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Accounting

From the sixteenth century, following the discovery of America, the world gradually became more interconnected. Maritime navigation and piloting grew from the eighteenth century, thanks in large measure to more precise surveying calculations, facilitated by logarithms developed in the seventeenth century and books of logarithmic tables, which were published and continuously updated by notable mathematicians.

The growth of the population, industry and trade also gave rise to a need to count, calculate and record all the events and activities these phenomena entailed (births, deaths, purchases, sales, collections, payments, taxes, etc.). In the case of financial transactions, records expressed in both units and economic terms had to be kept in account books, which were first used in the administration of the Spanish Empire of the sixteenth century. This was the origin of accounting, or bookkeeping, which continued to evolve from that point on. The work of keeping accurate accounts required specialised calculation and accounting machines that needed to work as efficiently as possible.

Calculators like those made by the company TIM (Time Is Money; IV-1) were based on the Leibniz stepped drum. They could only be made smaller through new innovations, such as the pinwheel calculator, invented simultaneously by Baldwin in the USA and Odhner in Europe (IV-3), and the Comptometer, a device made by Felt & Tarrant – with keys that could be pressed simultaneously for faster operation – that achieved great commercial success (IV-5).

In addition to calculating, companies and public authorities wanted to record, encode, classify, analyse and tabulate their data, and they needed to perform these actions in the most efficient way possible. New inventions were needed. This time they were inspired by another innovation that dated to the early days of the Industrial Revolution – the Jacquard loom – whose movement was programmed using a series of punched cards (IV-2-4). This approach inspired Charles Babbage to design the input system for his Analytical Engine, the first mechanical forerunner of present-day computers, and for which Ada Lovelace thought up ways to program the device.

Half a century later, in the late 1800s, Hermann Hollerith developed an accounting system for the 1890 US census that used punched cards (IV-2). The new system revolutionised public statistics and marked the dawn of the data processing age. His initiative eventually led to the founding of IBM, which grew quickly as a supplier of data processing equipment and ended up taking the lead in business computing for decades.

In the context of a drive for rationalisation and business efficiency, the Taylorism that prevailed in early twentieth-century industrial enterprises led managers and owners to seek approaches and mechanisms for measuring and monitoring the time spent on all operations. This led to the development of the computus clocks, which were used to measure the duration of operations and synchronise tasks (IV-4).

Photo album

8.jpgIV-1-1 / Cursor calculator TIM-1


5.jpgIV-2-1 / Keypunch

 

IV-2-2 / Punchcards

 

3.jpgIV-2-3 / Punchcard press cylinder

 

7.jpgIV-2-4 / Punchcard based weaving program

 

4.jpgIV-3-1 / FACIT calculator

 

2.jpgIV-4-1 / Calculagraph

 

1.jpgIV-4-2 / Watch-computus

 

6.jpgIV-5-1 / Comptometer