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The Use of the Abacus in Various Cultures

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Roman, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian Abacus

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Roman Abacus

The Roman version of abacus was a very good version of a personal calculator. It was quick and efficient and could come into the pocket of the shirt. The Roman abacus was composed of a metal frame with two sets of beads on it.


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The upper part contained one bead and the lower bead contained four parts. All of these beads were used to perform a calculation on the abacus. These beads were used simultaneously and were very beneficial for large calculations.


Indian Abacus

In the first century a.d the use of abacus also spread to India. In India new ways were found out to record the contents of abacus and they used their own Indian-Arabic numeral system to record the contents of abacus.


Chinese Abacus

The most famous Chinese abacus is called Suanpan. Suanpan was made of a wooden frame with two portions; the upper portion and the lower portion, both portions being divided by the horizontal rod. The upper portion contained two beads and the lower portion contained set of five beads. These beads were assigned some specific values.


The Chinese abacus was more efficient and variable in its functions. It could perform some complex functions like multiplication, division, square root and cube root etc. as well. It could also perform calculations in the hexadecimal number system.


Japanese Abacus

Japanese abacus Soroban is the modified version of Chinese abacus and probably got there through trade and soon became very famous in Japan. Soroban is still used in Japan and the people using it find more comfort in working with it then any other calculating device.


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Russian Abacus

Russian abacus called the Schoty has a single slanted deck, with ten beads on each wire, except one wire, which has four beads for quarter-ruble fractions. The Russian abacus is often used vertically, with wires from left to right in the manner of a book. For distinction the middle two beads were made of different colors to stand out from the remaining beads and remain helpful in calculations.


Abacus is used throughout history in different parts of the world and many cultures have brought about changes in it according to their traditions.




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