Math in Computing

Early Counting and Calculating Devices

Have there been different types of abaci over the centuries?

Yes, there have been many different types of abaci over the centuries, including the Roman abaci mentioned above. The first type of abacus came into use in China about 1300 and was called a suanpan. Historians do not agree as to whether it was a Chinese invention or not; some say it came from Japan via Korea. Although merchants used this type of abacus for standard addition and subtraction operations, it could also be used to determine square and cube roots of numbers.

The Japanese abacus, or soroban, was similar to the Chinese abacus, but it eliminated one bead each from the upper and lower deck in each column. Thus, it is more similar to the Roman abacus. The Russians also have their own version of an abacus; it uses ten beads on each wire, and a single deck. The separation in the wires is created by one wire with fewer beads.


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