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WHAT IS AN INVOICE?
A Quick Jaunt through
The History of Invoices
Here’s a very
brief and not at all
exhaustive stroll
through the history
of invoices.
Businesses
send half a trillion
invoices each year
to get paid.
And that’s nothing new. From the Ishango
Bone, and modernization occuring in ancient
Mesopotamia, the concept of keeping
records of exchanged goods is as old as
humans themselves.
Ishango
Bone
Way back in the day,
folks in what is now the
Democratic Republic of the
Congo, settled along the
shore of Lake Edward, were
using stylized bones to
keep track of...something.
It must have been really
hard to factor in dynamic
discounting with this tool.
Like most artifacts from
the Paleolithic, we have no
idea what this artifact was
actually used for over
20,000 years ago, but it
has tantalizing tally sets
laid out in columns,
including a column that
shows a set of numbers
and their doubles, leading
scientists to hypothesize
that it may have been
used as a sliding scale.
Maybe to tally up goods
exchanged? More effective
than memory, probably.
The Birth of
an Alphabet
It wasn’t poetry: it was invoices.
The earliest systemic writing we
know of goes back to around 3,000
BCE. The Sumerians’ successful
early economies were religious and
temple-centric. It didn’t take long for
officials to need something more
than memory to keep track of the
grain, sheep, beer, and cattle coming
or going from their warehouses.
Need an early payment solution?
You’re going to have to wait for
the clay to dry before you can
rush payment back out
the temple.
Cuneiform was born as
an accounting solution. A
pictorial script, it quickly
ballooned to over 1,000
characters to represent
everyday items. Lucky for
you, no language has kept
that many symbols in their
alphabet. Imagine trying
to make sense of those
invoices.
Linear B
In 1952, archaeologists
uncovered thousands of tablets
written in an undeciphered
language in Nestor’s Palace in the
ancient Mycenaean city of Pylos.
Linear B, the highly creative name
for the language, was decoded in
1953, and researchers found that
most of the tablets were receipts,
shopping lists, invoices, and other
mundane records.
The nice thing about this one
is that it’s lined. Organizing
all of your invoices in one
place with thick clay tablets
probably took up a couple of
large palace rooms, though.
The famous Pylos Tablet
Tn 996 is an invoice for
bathtubs, water flasks,
cups, watering pots, jugs,
gold vessels, and an oil
lamp. Nestor probably
bought them from an
ancient Mycenaean
Restoration Hardware
to furnish his palace.
Fast forward to the
bustling art scene of the
Northern renaissance
where we find that even
the psychedelic Dutch
painter Bosch relied
on invoices to get paid.
Here’s a record of a
down payment Philip
the Handsome (vain
much?), King of Castile,
paid to Bosch. The total
cost was 360 guilders
(roughly $32,000 USD)
for Bosch’s 1504 triptych,
“The Last Judgment.”
Hieronymus
Bosch and
art invoices
Despite his trippy style, or perhaps
because of it, Bosch was en vogue in
the north for combining elements of
the southern renaissance style with
northern atmospheric perspective
to tell hallucinatory biblical stories
for his patrons. The payment
records are interesting, too.
An invoice in cursive. How
quaint. With notes in the
margin. Maybe you felt like
one of Bosch’s subjects if you
were the one who had to
approve all of the invoices in
different scripts. Too bad they
didn’t have a digital solution.
Georgian
Funerary
Invoicing
“Ask for me tomorrow and you shall
find me a grave man.” – Mercutio,
Romeo and Juliet, (3.1.94-95).
Imagine handwriting every
invoice. In cursive. You might
not want to expand your
business too much if you have
to write out every one. And you
probably get your payment by
horse and buggy. Rejoice that
now you can process invoices
instantly with digital solutions.
Here’s another handwritten
invoice, and this time for
funeral materials in 1780.
This Georgian era funeral
was for an Eleanor Hall at
the expense of her
husband. The tragedy
here is it’s been over 300
hundred years since
Gutenberg’s printing press,
and this company’s still
not using it for invoices.
Hopefully, e-invoicing
is adopted quicker.
Alcohol: an ageless theme
updated for the 20th
century. 1904 to be exact.
This invoice illustrates the
design flourishes of brand
marketing. With all that
extra time from an
automated process, they
could spend it on making
their invoices look cool.
