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History of Abacus

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Development of the Abacus

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Development of the Abacus

Abacus has undergone much development throughout the ages. The ages can be subdivided into three: ancient times, middle age and modern times.

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Ancient Time, this is from the period of c. 300 B.C to c. 500 A.D. This is during the Greek and Roman times of which the Salamis Tablet, Roman Calculi and Roman-hand Abacus were invented.

Middle Ages, this is from the period of c. 5 A.D. to c. 1400 A.D. This is during this time that the Apices, the Coin-Board and the Line-Board were invented. The primary material that was used in manufacturing these counting boards was wood. This was the time were the use of written numbers as a counting device was popularized and the use of abacus was slowly losing its popularity in Europe.

Modern Times, this is from period of c. 1200 A.D to the present. This is during this time that the Suan-pan, the Soroban and the Schoty were invented. The abacus that has been known today, its development can be traced from the Modern Times starting from circa 1200 A.D. in China. It is called suan-pan.

Suan-pan is a classic Chinese abacus which has two decks: the upper deck consists of 2 beads and the lower deck which consists of 5 beads. It is also known as a 2/5 abacus. It was used until 1850, it is at this year that the 1/5 abacus was invented. The 1/5 abacus consists of 1 bead on the upper deck and 2 beads on the lower deck.

It was in circa 1600 A.D. that the Chinese 1/5 abacus has evolved. Then the ¼ abacus came. This is the Japanese abacus which is called soroban. The ¼ abacus is still used and manufactured in Japan up to the present.

In 17th century, the Russian invented its own version of abacus and it is called schoty. This is still manufactured and used up to the moment.

The Present Abacus 

Lee Kai-chen invented of the “new” abacus which is composed of 4 decks. It combined two abaci, these are the ¼ abacus (soroban) which is placed on top and the 2/5 abacus (suan-pan) which is placed at the bottom.

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In 1958, Lee Kai-chen published a manual which is entitled “How to Learn Lee’s Abacus”. Kai-chen claimed that the “new” abacus that he invented will make multiplication and division much easier and it is within this manual that the instructions for determining the square roots and cubic roots of numbers are stated.

First Page: History of 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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