The LEO Story

Gordon Foulger

Tuesday 16 November 2010

17.30, Room open in advance (from 17.00) - meet up with society members.

The Conference Room, Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Road, Manchester M3 4FP

About the seminar

LEO pioneered the use of computers for practical business applications, and this talk will present the story of this remarkable company and the machines it produced.

Starting with how and why a bakery company known for its teashops developed and built the world's first business computer for its own use, an initiative based on the Cambridge University EDSAC. LEO I was successfully used in the Lyons business and was also used on a bureau basis by other organisations.

Further development produced an improved faster machine (LEO II) for sale to other companies. A separate company was formed which built and sold over 10 of these machines.

The third and final version was the LEO III, with its faster variations the LEO 326 and LEO 360 - and over 70 of these were sold. A large user of the LEO 326 was the General Post Office and its National Data Processing Service - several projects will be discussed.

LEO I was first used for a live application in 1951 and the last LEO 326 was decommissioned in 1981.

About the speaker

Gordon Foulger joined English Electric LEO in 1963 as a trainee programmer and his work on LEO III was at the Post Office. Then worked as a senior programmer on the National Giro project, which used System 4s.

He then moved to the ICL Real Time Department and did some early work on CRT terminals. Moving to EMI he was part of a small team that produced online systems for EMI Records. He later became a Database Consultant at Honeywell Control Systems.


For more about LEO computers, the systems and the people see the LEO Society website.

Much has been written about LEO, and a good starting point is the LEO Wikipedia entry.

Photo courtesy of the Leo Society

Photo courtesy of the Leo Society