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Where was the first abacus used?

Jeremy Wood

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Alexa Spicer on January 22, 2019

The first reported and substantiated use of an abacus, orabacus-like instrument was in Sumeria between 2,700 and 2,300 BCE -or approximately 4,700 years. This is used a table of columns with eachcolumn equivalent to an order of magnitude above the previouscolumn; as that would have columns for the x10, x100, x1000, x10000.During the next 2000 years, various forms of this wine in the commonusage through the areas of the world (Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, India,China, Greece, Rome). Some were similar in appearance, while othersused the same principles, but it looked a little different. Forexample the abacus Roman uses a clay tablet with columns andcounting stones (a counting board), while the Chinese versionlooked almost identical, but had set the columns of the string with countingstones attached to them - similar to how the majority of people the image anabacus. The spread and variance in the design of the abacus is probablydue to the movement of early traders across the first trade routes(Silk road, etc). The abacus is still made extensive use of today,as they are simple to use, fast and does not require batteries tooperate them. The word abacus comes to us by way of Latin as amutation of the Greek word abax. In turn, the Greeks may haveadopted the Phoenician word abak, meaning "sand", although someauthorities to lean toward the Hebrew word abhaq, which means "dust".Regardless of the source, the original concept refers to a flatstone covered with sand (or dust) into which numeric symbols weredrawn. The first abacus was almost certainly based on a stone,with pebbles being placed on lines drawn in the sand. Over time,the stone was replaced by a wooden frame supporting thin sticks,braided hair, or leather straps, on which clay beads or pebbleswith holes were threaded. A variety of different types of abacuswere developed, but the most popular became those based on thebi-quinary system, which utilizes a combination of two bases(base-2 and base-5) to represent decimal numbers. Although theabacus does not qualify as a calculator mechanical, certainlystands proud as one of the first mechanical devices for calculation. Boththe abacus and the counting board are mechanical devices used forcounting; they are not calculators in the sense we use the wordtoday. The person operating the abacus performs calculations intheir head and uses the abacus as a physical aid to keep track of the sums, the carrys, etc, What did the first counting board looklike? The earliest counting boards are forever lost because of theperishable the materials used in its construction. However, educatedguesses can be made about their construction, based on earlywritings of Plutarch (a priest at the Oracle of Delphi) and other.In outdoor markets of those times, the easiest way to tell boardinvolved drawing lines in the sand with the fingers or with astylus, and placing pebbles between those lines as place-holdersrepresenting numbers (the spaces between 2 lines representthe units of 10, 100, etc). The more affluent people, could affordsmall wooden tables having raised borders that were filled withsand (usually blue or green in color). One of the advantages of these countingboards in the tables, is that you can move without disturbingthe calculation of the table could be picked up and carried to the interior.With the need for portable devices, wooden boards with groovescarved on the surface were then created and wooden markers (smalldiscs) were used as place-holders. The wooden boards then gave wayto even more more durable materials like marble and metal (bronze)used with stone or metal markers.


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