Wednesday, 20 March 2024, 7:30pm - 8:30pm

The story of LEO is an extraordinary one. The world’s very first business computer was designed and manufactured, not by one of the electronics giants such as IBM, but by J Lyons & Co, better known for its Teashops and Corner House Restaurants, its Swiss Rolls and Fruit Pies.

After World War 2, upward trend in office costs made the company realise that some form of automation was essential for processes such as stock control and pay-roll. There was nothing available at this time to meet their needs and so, with the self-assurance and innovative spirit which had become their trademark, they set about managing the design and manufacture of their own computer. After just 2 years’ development, they produced an operational product in 1951, naming it LEO, aptly standing for Lyons Electronic Office. Guinness World Records were to certify it as the first ever business computer. At the time, it was beyond anyone’s imagination that those involved in this project would be among the pioneers leading to today’s information technology.

Neville Lyons, the Speaker, is a relative of the J Lyons company’s co-founder, Sir Joseph Lyons. He introduces his illustrated presentation with a brief resume of the company’s activities and achievements prior to LEO. He then explains how the LEO project was conceived and progressed, the personalities involved and some of its main features. He shows how British industry seized upon the invention of this new ‘electronic brain’, leading to LEO ‘bureau’ activities, the formation of LEO Computers Ltd and development of further versions of LEO for the J Lyons Company, but also resulting in purchases by many major industrial companies and government departments. The Speaker goes on to explain the mergers that took place between LEO Computers Ltd and other electronics companies in the 1960’s. The presentation concludes with updates, including the Heritage Lottery funded project for archiving LEO material, undertaken by the Centre for Computing History in partnership with LEO Computers Society. To end the presentation, we hope to show the award winning film produced in 2021, celebrating the 70th anniversary of LEO becoming operational.

After a career as a Professional soldier, serving as adjutant while a junior officer and rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, found his metier in acting as a communicator. Discovering his distant relationship to Joe Lyons and the Lyons food empire started compiling presentations to interested bodies like U3A, and Probus making 166 presentations in a period of a few years.  In the course of compiling the story of Lyons he discovered LEO, met LEO Computer Society people and started about 2014 telling the LEO story, and applied to join the LEO Computers Society as a friend. Subsequently became more and more involved compiling and making numerous presentations. Active member of LEO Computers Society. (source: Centre for Computing History).

Please Note: Due to mobility, the speaker, Neville Lyons will be joining us remotely for this physical event in the A154 lecture theatre in the Lindop Building. Please join us for networking and refreshments.

Refreshments and cake will be available to all participants both before and after the event, so feel free to arrive early and discuss your memories of the LEO!


University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
A154, Lindop Building, College Lane Campus, University of Hertfordshire, AL10 9AB


Free for members and non-members


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Last updated 19th March, 2024 at 2:47pm