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History of Abacus

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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.

Next Page: Development of the Abacus

Next: The Evolution of Abacus in China


i want hitory of abacus
Comment posted by: thameem on 2010-06-03T22:54:23
i am trying to find out about the standard abacus used in national schools in Ireland from the beginning of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th Century.These comprised of twelve metal rails (horisontle)each containing twelve beads.These beads had several colours.I am trying to find out how they were distributed on the rails and what numerical valuels they were.Thanking You. Chris Wall
Comment posted by: Chris Wall on 2010-09-11T14:38:42

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