Accounting Machine. History of Modern Computing


In the last five decades, economic development in business organisations has taken a new turn with an accelerated growth attributed to the influence of advances in transportation infrastructure involved, especially in the technology used in transportation facilities (Cortada, 1993). In addition, advances in production machinery, methods used in production, as well as in communication facilities have largely influenced the rapid growth of economic development in many business organisations. In this regard, considering the rate of growth and increase in organisational size in addition to the requisite for accuracy, legibility, legitimacy economy and accelerated rate of manipulating records in the accounting department, there has been a need to the accounting office to develop tools and machinery with improved features able to provide efficiency within the production methods, that also required redesigning (Cortada, 1993). These new designs of accounting office machines and production methods were basic and required to facilitate the accounting office in such business organisation to rhyme with the speed of advances within the industry. This article explores accounting machine, also known as the bookkeeping machine discussing the functionality and importance of the machine in an accounting office of modern business organisation. In addition, the advantages and disadvantages of the accounting tool and recommendations on its use will be made.

Reasons behind the Invention of the Accounting Machine

In order to provide informed accounting advice, especially during an audit, practising certified public accountants have been advising business organisations on the need for integrating accounting machines in their accounting endeavours together with the use of associated methods in controlling and manipulating their office operations. Considering the aspect of independence of a certified public accountant as an accounting advisor to a business organisation, the management of these growing business organisations have found themselves considering the advice that the CPAs have recommended the aptly efficient office machine to carry their concerned job effectively (Akera & Nebeker, 2002). When designing the machine, several functionality aspects were considered. For example, it was built to have both printing and calculating functions, as well as features to support billing and payroll activities of a company. In the nineteenth century, these accounting machines were widespread, although their use has succumbed to the availability and easy-to-use low-cost computers, which were invented much later in the same century.

Based on the quality of the accounting profession, many business organisations have defined specific guiding primary principles with respect to the selection, installation and use of accounting machinery. In this regard, the functionality and use of the machine must meet the subject matter in the broad accounting field within a business firm. In the contemporary business world, selection of accounting machines is based on an intelligent understanding of the diversity of accounting machine classes with respect to their benefits and demerits as well as their conformance with satisfaction of organisational transactions being recorded. However, different personnel have varied preferences that could be based on experiences and/or financial abilities of firms. In addition, it depends on the comprehensive knowledge on the use of the machine in making quality records and knowledge of use by the personnel. Many a variety of accounting machinery does exist with a majority being classified as excellent in performance. On the other hand, it is a fact that some accounting machines are more powerful than others, with some machines performing better in specific accounting applications due to the basic accrued advantage of one machine over others.

Research has shown that the two primary elements of an accounting machine for organisations should support addition and typewriting. However, some improvements have been made in order to support more functions. Some of the improvements that have been made accommodate electrical tabulation and classification of cards. Considering the basic design of a calculator, it entails a modification on the principle employed in the adding machine. In addition, continuous improvements have ensured that the machine can be used carry out telegraphic billing and well as typewriting. With advances in technology, better and superior machines with more functionality, such as the addressing machines, were developed to suite the advanced accounting routines.

Accounting Machine Design

Considering that the basic principle of accounting machine is a combination of either or both the typewriter and/or adding machine, their design is in line with the design of either of the two together with additional functionality. The bookkeeping machines available today commanded distinctive features, which included a keyboard that comprise of either a fully visible 81 keys, a zero-to-ten key, a typewriter, a combination of a fully visible 81 keys and a typewriter, or combination of zero-to-ten key and a calculator synced with typewriter system. In addition to a keyboard, a bookkeeping machine contains a carriage tabulation application that is manual, key or automated, and accumulation functionality, which is able to register either with or without automatic printing of totals. Moreover, the machine includes a writing surface and feed facet, which is either cylindrical for back feed or front feed, or flat in design, visibility functionality, with some machines having none, partial, or total functionality of this feature, proof of pick-up application, and an automated repetition of postings or totals feature (Cortada, 1993). While considering these features, accounting machines designed to accommodate all or most of distinctive define the mechanical factors entailed, and the associated relative merits and demerits.


These components are designed to support the input of data for computing. The design of the keyboard is in such a way that it is clearly visible and users can easily recognise various digits and letters. Columns are punctuated using different colours, which are definitive of different classes of integers such as cents, hundreds, thousands, etc representing financial numerals. In addition, different keys commanded a specific value enabling the printing of ciphers devoid of key strokes. While working, registration of figures occur only after depression of a motor bar facilitating making of corrections before pressing the motor bar by striking other required key accordingly. Complete clearing of the keyboard was made possible by the “error” key. The design of the keyboard is such that with four fingers, a personnel working with the machine could attain speed by visualising the keys from top to bottom. The design is standardised across the world to make it possible for personnel from different countries to work in any country with regard to the use the accounting machine.

In another design, a zero-to-ten-key keyboard is made up of numeral keys labelled one to nine with a zero key at the end (Akera & Nebeker, 2002).

