On Wednesday 14 July Neville Lyons talked to the Association by Zoom
the Lyons Tea Shops Company`s far sighted recognition of the need to
automate their essential business processes such as stock control and
pay-roll as a way to manage costs and provide scope for expansion. LEO
(Lyons Electronic Office), the world`s first business computer, was
designed and manufactured in-house by the catering company.
Neville served as a Regular Royal Signals Officer for 31 years followed by a second career as Executive of National and European Electronics Trade Associations. One of his retirement occupations has been researching his family history where he found proof of his relationship to Sir Joseph Lyons co-founder of J Lyons & Co., the giant catering company. Sir Joseph was a cousin to Neville`s grandfather and this led him to deeper research into the company`s history and the story of LEO.
Neville described the origins of the J Lyons company, its famous Tea Shops and Corner House Restaurants (leading to nostalgic memories by the Editor of treats as a schoolboy with his parents - delicious lunches to the accompaniment of string quartets). Large scale manufacture of ‘Swiss rolls’ and other catering products, the setting up of tea and coffee divisions and so on, established the need for a system to manage this now complex business. There were no commercially available computers available for such a purpose so the company set about doing it themselves by employing the best available experts; the result was LEO.
Contact Richard Cannon for the private Members’ link to the YouTube recording of this little known remarkable success story of British pioneering in the world of business computing.