even the likes of IBM at the time. The Economist magazine called LEO,. ‘the first dedicated business machine to operate on the ‘stored program principle,’ meaning that it could be quickly reconfigured to perform different tasks by loading a new program.’ Computer Weekly said, ‘LEO’s early success owed less to its hardware than to its highly innovative systems-oriented approach to programming, devised and led by David Caminer.’

On Jan. 9, 1965, when the first LEO computer was turned off forever, The Daily Mail published an obituary. The inventor David Caminer died June 19, 2008 in London aged 92.

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