David Caminer: The World’s first systems analyst

Ada Lovelace (who worked with Charles Babbage on his analytical engine in the mid 19th century) may be celebrated as ‘the world’s first programmer’, but David Caminer is widely regarded by many as the world’s first ever systems analyst.

Caminer, who died in June, aged 93, was a systems engineer for J Lyons, the cake and tea-shop company, best known for having built the first business computer in the late 1940s.

Made with the help of a Cambridge University team, the Lyons Electronic Office, better known as LEO, was designed to be able to process any clerical task.

It was Caminer’s job to analyse the requirements and design the software for the system – a series of punch cards that described the business process in question.

So successful was the room-sized computer that Lyons sold copies to Ford Motors and the Soviet Union. A company was spun off, Leo Computers Ltd, with Caminer at the helm.

That company eventually became part of hardware manufacturer ICL, which was eventually acquired by Fujistu in 2002. Caminer himself retired from the company in 1980.

In his retirement Caminer became a historian of computing, documenting the story of Lyons’ pioneering work in his book LEO: The Incredible Story of the World’s First Business Computer.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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