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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You had to have a nose for it!

When I started off in accounting, the very latest 'technology' was the so-called 3-in-1 pegboard system: as one entered a transaction on a customer's or supplier's statement, it copied through to their ledger card, and onto a backing sheet which was the book-keeper's journal. It required not only a good writing-hand but also a strong one! To this day, KALAMAZOO sells this system in the English-speaking world.

Why do I mention this? Well, it was also required practice to void any empty space remaining on an unfinished ledger-page with what was known in German as a "Buchhalternase" (literally a "book-keeper's nose"). Newcomers to the profession were made fun of by being sent to a stationer with an order for a dozen "Buchhalternasen". It only ever worked once but that was enough embarrassment to live down!

Not long afterwards, hand-operated calculating machines began to appear on our desks. What progress! No more page-long hand-written multiplications or divisions; these machines would do it all at the speed of a limp wrist! There were Odhners and Facits and Brunsvigas and they stayed around for decades; I used my last Facit machine in an accounting-office in New Guinea in 1970!

Not-so-pocket-sized silent and battery-operated calculators gradually replaced the clanky hurdy-gurdy Facits, but hand-operated adding-machines still kept us going through the not infrequent New Guinea power black-outs, thanks to the operators' muscle-power. Working in an accounting office in those days was not only mind- but also muscle-building!
(Excessive use of these hand-operated machines could have some unintended consequences;
click on the picture of the adding-machine to view a typical accountant of that time)

With nothing more to write about but a lot of unused space left, I leave you with a "Buchhalternase" as plain to see as the nose on your face.