Science Museum Launches Search for Lyons Tea Shop Managers Who Worked on World's First Business Computer

11/06/2013

Lyons Electronic Office (LEO I) was the world’s first business computer, created by the J Lyons and Co catering company and used in Lyons tea shops in the 1950s. The Science Museum wants to illustrate this achievement with the memories of the tea shop managers who worked with LEO I for a new multimedia display in their forthcoming £15.6 million Information Age gallery, which will celebrate key developments in communication technologies over the past 200 years.

Brought to life on 17 November 1951, LEO I played a crucial role in the development of a new computer age. Occupying 5,000 square feet, it quickly advanced from calculating the bakery run to managing orders placed by 200 Lyons tea shops around the country. The Science Museum will use the stories of the managers, a female workforce whose efforts were widely recognised throughout the company, alongside a display of the original LEO I computer in the Information Age gallery.

Tea shop managers or their relatives are asked to contact the Science Museum by emailing stories@sciencemuseum.ac.uk or registering directly on the website www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/stories by 28 June 2013. The search for their stories, and any memorabilia collected during their time at Lyons, is nationwide. 

Tilly Blyth, Keeper of Technologies and Engineering, said, “The Lyons tea shop managers contributed to a landmark moment in the history of computing. Their stories will personalise and contextualise LEO I, illuminating how the British love of tea and cakes heralded a new computer age.”

Information Age is a new permanent gallery opening in September 2014, which has been made possible by the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will occupy 2500m2 in the Science Museum and feature hundreds of objects from the Museum’s world-class collections, many of which have never been seen before. Exhibits will include the instruments which detected the first transatlantic telegraph message in 1858, the BBC’s first radio transmitter 2LO, and a BESM-6 Russian supercomputer, the only one available in a museum collection in the West. One of the most spectacular objects on display will be the monumental Rugby Radio Station tuning coil, once part of the most powerful radio transmitter in the world.

The Science Museum is also asking for public contributions to two further interactive displays in the Information Age gallery. The first, an exhibit on the telephone exchange, will feature the stories of the female operators that worked in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly around the area of Enfield. The operators, or their relatives, are asked to get in touch with the Science Museum by emailing stories@sciencemuseum.ac.uk or through the website www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/stories by 28 June 2013.

The second is a nationwide call for telegrams, for which the Science Museum is working in partnership with six regional museums. The public are invited to bring their telegrams to be digitally scanned at a series of collecting days at each museum. The collecting days at the Science Museum will be on Friday 28 June and Saturday 29 June and further information about the project can be found under Notes to Editors.

Information Age has been made possible through the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, BT (Principal Lead Sponsor), ARM (Principal Sponsor) and Google (Principal Funder). Major Funders include The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation and Motorola Solutions Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Accenture (Connect Circle Sponsor) as well as The Institution of Engineering and Technology and Cambridge Wireless.

Ends

For press information please contact Racheal Campbell, Science Museum - Racheal.campbell@sciencemuseum.ac.uk . Tel: 0207 942 4353.

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Notes to Editors

About the UK-wide telegram collecting project
Celebrating communication technologies from the last 200 years, the Information Age gallery will use telegrams to reveal some of the personal stories behind the history of communication.  The public are invited to bring their telegrams to collecting days at the Science Museum on 28 and 29 June, The Cardiff Story on 13 July, National Museums Scotland on 20 July, the Riverside Museum on 27 July, the National Railway Museum on 28 July, and the Porthcurno Telegraphy Museum on 31 July. The museums are specifically looking for telegrams dating from Victorian times to the 1980s that display a variety of content, including messages about personal, family or business issues, as well as historical events. There are no restrictions on the length of the message and a donation of the telegram will not be necessary.

About the Science Museum
As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK Website: www.hlf.org.uk

About BT
BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries.  Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services.  BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

In the year ended 31 March 2013, BT Group’s revenue was £18,017m with profit before taxation of £2,501m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group.  BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. 

For more information, visit www.btplc.com

About ARM
ARM designs the technology that is at the heart of advanced digital products, from wireless, networking and consumer entertainment solutions to imaging, automotive, security and storage devices. ARM’s comprehensive product offering includes RISC microprocessors, graphics processors, video engines, enabling software, cell libraries, embedded memories, high-speed connectivity products, peripherals and development tools. Combined with comprehensive design services, training, support and maintenance, and the company’s broad Partner community, they provide a total system solution that offers a fast, reliable path to market for leading electronics companies. http://www.arm.com

About Google Inc.
Google is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information. Google's innovations in web search and advertising have made its website a top Internet property and its brand one of the most recognized in the world.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 261,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

About the Garfield Weston Foundation
The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, grant-making trust. Since it was established in 1958 the Foundation has given over £715 million to charities across the UK.  From small community groups to large national institutions, the Foundation supports a broad range of organisations and activities that make a positive impact in the communities in which they work. Nearly 2,000 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation’s grants. www.garfieldweston.org

About the Wolfson Foundation
The Wolfson Foundation supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health, education and the arts & humanities. All funding is based on expert peer review. Over £1 billion in real terms has been awarded in grants to some 8500 projects over the last 57 years. The Wolfson Foundation's long term funding of the Science Museum reflects the importance that the Foundation places on engagement with science through visitor attractions. www.wolfson.org.uk

About Motorola Solutions Foundation
The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The company achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation. The Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. For more information on Motorola Solutions Corporate and Foundation giving, visit www.motorolasolutions.com/giving.

About the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
The IET is a world leading professional organisation sharing and advancing knowledge to promote science, engineering and technology across the globe. The Professional Home for Life® for engineers and technicians and a trusted source of Essential Engineering Intelligence®, the IET has more than 150,000 members in 127 countries and our members are role models for the next generation of scientists, engineers and technicians. www.theiet.org

About Cambridge Wireless
Cambridge Wireless is a leading industry forum and vibrant community with a rapidly expanding network of companies actively involved in the development and application of wireless technologies. In addition to high level networking dinners, educational events and business development activities, Cambridge Wireless runs an annual Future of Wireless International Conference along with the Discovering Start-Ups initiative to support emerging, innovative wireless companies. Over 15 Special Interest Groups focused on specific technologies and market sectors, also provide opportunities for members to meet, form partnerships to exploit new commercial opportunities, and share knowledge and information about the latest industry trends and hot topics. Cambridge Wireless has partnerships with other leading industry clusters and organisations around the world to extend its international reach and to keep members up to date with the latest global developments and business opportunities. For more information please visit: www.cambridgewireless.co.uk.