Different numerals or characters displayed in print with each stroke on a key. Corrections are only possible by subtracting the error from the value displayed and keying in the corrected values after either erasing the incorrect values and inputting the corrections, or distributing the whole correction on the display recorded. There are two ways through which actuation of input is achieved. First, the machine could be made to accept data when keys are pressed. Second, the appliance could be made to accept input via electrical signals. In the latter case, making of corrections is before entering the last value by the use of the “error” key in order to clear the entered figure and reinstating the correct transactions. In the recent past, improvements have been made on these typewriter keyboard machines such that they are automated making it easier and faster to key in records making their information manipulation speedy with less fatigue to the operator. Designs combining a fully visible 81-key keyboard with a typewriter keyboard commands superior functionality especially in accounting operations requiring description of transactions, and especially in situations in which the description of the fully visible adding machine keyboard deem advantageous in inputting transactions implicated.

In the same way, a keyboard designed with a combination of the zero-to-ten-key keyboard with the typewriter uses the principle explicated above. The calculator component is very essential because it supports many mathematical manipulations. The manipulations are important in calculating discounts and other accounting aspects that are important in organisations. In addition, the feature is important because it enables the machine to accomplish many functions at once. This greatly reduces the chances of making errors in accounting activities. There are many types of keyboards for machines in accounting departments of organisations. The choice of the keyboards is based on the desired input and output. Thus, personnel choose the keyboards on the premises of expected benefits and disadvantages. The fundamental principle is accounting machines with keyboard combination deem more advantageous when working with descriptive data that cannot be symbolically coded into small numbers.

Proof of Pick-Up

Some accounting machines have been fitted with applications leading to provision of accuracy of old balances accumulated in the machine, and the ensuing precision of newly defined balances (Fierheller, 2006). This feature is crucial especially when checking for pickups via trial balances against controls and daily postings based on independent totals.

Other types of accounting machines from the bookkeeping type include the punched card machine, calculating machine and addressing machines. The punched card machine is particularly useful in business organisations involving voluminous transactions with reclassification are recording of information contained in the cards multiply (Mecham, 1961; Fierheller, 2006). On the other hand, a calculating machine facilitates entry of computed records, with features affiliated to the machine varying with complexity of work. Lastly, addressing machine are increasingly being incorporated in accounting.


Accounting machines designed with typewriter keyboard have registers included in the design. The registers are organised with functionalities allowing them to accumulate transactions typed in relevant columns independently. In addition, a crossfooting feature on the register allows for the accumulation of net balances on transactions recorded for specific accounts. Accounting machines with this design do not allow for clearance of totals automatically from the crossfooting register or vertical totalisers in the machine (Mecham, 1961). On the other hand, it would be important to identify areas that require corrections. After the identification, personnel should make the corrections in the registers so that accurate accounting outcomes could be achieved. However, some machines have automated features that support the correction of errors.

Carriage Tabulation

The component is essential in accommodating movements on the keyboard so that records can be entered and retrieved from the machine easily. In fact, the pace at which records are created or retrieved, greatly determines the efficiency of the accounting machine.


In order to improve the efficiency of accounting machines, it is always important to improve the level of visibility. Such visibility may be partial or none with complete visibility being typically advantageous, especially when coupled with a fully visible keyboard machine.

Writing Surface and Feed

In some accounting machine, back feed, a feature allowing conventional typewriter feeding of ledger sheets on cylindrical plates on which records and postings are made, or front feed, an attribute permitting the inclusion of input date from the front of a plate are included in the design (Mecham, 1961). Such features are indispensable in transaction form collation, particularly in situations where large proof sheets are stored in the accounting machine with additional forms included in the collation.

Automatic Repetition of Postings or Totals

In some machines, repetition of recordings and/or totals is automated, which facilitates the posting of a statement and ledger as original copy of each in one operation.

Selection of Accounting Machine

The selection of an adeptly efficient accounting machine is based on commonsensical and intellectual procedures. It is important to understand that there is no one best machine to uniformly work optimally in all works. The understanding of machine workability and functionality including their special feature is important (Akera & Nebeker, 2002). The type of analysis and routines of the involved business is also an imperative consideration. Lastly, the coordination and flow of materials in the business organisation is important considering the standardisation of the operations the machine commands.


In history accounting, machines have been integrated in working out accounts-receivable ledgers. Advances in technology have led to their evolving to be used in all accounting facets, especially in accounts-receivable-statements and ledgers, pass books and savings-organisational ledger, analysis of charges, inventory controls, sales analysis, and remittance statements from accounts payables. The keyboard design is the primary component of a bookkeeping machine with the installation of other additional features superior to a typewriter facilitating in maximising the costs of an accounting office.


Akera, A., & Nebeker, F. (2002). From 0 to 1: An Authoritative History of Modern Computing. Oxford, United Kigndom: Oxford University Press.

Cortada, J. (1993). Before the Computer; IBM, NCR, Burroughs & Remmington Rand & The Industry They Created 1865-1956. New York, NY: Princeton University Press.

Fierheller, G. (2006). Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate: The ‘Hole’ Story of Punched Cards. New York, NY: Stewart.

Mecham, A. (Ed.) (1961). Data Processing Equipment Encyclopedia vol.1: Electromechanical Devices. Washington, DC: Gille.

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