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  • Nov 10, 1907
    (b.) -
    Mar 4, 1976
    (d.)

Bio/Description

TRT Bio from Peter Bird’s book on LEO pp 210-211 THOMPSON, Raymond Thomas(1907-1976), MA, BSc, FCIS, FIOM. The son of a grocer, he came from a poor background. He was born on 10 November, 1907, of Walter William Thompson and Lillie Frances (née) Huntington in Doncaster and died on 4 March 1976 after an unsuccessful heart by-pass operation in Harefield hospital aged 68 years. He was educated at Ilkeston Secondary School in 1919 and won a major scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1925. He distinguished himself with a first class Mathematics Tripos Part 1 and a BSc first class honours at London; on leaving university he studies for the Chartered Secretaries’ examination. He started his working career with Owen & Owen Ltd, Liverpool, where he was an assistant secretary. He joined Lyons on June 1 1931 and in April 1945 was appointed Assistant Secretary; in December 1946 he was appointed Chief Assistant Comptroller and joined the Board of LEO Computers Limited on its formation. Although he had frequent flashes of brilliance and undoubtedly had a quick, agile mind, his management style was thought by many to be arrogant. He did not treat his subordinates with courtesy and was said to be intolerant, but nevertheless he was a very active promoter of the LEO project and his enthusiasim undoubtedly persuaded the Lyons Board to continue to fund the department. He contributed many ideas, supported others and took a very active part in promoting the machine to other parts of industry. Without his involvement it is doubtful whether the project would have succeeded. He was always known as TRT. He was a member of the Institute of Office Management for over 35 years. From March 1946 to February 1949 he was a member of Council, and part of the time acted as Treasurer. He was for many years a member of the Institute’s research committee, and was elected a fellow in 1951 to mark his services to the Institute, and particularly in connection with Clerical Job Grading Scheme and preparation of the biennial Clerical Salaries Analysis. He was previously Vice-Chairman of Council for two years and Chairman of the Electronic Data Processing Division. In 966 he joined Shell-Mex and BP Ltd as advisor on computer applications and techniques. T.R. Thompson If David Caminer’s brilliance was reflected in his powers of analysis and his meticulous attention to details and standards, TRT own brilliance depended much more on his immediate grasp of the nature of the problem and his belief that once the problem had been grasped it could be solved. David was sophisticated and despite his temper, urbane. TRT’s style was much more staccato and simpler. Some thought that the speed with which he grasped a problem made him arrogant. He was impatient with those who could not follow an argument as rapidly as he could. Yet in some ways he was naïve, and that naivety made him less aware than some others of the threat posed by the marketing techniques of our competitions such as IBM. He was deeply hurt by the merger with English Electric and the failure of the Lyons management to ensure he headed the new company. He left LEO to join Shell, but he could not adjust to what was for him a very alien culture and where his brilliance fell foul of Shell’s organisational norms. TRT created LEO, and his special abilities made the impossible happen. Together with another Lyons executive, Oliver Standingford, he went to the USA in 1947 at the behest of John Simmons, head of administration at Lyons, to study new office techniques which might have been developed during World War 2. They did not find much which was new to Lyons, but came across digital computers. They saw Aitken at Harvard, members of Von Neumann’s team at Princeton, and heard about, but did not see ENIAC. On their return to London, with TRT as principal author, they wrote a report outlining the possibilities of employing a computer for helping to run the Lyons business. They included a sketch of what characteristics such a computer would need, what applications might be profitably enhanced by the use of a computer, and an outline of how the computer would handle a typical business application. The report was welcomed by Simmons and accepted by the Board as a way ahead for Lyons. Frank Land Addition from Ralph Land I would add just a few comments and a reminiscence to your and Peter's notes: [1] He was an incredibly hard taskmaster. If he believed something could be achieved ( and there was virtually nothing that he believed could not be achieved) he would not brook any obstacle or failure and left many individuals who failed to meet his objectives shattered . The positive side of this was that his contribution tho the LEO story was crucial. [2] He had an extraordinary temper and could lose control of his emotions. At the same time he was courteous in an almost old-fashioned way gentlemanly way. He was something of a philosopher and a convinced follower of Teilhard de Chardin [3] I suspect one of the important roles he played was because of his relationship with Simmons in keeping the Lyons Board on Board . [4] I saw him close to collapse following the initial failure of the Richard Shops job when he and I were summoned the the then boss of Richard Shops Sir Joseph Lyons to explain the failure and to make amends.I felt that he was close to tears and quite incapable of handling a man like Lyons. Nevertheless, we were given a stay of execution at some cost. TRT An appreciation ( Peter Hermon) 060109 Of that hardy band of stalwarts who led LEO during its formative years T R Thompson (or TRT as he was always known) is perhaps the least celebrated. John Simmons was LEO’s sponsor on the Lyons Board throughout its life. With his prestige it was on his recommendation that the Lyons Board gave LEO its initial blessing and continuing support. John Pinkerton took Cambridge’s EDSAC, an early scientific machine, and developed it into the fully fledged business processing engine that was LEO. David Caminer invented systems engineering and was the power house behind the remarkable range of applications that LEO installed in the 50s and 60s. TRT’s role is difficult to sum up so succinctly. But one thing is clear. It fell to him, following an exploratory visit to America in 1947, to be among the first to see how computers could be used in business. If Simmons, Pinkerton and Caminer blew the embers into flames it was TRT who provided the spark. With Pinkerton developing the hardware and Caminer the systems expertise TRT was, from LEO’s inception, the man in day to day control of the whole operation. His remit embraced development, systems, operations, production, sales and the service bureau. He was effectively, though not always in name, LEO’s Managing Director. However to see him largely as an administrator would be wide of the mark. With his unflagging vitality and pioneering vision he never lost his interest in making computers more efficient and was invariably engaged when lines for hardware and software development were being laid. He was highly strung and, with his intellectual curiosity, often reluctant to accept recommendations without wanting to delve into them himself. His impatience and quest for rigour could make him a difficult man to work for but of his infectious enthusiasm there can be no two ways. I went to Lyons for interview never having heard of computers, much less LEO, and with other jobs in my pocket. But an hour with TRT was enough.
  • Date of Birth:

    Nov 10, 1907
  • Date of Death:

    Mar 4, 1976
  • Gender:

    Male
  • Noted For:

    LEO, first business computer
  • Category of Achievement:

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