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History Of Abacus

 
Abacus is actually a Latin word with origins in the Greek words ‘abax’ or ‘abakon’ meaning “table” or “tablet”. It is the oldest counting devices, which is still enjoying popularity with aplomb. This interesting device has a rich history that covers half the globe.
 
Can you imagine counting without numbers? No, but there was a time when there were no written numbers. What is even hard to imagine now was a way of life in the ancient times.
 
People used to count on fingers or used pebbles or twigs for larger numbers. Gradually counting devices came into existence and abacus was one such device. This simple calculating machine helped to count large numbers.
 
It is presumed that the earliest abacus was invented about 5000 years ago. Some historians believe that the abacus was invented by the ancient Chinese while some believe that it was invented by the Babylonians or the Egyptians. These claims are supported by historical evidence such as ancient texts and archaeological excavations.
 
The time line of the abacus history:
3000 BC: An early form of abacus finds its origin in China.
1000 BC: The counting boards are used by the Chinese.
500 BC: Counting boards are used by Romans and Greeks.
300 BC: Abacus finds extensive usage as a counting device in China.
500 AD: Europe starts using abacus
 
Babylonian abacus
Abacus was used by Babylonians for mathematical operations of addition and subtraction but was difficult to use for complex calculations.
 
Egyptian abacus
According to the Greek historian Herodotus ancient Egyptians used abacus. Many archaeologists have found some ancient disks of various sizes in support of their claims.
 
Greek abacus
In the year 1846, a tablet was found on the Greek Island dating back to 300 BC. Originally thought to be a gaming board it is the oldest counting board discovered so far.
 
Roman abacus
In ancient Rome, normally the calculation was done by moving counters on a smooth table. Calculi or pebbles were used for this purpose. The ‘counter casting’ system continued in the late Roman Empire. Roman abacus was also used besides the counter method for calculations. It is believed that the Romans made improvements in the primitive abaci. A series of wire or rods were used for counting beads, which were made of ivory or stone. The calculations were made by moving theses beads back and forth according to a particular set of rules.
 
Indian abacus
Ancient texts such as the Abhidharmakosa throw light on the use of abacus in India. In the year 5th century, new ways were being discovered of recording the contents of the abacus. Shunya or zero was indicated as an empty column on the abacus according to the Hindu texts.
 
Chinese abacus
The Chinese abacus or Suanpan finds mention in a First Century book of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Xu Yue’s book, namely Supplementary Notes on the Art of Figures.
Suanpan are used for many functions besides counting such as division, multiplication, addition, subtraction, square root, and even cube root operations at quick speed.
 
Japanese abacus
The Japanese abacus or the soroban is a modified version of the Chinese abacus. The biggest benefit that soroban offers is that can visually demonstrate the decimal numerical system. While teaching the soroban, the teacher gives a song like instruction to the students.
 
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