Business computing seminar in Lille

Olivetti Elea 9003. Detail. Photo: Elisabetta Mori

Pierre Mounier-Kuhn
(CNRS, Université Paris-Sorbonne & Centre Alexandre Koyré)
De la mécanographie à l’Informatique de gestion

Elisabetta Mori (Middlesex University, London)
From Academia to Business: LEO computers and Olivetti.
Two case studies in the early European Computer Industry

Histoire et Philosophie de l’informatique et du calcul
MESHS, 2 Rue des Canonniers, 59000 Lille
Info: https://calcul.hypotheses.org/435

Elisabetta Mori
From Academia to Business: LEO computers and Olivetti.
Two case studies in the early European Computer Industry

A common pattern in the growth and development of early Western European computer manufacturers is the collaboration between academia and entrepreneurship. Very often early European computer companies established a joint venture with an academic environment – a university or a research institute. Continue reading “Business computing seminar in Lille”

Mary Lee Woods Berners-Lee, early British computer programmer

Mary Lee and Conway Berners-Lee in 1954. Source: British Library

Mary Lee Woods Berners-Lee (1924-2017) was a British mathematician and computer scientist. After graduating at the University of Birmingham, she got a fellowship at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra. Back from Australia, in 1951 she started working for Ferranti as a programmer, in the Ferranti Mark I and I* team at the University of Manchester.

Mary Lee Woods was a champion of women rights almost twenty years before the 1970’s Equal Pay Act. When the female programmers at Ferranti discovered that their male colleagues were being paid more than they were for the same work, she led a successful campaign at Ferranti for equal pay for programmers. Continue reading “Mary Lee Woods Berners-Lee, early British computer programmer”

Launch of ANR project: What is a program?

It is a pleasure to announce the start of the ANR project What is a (computer) program? with a two days event to be held on February 7-8 at MESH, rooms 1 and 2, Espace Baïetto, 2 Rue des Canonniers, Lille.

On February 7th, there will be a session of the Lille-Paris séminaire History and Philosophy of Computer Science and Computing (HEPIC) with participation of Cliff Jones and Samuel Goyet (see here for more details).
On February 8th, there will be the workshop Models between structures and meanings of programs which introduces the project followed by several talks from members of the project. Continue reading “Launch of ANR project: What is a program?”

Validity and Correctness in LEO I and II

Abstract of the presentation at the roundtable What is a (computer) program? at the prelaunch of the project PROGRAMme in Paris, at the CNAM – Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, on the 20th of October 2017.

The presentation is an historical reconstruction of the procedures to ensure validity and program correctness in the early examples of business computers: the focus of the talk is the hardware testing, data validation and program correctness techniques designed for LEO I and II in the UK during the 1950s. Continue reading “Validity and Correctness in LEO I and II”

Coping with the “American giants”

Abstract of the paper presented at the 4th HaPoC – History and Philosophy of Computing conference in Brno, 3-7 October 2017.

Coping with the “American giants”: mergers, relationships and attempted partnerships in the European computer industry in the early Sixties

During the 1950s, a fragmented computer industry grew up in Europe. After the enthusiasm and pioneering in a brand new business like computers, at the beginning of the 1960s these companies were weakened by several issues, such as the financial crisis and the pressure of  US competitors like IBM and General Electric. The investments in R&D  were not fully refunded by the income from machines sales after several years. The growth of a computer company, in fact, was often doomed by these costs and very often also by lack of proper marketing experience in a totally brand new field. Continue reading “Coping with the “American giants””

In memory of Peter Bird

Peter-Bird
Peter Bird, a director of Lyons Computer Services, charted the food company’s pioneering introduction of computers. Source: The Guardian UK

Peter Bird worked for J. Lyons & Co. from 1964 to 1991. He published his book LEO: The First Business Computer in 1994 and later an extensive book about Lyons in 2000.
We met Peter Bird in October 2016 at his house in Wokingham. We had a productive day, discussing about his books on Lyons and LEO. A day full of hints and suggestions, going through his collection of photos of LEO people and machines. Peter passed away on the 16th August 2017. Continue reading “In memory of Peter Bird”

Communications of the ACM reports about HaPoC Commission

ACM

Philosophy, like other disciplines in the humanities, enjoys a mutually enlightening relationship with history […] The philosophy of computer science, like other philosophy devoted to a particular subject, enjoys a mutually enlightening relationship with the history of that particular subject […] I have been pleasantly surprised to find research in the history of computing quite interesting, and can only hope for reciprocal generosity toward philosophy on the part of historians. With respect to computing, the international organization founded to bring together history and philosophy is HaPoC, the Commission on the History and Philosophy of Computing. Designated a Commission by both divisions of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (http://www.iuhpst.org), it aims to “enhance our understanding of computing by means of historical and philosophical explorations.” The dedicated and hard-working HaPoC leaders Liesbeth de Mol, of the Université de Lille, and Giuseppe Primiero, of Middlesex University London, explain how this came about.

Hosted by Robin K. Hill on the blog of Communications of the ACM , read the full article on HaPoC by Liesbeth de Mol and Giuseppe Primiero

LEO plaque unveiling in London

leo-plaque-01
Professor Frank Land and Dame Stephanie Shirley. Photo: LEO Computers Society

On November 29th 2016 we attended the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for LEO – Lyons Electronic Office. The plaque is located in Lyons Walk, W14 0QH, former location of Cadby Hall, the factory complex and the headquarters of J. Lyons & Co and LEO I’s home in Hammersmith.

The engraved stone has been generously funded by Tony Morgan, who was Commissioning Manager at LEO Computers Ltd. and is now Technical Consultant to the LEO Computers Society.

Continue reading “LEO plaque unveiling in London”

Celebration of LEO I’s first routine job

leo-i-captions
LEO I (Lyons Electronic Office). Source: Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick

On November 29th, 2016 LEO Computer Society will unveil a plaque commemorating LEO I on the 65th anniversary of its first business routine run in Lyons Walk, Olympia, London. The location is close to the former location of Cadby Hall, the major office and factory complex in Hammersmith, London, which was the headquarters of J. Lyons & Co and LEO’s first home.

Eric Schmidt and LEO computers at LSE

2016-10-14-18-45-56

On Friday October 14th, 2016 the London School of Economics hosted Eric Schmidt in a public conversation with Chrisanthi Avgerou, with title: From LEO to DeepMind: Britain’s computing pioneers.

Eric Schmidt, American software engineer and businessman, is the executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc., American multinational conglomerate founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin and parent company of Google, among others. As an intern at Bell Labs, Schmidt did a complete re-write of Lex, a software program to generate lexical analysers for the UNIX computer operating system. From 1997 to 2001, he was CEO of Novell. In 2001 Eric Schmidt joined Google, where he served as CEO until 2011 and helped grow the company from a Silicon Valley startup to a global leader in technology.

Continue reading “Eric Schmidt and LEO computers at LSE”