Graham
Brothers
Distillers
Here the Graham Brothers
Distillers team uses their invoice
as advertising. I’m sure the AP
pro approving this appreciated
the extra attention to detail for
the second it took to stamp this
as approved.
Is that long division? Pity the
poor professional that had to
do the math on every invoice.
Atari
A lot can change in 75 years.
Except the need for invoices.
This one is so much better than
cursive. But those tell-tale off-the-
line numbers identify this as a
word processing machine invoice.
And that lined out joystick purchase
probably had to be reconciled on a
paper spreadsheet.
This lucky customer
bought an Atari 810 disk
drive, the first drive for
Atari’s line of 800
computers. They even got
the sweet game, Star
Raiders. Unfortunately, it
looks like the joysticks
were out of stock. You
could probably even scan
this invoice into your
system today.
EDI
How very 1990s of you, 2003!
Even though this invoice is only
15 years old, it already looks
archaic. While EDI has been around
for decades, it hasn’t ushered in the
paperless office. This screenshot
of a Walmart invoice represents
the typical look of still common
ERP-driven solutions.
This brings back memories
of the 90s. Wait, people still
use this?
Tradeshift
Ahh, the future.
Here we have a state of the art,
highly scalable, completely digital
invoice. Look at that intuitive
sidebar menu. Impressive!
What’s that you say? This is a
Tradeshift e-invoice? It looks so
good, even the ancient Sumerians
would use it.
Dynamic discounting, digital
invoicing, instant vendor
quotes, one simple to use
platform, digital marketplace,
mobile platform: we’ve arrived.
With all the time
you’ll save by
automating, you’ll
be able to break
out your Atari and
log the highest score
in Star Raiders.
The future
wears shades
While paying invoices is easier than ever,
new advances such as artificial intelligence
and blockchain technology are making the
future of supply chain payments brighter
than ever. New AI tools are reshaping the
industry, making time-consuming tasks
accomplishable nearly instantaneously.
And blockchain provides a complete
transaction audit trail by utilizing
immutable and transparent transactions.
To learn more call +1-800-381-3585
or email sales@tradeshift.com
About Tradeshift
Tradeshift drives supply chain
innovation for the digitally connected
economy. As the leader in supply chain
payments and marketplaces, the
company helps buyers and suppliers
digitize all their trade transactions,
collaborate on every process, and
connect with any supply chain app.
More than 1.5 million companies
across 190 countries trust Tradeshift
to process over half a trillion USD in
transaction value, making it the largest
global business network for buying
and selling. Discover commerce for
all at tradeshift.com

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What is an invoice? A Quick Jaunt through the history of invoices.

  • 1. WHAT IS AN INVOICE? A Quick Jaunt through The History of Invoices
  • 2. Here’s a very brief and not at all exhaustive stroll through the history of invoices. Businesses send half a trillion invoices each year to get paid. And that’s nothing new. From the Ishango Bone, and modernization occuring in ancient Mesopotamia, the concept of keeping records of exchanged goods is as old as humans themselves.
  • 3. Ishango Bone Way back in the day, folks in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, settled along the shore of Lake Edward, were using stylized bones to keep track of...something. It must have been really hard to factor in dynamic discounting with this tool. Like most artifacts from the Paleolithic, we have no idea what this artifact was actually used for over 20,000 years ago, but it has tantalizing tally sets laid out in columns, including a column that shows a set of numbers and their doubles, leading scientists to hypothesize that it may have been used as a sliding scale. Maybe to tally up goods exchanged? More effective than memory, probably.
  • 4. The Birth of an Alphabet It wasn’t poetry: it was invoices. The earliest systemic writing we know of goes back to around 3,000 BCE. The Sumerians’ successful early economies were religious and temple-centric. It didn’t take long for officials to need something more than memory to keep track of the grain, sheep, beer, and cattle coming or going from their warehouses. Need an early payment solution? You’re going to have to wait for the clay to dry before you can rush payment back out the temple. Cuneiform was born as an accounting solution. A pictorial script, it quickly ballooned to over 1,000 characters to represent everyday items. Lucky for you, no language has kept that many symbols in their alphabet. Imagine trying to make sense of those invoices.
