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David Caminer

The New York Times obituary that appeared six months ago for business computer innovator David Caminer (1915-2008), like many of the best obits, included splendid similes, e.g.:

... That a food conglomerate [developed the first business computer] seems almost incredible. New Scientist said in 2001: "In today's terms it would be like hearing that Pizza Hut had developed a new generation of microprocessor, or McDonald's had invented the Internet." ...

along with striking factual tidbits:

The finished LEO, which had less than 100,000th the power of a current PC, could calculate an employee's pay in 1.5 seconds, a job that took an experienced clerk eight minutes. Its success led Lyons to set up a computer subsidiary that later developed two more generations of LEO, the last with transistors, rather than the noisy vacuum tubes used in the first two models.

and bottom-line insights:

Mr. Caminer ... had many explanations for the failure of Lyons to press its advantage. One was that it had no idea how rapidly technology would advance. Another was: "We were too often arrogant about always knowing best."

(cf. McGs (2002-02-28), DeathAndLife (2005-01-02), ...) - ^z - 2008-12-30