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A Time-Machine Trip to Financial Reporting Circa 1980

Colleen Cunningham | December 21, 2010

Inspired by my recent thirty-year high school reunion (Go Spartans!), I began to think about the changes that have occurred over the last thirty years in accounting and financial reporting. Not only has standard setting changed dramatically (we were at Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 44, Accounting for Intangible Assets of Motor Carriers, in 1980), but the process of preparing and auditing financial reports has also undergone a radical transformation.

Back in the early 1980's, only a few chosen auditors even had a computer, and they were bulky Compaqs. As a young auditor, we went on “deliveries” to bring important papers and documents to clients and other audit teams. Working out of the Newark, N.J. office of one of the “Big Eight,” meant trips all over N.J. Our workpapers consisted of large, fold out green sheets. In order to add columns, we had to tape on extra sheets and expertly fold them to fit into the workpaper folder. Everything was done in...

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