Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Note: I found these images on the Internet somewhere a long while ago and have no idea where. So credit is due to someone but I'm sorry I do not know to whom it is owed.

When I began working for my dad at his business my first job was what I guess we would call a job cost clerk maybe.

The company at the time had more than 100 employees who were paid by the hour for work performed on various jobs. Each person had his own time card on which for each day he would record time worked by job. Jobs were assigned a number.

So at the end of a week the employee was supposed to add up his hours for each day and record that number at the bottom of the day column on the card. Then he summed the hours each job and recorded that value at the right hand total column for each job. The he summed the day hours across and summed the job hours down and the two numbers were supposed to agree as well as be equal to the number of hours worked that week. The foreman was supposed to sign off on each job.

That summing never did happen of course. My first job then was to take all those time cards and one by one to perform the summations. I had a Marchant calculator like the one in the image that I used to perform these calculations. Actually my first calculator was much older than the one in the image but I don't have a picture of it.

After I totaled and checked the time cards I had to calculate the value of the work by multiplying the hours worked by the employee's rate. That was both by job and total. Overtime had to be calculated separately. Then I calculated FICA which was the result of the wage by a constant factor. Next were things like federal and state withholding taxes, union dues, other deductions, and a net wage.

It took me most of an entire day to do that one task. Now there were other things I did during that time like help answer the phone and so on but mostly it took that long to "figure the time cards" as it was called.

My next step was to take a pad of "job cost tickets" and begin "taking off the cost." First I would sort the time cards alphabetically. Looking at the first time card I would find the first job number and label the top job cost ticket with that number. Then I'd write the employee's name on one line of the ticket as well as hours worked, rate, and extension. I repeated that for each job until the time card was finished and then I'd start over with the next time card. That took about another day.

Then I handed all those time cards and cost tickets to the fellow who ran the NCR posting machine.

We had two and they looked a lot like this image to the left except that ours were older I think.

It took that fellow who ran the posting machine two to three days plus to write those payroll checks and also post the cost tickets to the job cost file ledgers. There were Employee and Job ledgers respectively which were posted and maintained a total of sorts.

By union contracts we had to hand out payroll checks to employees on Friday a certain number of hours before quitting time. So those payroll checks had to be ready.

So that's what a small business accounting department was like in the early to middle 1960's.

I do believe that I could do the same work today with a personal computer and Quick Books in maybe a couple of hours and actually have more stuff finished. I've scribbled a few numbers trying to figure this out and I think there might be a 50 fold increase in productivity.

In thinking about this I began to dream about a system I might design today.

Probably for employee input portion I would use a smart phone an a custom application or perhaps one that already is available. I know that iPhone in particular has such an application that looks very good. That application would connect to some Internet available database and the data could be stored and accumulated real time. There would be several ways of generating the payroll checks and the various accounting systems could be updated real time as well.

I don't know what the increase in productivity might be but certainly very considerable over the 1960's and even considerable over a personal computer method.

Just something I was thinking about.


dave said...

My parents had a trucking business and they had this monstrous machine that would do multiplication, it looked like what you show, but it seems to me it was much more ancient, maybe like your first one.
How far we have come.

nancy said...

it is amazing how far we have come today. although, we have a pool and each spring and fall have someone come to open/close it. our bills are hand written out detailing everything jerry has done and arrive within 48 hours. he must go home every night and write them out. he tells us he has well over 800 clients. obviously he has chosen not to modernize his business. i wonder if that's keeping his costs down????

Lori1955 said...

Before I went into management at the Post Office my job title was timekeeper. I did much of what you are talking about. When we finally went to computers they had to add work to me just to fill out my day. When I went into management, the timekeeper job was eliminated and they just added it onto my supervisor responsibilities.

You brought back fond memories. :) It was the one job I really enjoyed doing.

rilera said...

You are amazing and I think you know why :)

Thank you!