Abacus is a simple device that is used for calculating simple arithmetical questions. It is a device that is used for centuries by the human beings and has been in use by the human beings for about 4500 years. The simplicity of the tool has enabled many civilizations to construct similar devices with some difference in their designs but with the same purpose of performing arithmetic calculations.

If we go into the history, many abaci can be found which are made by many civilizations one after another. The first days of abacus include the wooden pile on which sand was spread and then counting was done on that with the help of a stick or finger. In some cases pebbles were used for counting. With the lapse of time it changed its phase and took the shape of modern day abacus. Abacus is the world's first comprehensive calculator.

Abacus Structure

From the prehistoric times, human beings have employed various methods to count things and to make their calculations much easier to perform they have come with their proposed systems of numbers. Many civilizations have used abacus in the past and they have used their own number systems for the purpose of calculations on the abacus.

This also tells about the efficiency of the tool with different sets of number systems. A brief description of the types of number systems used by various civilizations is as under.

Tally Method

Human beings have used tally method since prehistoric times. Tally method was the first method employed to perform calculations. The first ever abacus constructed also used this method to perform its calculations. It was a simple plane with sand spread over it and tallies were used to represent the numbers of things calculated.

Sexagesimal Number system

Sexagesimal number system is the number system with the base 60 and was fully developed at the beginning of old Babylonia period about 1950 BC.

Sexagesimal number system was used for the purpose of calculations on the abacus and the calculations were performed easily on the calculating machine. This number system is still used in the modern world and is used to measure time and angles.

Modular Tallies

Chinese have used the notion of modular tallies to keep track of their armies and provisions. Although it is not a perfect number system but abacus has adopted itself to this number system also and proved its worth.

Abacus was easy to use in this number system because this system added strength to the best available feature of the abacus. i.e. positional notion. This system is still a reliable system especially for the illiterate persons and also for the beginners.

Roman Number System

Romans used the system of assigning letters to numbers. This system was adopted from the Greek idea of assigning different letters to different numbers. This system was used in Europe until around 1500's.

Usage of abacus in the Roman world is not hidden from anyone in the world and it is also known that abacus was also used very frequently in the daily lives of Roman people in order to perform their calculations.

In fact Romans are the ones who made the world's first type of pocket calculators i.e. they made the abacus to fit into the pocket of the shirt of a person. Abacus was very convenient to use with the number system introduced by the Romans that is the main reason of the popularity of the abacus in the Roman world. Abacus was very compatible with the Roman number system and made people feel comfortable about their calculations.


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