  • 5. Linear B In 1952, archaeologists uncovered thousands of tablets written in an undeciphered language in Nestor’s Palace in the ancient Mycenaean city of Pylos. Linear B, the highly creative name for the language, was decoded in 1953, and researchers found that most of the tablets were receipts, shopping lists, invoices, and other mundane records. The nice thing about this one is that it’s lined. Organizing all of your invoices in one place with thick clay tablets probably took up a couple of large palace rooms, though. The famous Pylos Tablet Tn 996 is an invoice for bathtubs, water flasks, cups, watering pots, jugs, gold vessels, and an oil lamp. Nestor probably bought them from an ancient Mycenaean Restoration Hardware to furnish his palace.
  • 6. Fast forward to the bustling art scene of the Northern renaissance where we find that even the psychedelic Dutch painter Bosch relied on invoices to get paid. Here’s a record of a down payment Philip the Handsome (vain much?), King of Castile, paid to Bosch. The total cost was 360 guilders (roughly $32,000 USD) for Bosch’s 1504 triptych, “The Last Judgment.” Hieronymus Bosch and art invoices Despite his trippy style, or perhaps because of it, Bosch was en vogue in the north for combining elements of the southern renaissance style with northern atmospheric perspective to tell hallucinatory biblical stories for his patrons. The payment records are interesting, too. An invoice in cursive. How quaint. With notes in the margin. Maybe you felt like one of Bosch’s subjects if you were the one who had to approve all of the invoices in different scripts. Too bad they didn’t have a digital solution.
  • 7. Georgian Funerary Invoicing “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.” – Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet, (3.1.94-95). Imagine handwriting every invoice. In cursive. You might not want to expand your business too much if you have to write out every one. And you probably get your payment by horse and buggy. Rejoice that now you can process invoices instantly with digital solutions. Here’s another handwritten invoice, and this time for funeral materials in 1780. This Georgian era funeral was for an Eleanor Hall at the expense of her husband. The tragedy here is it’s been over 300 hundred years since Gutenberg’s printing press, and this company’s still not using it for invoices. Hopefully, e-invoicing is adopted quicker.
  • 8. Alcohol: an ageless theme updated for the 20th century. 1904 to be exact. This invoice illustrates the design flourishes of brand marketing. With all that extra time from an automated process, they could spend it on making their invoices look cool. Graham Brothers Distillers Here the Graham Brothers Distillers team uses their invoice as advertising. I’m sure the AP pro approving this appreciated the extra attention to detail for the second it took to stamp this as approved. Is that long division? Pity the poor professional that had to do the math on every invoice.
  • 9. Atari A lot can change in 75 years. Except the need for invoices. This one is so much better than cursive. But those tell-tale off-the- line numbers identify this as a word processing machine invoice. And that lined out joystick purchase probably had to be reconciled on a paper spreadsheet. This lucky customer bought an Atari 810 disk drive, the first drive for Atari’s line of 800 computers. They even got the sweet game, Star Raiders. Unfortunately, it looks like the joysticks were out of stock. You could probably even scan this invoice into your system today.
  • 10. EDI How very 1990s of you, 2003! Even though this invoice is only 15 years old, it already looks archaic. While EDI has been around for decades, it hasn’t ushered in the paperless office. This screenshot of a Walmart invoice represents the typical look of still common ERP-driven solutions. This brings back memories of the 90s. Wait, people still use this?
  • 11. Tradeshift Ahh, the future. Here we have a state of the art, highly scalable, completely digital invoice. Look at that intuitive sidebar menu. Impressive! What’s that you say? This is a Tradeshift e-invoice? It looks so good, even the ancient Sumerians would use it. Dynamic discounting, digital invoicing, instant vendor quotes, one simple to use platform, digital marketplace, mobile platform: we’ve arrived.
  • 12. With all the time you’ll save by automating, you’ll be able to break out your Atari and log the highest score in Star Raiders. The future wears shades While paying invoices is easier than ever, new advances such as artificial intelligence and blockchain technology are making the future of supply chain payments brighter than ever. New AI tools are reshaping the industry, making time-consuming tasks accomplishable nearly instantaneously. And blockchain provides a complete transaction audit trail by utilizing immutable and transparent transactions.
  • 13. To learn more call +1-800-381-3585 or email sales@tradeshift.com About Tradeshift Tradeshift drives supply chain innovation for the digitally connected economy. As the leader in supply chain payments and marketplaces, the company helps buyers and suppliers digitize all their trade transactions, collaborate on every process, and connect with any supply chain app. More than 1.5 million companies across 190 countries trust Tradeshift to process over half a trillion USD in transaction value, making it the largest global business network for buying and selling. Discover commerce for all at tradeshift.com