What is an abacus?
The name Abacus derives from the Greek word ABAX meaning table or board covered with dust. The origins of the Abacus are buried deep in the history of mankind. But it is generaly assumed that the origins of the Abacus lies in the Middle East some where in the period known as the Early Middle Ages. The model developed during that period had a wooden frame with several wires each strung with 10 beads. Three more than the Abaci we know now from Asia.
It is known that in its 'modern' form - 7 beads per string - the abacus appeared in China between the 12th and 13th century AD.
The abacus was most probably imported by merchants traveling
to China, it migrated to Korea (appr 1400) and later Japan (appr 1600).
The abacus in Europe was in use until the 18th century and is still
in use in the Orient. The Abacus is still taught in the Far East as
regular school training, and is used commonly in many places in many
countries. Also in some enclaves(4) in the western
world were people are living from the orient; Russia, China, Vietnam,
The Chinese Abacus is made of 13 columns with 2 beads on top (heaven) and 5 beads bellow (earth).
The Japanese copied the Chinese Abacus around the 14th century AD and adapted it to a more delicate way of thinking. It has 21 columns with 1 bead on top (heaven) and 4 beads below (earth).
The third modern form of the Abacus is Russian with 10 beads in 10 arched rows.
Country of origin and first appearance unknown. Region of development: Middle East
Modern Abacus in use in China
Abacus in use in Korea
Abacus known as Soroban in use in Japan
Last use of abacus in Europe, driven away by the introduction of the Hindu-Arabic notation of numbers.
|Last Updated on 12 September, 2002||For suggestions please mail the editors|
Footnotes & References
|1||parts of this page are based on and article from Erez Kaplan|
|2||early middle ages 500 -1000 era of knights and monks, the late middle ages era of cities and (city)states.|
|3||Aspray et al. 1990; Computing Before Computers pg 7-15|
|4||ghetto's, china towns, soho's and likewise concentrations of people with the same origin|
|5||parts of this page are based on text from http://fenris.net/~lizyoung/abacus.html by Elizabeth Young|