An election promise: There will be a car in every garage, a chicken in every pot, and two monitors on every desktop.

Okay, so that's not the standard promise. So forget the car and the chicken--but the possibility of accounting firms and other heavy-duty paper handlers ending up with a monitor population that's twice the current level is fairly likely.

Because in the attempt to displace paper--or at least reduce its use--many feel the usual system of one monitor per desktop is self-defeating. As one observer pointed out, accountants compare things, and generally, they are going to print out documents to compare them to the one-screen image, since most monitors don't have enough display area to compare documents side by side. Thus, the need for a second monitor becomes important in cutting down print outs.

And if you think this is unlikely in the world of accounting firms, think again. Firms that have implemented or are thinking of implementing document management systems are doubling up on their displays. WithumSmith+Brown, a New Jersey firm, got 200 more monitors for its 200 computer users, although the first monitor is more often a dockable notebook system with a display than a traditional CRT. (Actually, the CRTs are out the door.) The firm also gave each staffer a scanner.

The one thing that makes this spread of hardware bearable is the fact that flat-screen displays are now affordable and workers won't have to have two monitors the size of aircraft engines hogging the available space.

The belief is that the two-monitor system does work. But like everything else in technology, it goes to show that automating a process seems to generate the need for more technology. Monitors and scanners, am I forgetting something? Oh yes, if you are going to have workers in different sites viewing the same documents, how is your bandwidth?

Remember when you could just give somebody a pencil and tell them to get to work?

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