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Accounting for everything

Do we need more examples of opportunities lost? We do indeed grow in fits and starts. On that score, the story is not complete. The 1960s represented a seminal moment in the history of computing. At that time, a quarter of a century of organizational computing had passed. Many had developed interesting perspectives on what could be achieved. Thought leaders were not universally pleased. Peter Drucker, for example, mentioned in the late 1990s that he and others had thought when computers became available after World War II that they would be useful for a higher order of thought than had turned out to be the case. This is a similar concern to that cited earlier by W. Edwards Deming.

Two people in that era, one an accountant and the other a computer scientist, provided useful insights. The first of these, George Sorter, started a conversation principally among accountants called “event accounting”. The other, Edgar Codd, was the founder of the database movement best known for the “relational database” approach. Each of these movements went wrong, very wrong. In each case, outcomes were quite the opposite from what the thought leaders had in mind in the first place.