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The Use of the Abacus in Various Cultures

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The Use of the Abacus in Various Cultures

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The word abacus is not new to anyone. It is the most ancient tool and the wondrous thing about this is that it is still used in different parts of the world, still fits in this fast world and satisfies the requirements of the world. Abacus was invented centuries ago and till then it is widely used in different aspects of the life.


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Many civilizations have used it from the day it was invented and each civilization that has used it has left some mark on its face and has given it some identity. The exact date of the invention of abacus is not agreed upon by all of the historians but it is said that the first ever abacus came onto scene at about 5000 b.c.


At that time the abacus was not like the one we see today rather it was a flat hard surface either of wood or stone on which sand was spread and stick or finger was used to write letters on it.


When the calculation was done the surface was shook to reset the sand and start working again. After that pebbles were also used to calculate instead of sand. This was the rawest form of abacus.


After that many civilizations used their own versions of abacus and their own systems of calculations. Some say that firstly the Chinese introduced abacus and some speak in the favor of Babylonians.


Whoever introduced it firstly will get the credit of inventing one of the most important mathematical tool of all times.


The use of the abacus with different civilizations of the world is discussed in the chronological order.


Babylonian Abacus

Babylonians have used abacus in the primitive times. It was not the one like we use today. It was the rawest shape of abacus and used with the help of pebbles or sand sprayed on the flat surface and any other thing used to write letters on the sand surface. That device was difficult to use for complex calculations.


Egyptian Abacus

The Egyptian abacus was very different from its time other abaci. Many historians are not sure about the exact type of abacus used in Egypt but they think that it was almost opposite in direction to that of the Greek abacus.


Greek Abacus

It is considered as one of the oldest abacus of the complete shape. It consisted of five parallel lines equally divided by the vertical lines, capped with a semi-circle at the intersection of the bottom most horizontal line and the single vertical line.


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Below these lines is a wide space with a horizontal crack dividing it. Below this crack is another group of eleven parallel lines, again 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 when they intersect with the vertical line.


Next Page: Roman, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian Abacus


Next: How Abacus is used in different Number Systems




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