Frank Land: a new way of doing things

Frank Land recalls how he was recruited to become a LEO computer programmer in the 1950s.

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And I was finally offered a job by J. Lyons and Company in their statistics office as a clerk keeping the cost accounts for some of the Lyons businesses. It was a terribly boring job and one which having come from university seemed to be well below one’s ability, capability, but my fellow clerks made sure that the job they had took a week; a week’s work – what was called a week’s work – took a week when in fact it could have been easily done in two and a half days. So that was the kind of atmosphere. Some of them, we could use calculating machines, adding machines, and with my sense of arithmetic adding machines were essential, but they wouldn’t use them, it was their pride that they could add up a column of figures accurately without using a machine. At that time Lyons were developing the LEO computer. I knew nothing about that, but a notice went round that anybody who was interested in this, whatever it was, were invited to come on a one week course or were selected if they fulfilled certain criteria. At that time Lyons thought that they could recruit all the staff they needed for their computer from inside, except for the engineers, all the other staff from inside their own empire. And they ran these courses; one week, very tough, to select people. I found it very hard, it really was quite hard learning about computers, learning how to program in one week. We were given homework and without my wife I don’t think I would have got through, but with the two of us working together on these problems we managed it and I was selected then to join the LEO team. This was in late 1952 or early ’53. So that was the jump into, suddenly, into something which was totally new, very difficult and where there was not a single day when you didn’t do something which had never been done before and there was an excitement about it, there was a buzz. We would congregate together, it was a very small team, we would congregate together, coffee time, talk about the latest thing we had done and say 'I found a new wrinkle, a new way of doing things.'

  • Interviewee Frank Land
  • Duration 00:02:36
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 5/13/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/17

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