Looking Back: The Journal in 1979

Technology has evolved so quickly it’s difficult to remember a time when computers cost thousands of dollars and were only beginning to be adopted by small businesses. Excerpted here, as part of an ongoing series of articles from past JofA s leading up to our centennial issue in October, is one of the first on computers for small business. “Microcomputers Take Aim on Small Business Clients,” by Donald A. Schwartz, appeared in the December 1979 JofA .

Looking Back

“A small business computer, complete with fast access diskettes, video display and a good quality printer, can be purchased for less than $10,000. Two years ago, a system with an equivalent capability cost at least twice as much. It is conceivable that, two years from now, $7,000 will buy a system that has substantially more capability. Although the development of programmable microprocessors is the latest in a series of major breakthroughs, there are continuing advancements that are bringing down the cost of internal RAM, mass memory, video terminals and printers….

“The retail pharmacy is one of the many types of small clients that are being targeted by the microcomputer industry. Other small business systems that are being advertised include property management for real estate concerns, patient scheduling and billing for physicians and dentists, order entry and inventory control for wholesalers, word processing for law offices and client write-up systems for accounting practitioners. There are also a sizable number of general bookkeeping systems that incorporate modules for accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, general ledger and often inventory, order entry and sales analysis as well. There are versions of all these that can be purchased for under $15,000, which include both software (programs) and hardware. Indeed, some are well below the $10,000 mark, and there is at least one system that is being heavily promoted for under $5,000.

“So far, the microcomputer’s penetration into the small business market has been slight, but it has been hardly a year since business applications began to appear. There is no question that the microcomputer is becoming affordable by very small clients—a significant breakthrough. The question is whether the intangibles—the software, service and support—will be adequate enough to enable such unsophisticated personnel to make effective use of their in-house computers.

“Undoubtedly, the accountant will now play a much bigger role in the computer scene. In the past, the client that could afford its own computer installation generally had one or more technical people to evaluate proposals and implement the application programs. Today, however, the size of businesses that can afford a computer costing $10,000 to $15,000 will seldom have such expertise and must now look to the local practitioner for advice and help with implementation. Thus, the microcomputer presents an opportunity for the CPA to perform management advisory services, ranging from basic evaluation of a proposed turnkey system to participation in the implementation of a complete accounting system, for a much larger clientele. Fortunately, accounting skills are of much greater importance than computer know-how when it comes to evaluating or implementing packaged systems for small businesses.”


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