London Calling

Map of the Week: London Calling
Why we like it: This map is a great way to promote a city and share its history. A brilliantly designed UI, that includes info windows with map cutouts. Additionally, it’s an elegant use of Styled Maps.

In honor of a big year for the city of London, the BBC Australia has created “London Calling” as a way to explore and celebrate London. For those of you who know your way around London, there’s a ‘drop-the-pin’ challenge, where users answer geography questions by placing a pin on the map in the right place. If you get stuck with particular questions, there’s also the option to reach out to the “London Calling” team.

For those that just want to explore London, the map is a great way to learn more about the city that has been getting a lot of attention in light of the Queen’s Jubilee and the upcoming 2012 Olympics. There’s even a chance to win prizes just by exploring the map!

From a design standpoint, this map is really great to look at. Two things about this map really stand out to us. Firstly, Styled Maps has been used to add a sepia effect that reflects the rich history of the city of London. Secondly, this is one of the first use cases where we’ve seen a custom info window that includes a cutout to reveal the highlighted feature below. A clever design choice that’s great to look at!



LEO, the first business computer

Recently  it was the 60th anniversary of LEO, the world’s first business computer—built by J.Lyons & Co, a leading British food manufacturer at the time that also ran a famous chain of tea shops.

Lyons management had long been keen to streamline their back-office operations. In 1947, two Lyons managers visited the U.S. to learn about the latest business processes, including whether the electronic computers they’d heard about during their wartime service, like ENIAC, might be useful. (At the time, the closer-to-home advances at Bletchley Park were still a well-kept military secret.)

They returned inspired by the possibilities and keen to build a machine of their own. After several years of development, LEO, a.k.a. Lyons Electronic Office, took on its first office job on November 17, 1951—weekly valuations for the bakery division, calculating margins on Lyon’s output of bread, cakes and pies.

Until LEO, computing in a work setting was treated like a specialist bit of kit on a factory production line. Each machine was dedicated to a single task. In essence, they were narrowly defined calculating machines. The vision for LEO, in contrast, was bravely broad. LEO was a single computer capable of handling a whole swathe of accounting and bookkeeping tasks, as well as producing daily management reports.

LEO was such a success that Lyons set up a commercial subsidiary to sell spare time on LEO to other businesses, including the Ford Motor Company, which used it to process the payroll for the thousands of workers at its U.K. plant. Later, Lyons also built entirely new LEOs and sold them to other blue-chip companies of the era. In total, more than 70 LEO’s were built, with the last remaining in service until the 1980’s (not bad for a computer that took up an entire room!).

Today we view IT as critical to any enterprise, but in the 1950s, this was by no means a given, as evidenced by a quote from a 1954 issue of The Economist: “There are those who do not believe in the desirability of introducing anything as esoteric as electronics into business routine.” Things certainly have changed, and in a sense, all modern day businesses owe a debt to the LEO team.

3D Map of London

An interesting visualisation of London’s Urban form:

London Urban Form 3D Map from Duncan Smith on Vimeo.

The visualisation of the density and function of the built-environment shows the dominance of the intensifying city-centre, corridors of commercial development and the smaller scale centres in Outer London.

The data comes from the Valuation Office and the Greater London Authority. For more info and a write up of the background to the viz, take a look at