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**Abacus Basics**

# History of Abacus

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#### Origin of the name Abacus

Abacus, a Latin word derived its name from a Greek word *abakos*, a Greek genitive form of *abax* which means a calculating-table. *Abax* is also considered to have a meaning of “a table used for drawing for geometric figures that is sprinkled with dust or sand”.

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Some people of authority think that this *abax* is derived from an ancient word (Semitic), *abaq* the Hebrew word which means dust or from a Phoenician word *abak* which means sand.

At present, abacus, also known as *counting frame*, is a tool or a device which is made of wood or plastic that contains a frame that has freely-sliding beads on wire.

#### Predecessors of Abacus

Before the abacus was invented there are some counting devices that were used. The first counting device is the *human hands* which consist of ten fingers. As larger numbers were involved the ten fingers is not sufficient anymore to be used as a counting device. Man being resourceful used items like pebbles and twigs to help in counting larger numbers.

The *counting board*, it is a counting device which is made of piece of stone, metal or wood that has carved grooves or lines that are painted within which the pebbles, metal discs or beads were moved.

The *Salamis Tablet* is the oldest counting tablet that has been found. It was discovered in 1846 on the island of Salamis. This was used by the Babylonians approximately in 300 B.C.

The *Salamis Tablet* is made of a slab white marble that had a measurement of 149cm which is the length, 75cm in width and 4.5cm in thick of which there were 5 groups of markings.

At the center of the tablet there a set of 5 parallel lines that are equally divided by a vertical line, it was capped with a semi-circle at the intersection of the bottom-most horizontal line and the single vertical line.

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At the bottom of these lines there is a wide space with a horizontal crack dividing it. Under this crack is another group of eleven parallel lines, which is divided into two sections by a line perpendicular to them but with the semi-circle at the top of the intersection; the third, sixth and ninth of these lines are marked with a cross where they intersect with the vertical line.

There are three sets of Greek symbols that are arranged along the left, right and at the bottom of the edges of the tablet.

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