A doctoral student at Middlesex University will be funded to research the world’s first ever business computer – thanks to a £45,000 grant from the Association of Information Technology Trust Trust (AITT).
Following the launch of the new David Caminer Studentship for the History of Computing, a PhD research project will focus on the LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) computers developed by catering firm J. Lyons and Co in the 1950s.
LEO I is widely acknowledged to be the first business computer produced and installed anywhere in the world.
David Tresman Caminer, one of the pioneers of the LEO Computer, was given an Honorary Doctorate by Middlesex University in 2006. The new studentship in his name aims to produce the first extensive academic thesis on the LEO Computers.
“Our relationship with the LEO Computers Society and the AITT has been re-affirmed through this PhD research scholarship to investigate the history of one of the earliest business computers,” said Professor Balbir Barn, Deputy Dean of the School of Science and Technology.
“Middlesex University’s Department of Computer Science will use its strong research base to explore the history of computing and this PhD will fill an important gap in the history of computing.”
The successful doctoral applicant will be funded to investigate the social, political and business circumstances that contributed to the success and later decline of LEO Computers, as well as the technical developments and hardware design.
Blueprints, technical documents, LEO Computers Society documentation, journal articles, books, conference proceedings and other artefacts will all be examined as part of the study.
“We are absolutely delighted to contribute to this research because it represents a link back to the foundations of computing,” said Catherine Griffiths, Trustee of the AITT.
“It also represents investment in the future in terms of important relevant research and it opens up future possibilities for translating the roots of that research into industry wider realms of use.”
Speaking at the signing of the studentship agreement, Hilary Caminer, daughter of the late David Tresman Caminer, said the grant was “fantastic”.
“My father was very interested in education and felt strongly that the pioneering work should be recorded and not lost to future generations,” she added.
The postgraduate scholarship will start in autumn 2016 and the role is currently open for applications.
Top: Hilary Caminer, Catherine Griffiths, Professor Balbir Barn and Dr Giuseppe Primiero (L-R) sign the David Caminer Studentship agreement.
Bottom: An archive photograph of the LEO I computer (with thanks to the LEO Computers Society).