This post begins our Computer Systems History series.
The abacus, also called a counting frame, is a calculating tool – the first known calculator, was invented in Babylonia 2400 BC. It was used primarily in parts of Asia for performing arithmetic processes. Today, abaci are often constructed as a bamboo frame with beads sliding on wires, but originally they were beans or stones moved in grooves in sand or on tablets of wood, stone, or metal. The abacus was in use centuries before the adoption of the written modern numeral system and is still widely used by merchants, traders and clerks in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. The user of an abacus is called an abacist.
There are some fun tools online where you can learn and play with a digital abacus.
Examples for Abacus – early computers!
Here is one example for Chinese Abacus: http://www.mandarintools.com/abacus.html
And here is the Youtube Video I thought you might enjoy for Amazing Abacus Math: a school in Tokio teaches ancient wisdom to students. The power of this seemingly “primitive” tool is truly magnificent…
There are many different types of abacus known today:
- Native American
- Russian (my personal favorite)