Abacus is widely referred as the first trigger of the information revolution and digitalisation. Abacus is simply a counting frame helping to carry out arithmetic calculations by physically using hands to slide beads on rods without any need for pen or paper. Although modern calculators have already replaced it, it is still commonly used in primary schools to help children get a visual and easier understanding of mathematics.
Abacus comes from the Latin work abax of abakon which means table, tablet or counting table. It is the primitive form of modern advanced calculators. Yet, it should be underlined that the word “abac” in Greek is very similar to “abaq” in Hebrew which means “dust”. Keeping in mind, some early versions of abacus used dust and that’s why non-portable, there is a possibility that the word originally came from Hebrew and has a transition in wording and meaning in Greek.
What is more, people who were skilful to use abacus was used to be called as “abacist” in the past albeit the fact that abacist has not many usages in life.
Who Invented Abacus?
There are many discussions about who actually invented abacus among historians some of whom thought that rudimentary versions of abacus were made use of in India, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. However, it is mostly claimed that it was China where today’s abacus was developed around B.C. 2000s.
Chinese abacus, suanpan or chu suanpan, is first mentioned by Supplementary Notes on the Art of Figures written by Xu Yue A.D 1st century . Suanpan meaning calcutaion table is composed of to parts and each operates more than 7 rods. While upper part has 2 beads, lower part owns 5 beads. The suanpan could be used for both decimal and hexadecimal computation. Japanese abacus, the soroban, was an evolutionary form of the sunpan which went to Japan via Korea in 17th century and it is 1/5 instead of 2/5 model of the suanpan.
The Salamis Tablet was the abacus invented by the Babylonians around 300s B. C. and one of its earliest examples was discovered in the island of Salamis in 19th century. Heredot put a record on the difference between Greek abacus and Egyptian type of abacus and said that while Greeks used abacus towards right, Egyptians did the other way round.