The CPA Journal's computer editor Mark A. Plostock traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for the AICPA Eleventh Annual Microcomputer conference to interview some leaders n the field of microcomputer usage in accounting firms and departments industry. The panel consisted of L. Gary Boomer, CPA, of Varney Mills Rogers Burnett & Associates, Manhattan, Kansas specializing in computer consulting to CPA firms; Kenneth Askelson, CPA, Internal Audit Department of J. C. Penney Co.; Rick Jackson, CPA, Managing Partner, Jackson & Jackson, CPA, Springfield, Missouri; and Sarah Astor, CA, Director of Technology, Lopez Edwards, Frank & Co. All are very much into using computers in their work and active in the profession in sharing their innovative uses of computer technology.
THE RIGHT HARDWARE FOR THE RIGHT JOB
MARK PLOSTOCK: The initial invasion of the personal computer into the CPA's office is now complete. A CPA without a computer is now a rarity. Today a very common question is whether it is time to upgrade the hardware. Panel, is the IBM PC, and AT obsolete? And should I buy a computer with the 386 or 486 chip? How much memory do I need?
GARY BOOMER: I think that the workstation for today's CPA has at least four megabytes of random access memory (RAM), is a 386 chip machine or better, has a super VGA color monitor with at least one megabyte of video ram, and has 80 megabytes or more of storage on the hard drive. I would seriously consider as much as 120 megabytes of hard-drive space if the computer is a node in a network. Today's programs require a significant amount of hard disk space. Windows based programs run more efficiently on a network with nodes that have hard disks. Our firm is currently replacing all 286 machines with 486 machines.
KEN ASKELSON: In our Internal Auditing Department, we currently have PCs from IBM XTs to high-powered 486s. We try to match the right equipment for the right application and users. For example, the older XTs and ATs are utilized as print servers, at satellite office locations for host connectivity and file transfer, and a few are used for spare parts. Although the equipment is obsolete for some applications, we are able to still use them effectively without additional need to upgrade. If you don't have either a 486 or a 386, it's probably smart to invest in the 486 considering the small difference in price. If you currently have a 386 and your current applications are running fine, there would be no advantage to upgrade. If the applications are process intensive compared to input intensive, you would benefit from the additional speed the 486 provides. The 486 also includes a built-in math coprocessor. The memory you need again depends upon the applications. Many of our PCs have 640K memory and are more than sufficient for wordprocessing and spreadsheet applications. We have other "power" PCs with up to four megs of RAM that allow us to retrieve large data files.
RICK JACKSON: The standard workstation in our firm is a 386/33mhz unit with 4 megs of ram, a super VGA monitor, and running multi-tasking software like Desqview or Windows. We don't currently use hard drives on our workstations on our network, because all need data and software is on the network file server. But we have concluded that there should be disk storage space at the workstations to give the users a sense of privacy and self-identity and for efficiency as well. Therefore we are going to install hard drives into some of them. I still see some CPAs operating with the old first and second generation PCs. I think they are missing the boat from a productivity standpoint and on the quality of product they could be producing.
SARAH ASTOR: Our firm has gone through the process of upgrading all our machines to 386 units, four megabytes of RAM, hard drives, and super VGA monitors. We still use older 286 machines for word processing, which are on a separate network. With the arrival of Windows, graphical user interface and the transfer of information from the other networks into the word processing department, we really need to look at upgrading those machines. …