Everyone gets pretty nostalgic on their fortieth birthday. But what if you are the Auditing Standards Board? How would you celebrate? We decided to take a light-hearted look at the trends that have come and gone over the last four decades. Join us for this ride back in time.
Communications. In 1978, auditors didn’t have smartphones to communicate with clients. They used CB radios. Before long, the shorter car phone antenna became the status symbol of choice. Away from the car? Just page me (on my beeper). Motorola introduced a game changer in 1990: the bag phone. Soon, tech savvy CPAs were carrying a bag phone in one hand and a PalmPilot phone in the other. Fortunately, someone saw one of these CPAs in an airport and invented the Blackberry.
Fashion. Plaid was the rage in the late 70s. Stylish auditors looked for ways to slip some into strict firm dress codes. Though dresses were the predominant ladies’ office attire, progressive women might be seen in a blazer and tartan plaid pants. Men could buy a four-piece vested suit and sport a plaid vest and pants on Fridays. After work: bell bottoms. Soon, young auditors traded their polyester for nylon parachute pants. Skirts weren’t a problem in cold weather if you had leg warmers. No pockets? Just wear your fanny pack.
Style. In the late 70s, big hair ruled women’s hairstyles. Men wore long sideburns and mustaches. In came the 80s with power bangs and side ponytails – scrunchy required. Men wore mullets or long “glam rock” hair (reportedly not the path to make partner).
Office tech. Most client communications went via U.S. Mail in 1978. Office staff kept a supply of carbon paper on hand to duplicate important letters. Imagine how hard it was to CC an entire board or committee! Additional copies could be run on a Xerox machine that weighed 650 pounds and required hours of operator training. Communication made a giant leap when the fax machine became common in the mid-1980s. Reports generally had to be printed on dot matrix printers. As a result, auditors were overjoyed when reports could be loaded on floppy disks.
Music and Entertainment. Who needs records when you can play an 8-track tape both at home and in your car? But cassette tapes held more songs and could be rewound and fast forwarded. In 1978, tired auditors could relax after work playing Atari with their kids. On a Saturday night, they might hit a disco. By 1982, disco had given way to breakdancing. Then in 1983, Michael Jackson moonwalked on television. Ten years later, the Macarena hit the club scene (at least one current ASB member is rumored to have it down perfectly).
Cars. When the price of gas shot over $1.00 a gallon in 1980, cost-conscious auditors began to look at gas-saving Japanese imports like the Datsun 210 and Honda Civic. But when the Yugo was introduced in 1985 for just $3,990, some CPAs were justifiably skeptical. After all, Yugos had been towed to scrap yards, the auto scene remained calm until the introduction of hybrids.
Toys. During holiday shopping in 1978, some members of the newly formed ASB may have been on the lookout for the computer-controlled Simon game. But Simon didn’t hold a candle to the Cabbage Patch doll craze of the 1980s. Although Beanie Babies were the crypto currency of the late 1990s and early 2000s, no current ASB member “admits” to having ever held one as an investment. Tamagotchi pets are reportedly making a comeback, but we need additional “clarity” on that.
Health and fitness. Fitness gadgets didn’t seem to be a big deal in the 70s and early 80s. Suzanne Somers introduced auditors (and everyone else) to the Thighmaster in the 90s. Then everyone learned all you needed was the Atkins diet.
Over the last 40 years, we’ve seen a number of trends come and go. During this time, the ASB has been hard at work making improvements to auditing standards. Since its early days, the board has kept an eye on technological advancements and made updates accordingly. These include:
SAS No. 3- The Effects of EDP on the Auditor’s Study and Evaluation of Internal Control (1974)
SAS No. 48- The Effects of Computer Processing on the Audit of Financial Statements (1984)
SAS No. 94- The Effects of Information Technology on the Auditor’s Consideration of Internal Control in a Financial Statement Audit (2001)
The board’s current project to revise AU-C section 500, Audit Evidence, to address the use of emerging technologies
Other highlights include the introduction of the risk assessment suite of standards (2006), updates to auditing standards to make them easier to read, understand, and apply (2011), and the board’s current project to revise standards on auditor reporting. You can hear about the ASB’s current activities by listening to our podcast.