1494 – Luca Pacioli (Venice, Italy) codified the double-entry system of bookkeeping in a mathematics textbook and earned the title, Father of Accounting and Bookkeeping. Although versions of double-entry accounting can be found for hundreds of years prior, this publication established both terminology and technique, going so far as to provide sample year-end closing entries and ethical admonishments. It is interesting to note that Pacioli was a contemporary of Leonarda da Vinci, to whom he taught mathematics, including calculus. In turn, da Vinci is thought to have illustrated many of Pacioli’s works.
1843 – Charles Dickens (London, England) published A Christmas Carol, introducing Bob Cratchit to the world. Armed with a simple quill pen and course rag paper, Bob Cratchit became the world’s best-known bookkeeper. His obvious meticulous care of the numbers in spite of his working conditions (cold, dark, long hours, and with the one of the world’s worst bosses,)
1844 – Charles Fenerty (Canada) and Friedrich Gottlob Keller (Germany) nearly simultaneously perfected the process of turning trees directly into paper, though Fenerty is responsible for the bleaching process which makes the final product white. Prior to this, paper was expensive to make, of course quality, and highly likely to disintegrate over time.
1858 – Hymen L. Lipman (Philadelphia, PA) is credited with attaching an eraser to the non-business end of the standard graphite pencil. It is interesting to note that pencils actually never contained lead, though the exterior wood casing was generally painted…and until recent years, most paint did contain lead. The misconception came about because graphite so closely resembled lead that it was thought to be a form of lead and initially called plumbago, after the Latin word for lead, which is plumbum.
Circa 1936 – Every industrialized country, and some giant tech corporations with budgets rivalling industrialized countries, seems to have its own nomination for the Father of Computers. I’m leaving the politics and the courts aside and just telling you my pick. Konrad Zuse (Berlin, Germany) was your basic all-around genius and son of a postal clerk. Initially bored by the study of engineering and architecture at university, he moved on to a successful stint in advertising design for Ford Motor Company. Meanwhile, at about age 25, he built his electro-mechanical, binary programmable Z1 in his parent’s living room so that he could automate the never-ending monotonous calculations he was required to perform as an engineer for an aircraft factory. Most of the other nominees merely proposed ideas and schematics, or were funded by universities. Sure, one way or another, everybody else’s ideas were eventually incorporated into something that worked, but Zuse actually did it all by himself.
1972 – Hewlett Packard released the first calculator advertised to replace the slide rule. It cost $395, and used the infernal reverse Polish notation that did not follow traditional algebraic notation.
1983 – Scott Cook and Tom Proulx (Mountain View, CA) found Intuit and begin the sale of QuickBooks. Early efforts met with great criticism from professionals because the product did not follow established double-entry procedures. It took about another 10 years for them to fix this problem, and for such accounting software to work its way into the everyday lives of small business owners.
2011 – Rod Drury, (Wellington, NZ) introduces Xero, his cloud-based accounting software, to the USA, and forces Intuit to completely retool QuickBooks Online (originally introduced in 2000.) Accountants, bookkeepers, and the owners of small businesses across the globe cheer because once again, it has been demonstrated that competition is a good thing.
Today – You (everywhere) are bombarded with choices. You know you need tech. You expect it might help you in some way. Speed. Accuracy. Control. Freedom. But you don’t k now where to start.
That’s why, for the next few months, I’ll be devoting this blog to tech issues.