The Accounting Journal: 60 years of accounting software

28th May, 2015

Part 1 of MYOB’s six-part series on the history of accounting – from its origins to today and beyond.

As each year passes, we increasingly depend on computers for almost everything in our daily lives. They run our industries, deliver our entertainment, enable global communications, and soon they’ll even be driving our cars.

Accounting and computers are a familiar and natural match, but it may surprise you how far back the influence of accounting really goes.  The need for tracking assets and transactions has been closely intertwined with the early development of numbers, arithmetic and even writing.

Hollerith punch-card tabulator, circa 1936
Hollerith punch-card tabulator, circa 1936

Although the modern digital computer developed gradually over decades, the first time a modern computer was sold to a private business and used for accounting purposes was in 1955 – 60 years ago now.

READ: Part 2 – From humble beginnings, accounting has driven innovation for millennia

We decided to take this opportunity to look back at the long and storied history of both accounting and the computers which are now indispensable partners.

Over the next five weeks we’ll examine the ancient history of accounting, the development of numbering systems and early calculation devices, and tell the story of the first accounting software which ran on the Univac 1.

We’ll also cover the evolution of accounting software applications over the following decades, highlight the dramatic revolution in processing speed that has come to define the computer era, and look at the present and future of accounting software and services.

Variety of mechanical calculators & keyboards - Very different to today.
Variety of mechanical calculators & keyboards – Very different to today.

Along the way, we hope to enlighten, entertain, and give this topic the spotlight it deserves. We’ll include links for further reading, historically significant videos to view, and fascinating facts to share with your colleagues and clients.

READ: Part 3 – Accounting software grows up