Invention of the Abacus

The abacus was one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind. It led to development of mathematics and expansion of sciences and travel. It also played an important role in the expansion of trade and commerce. Modern electron computers and calculators have their origins in the abacus. In fact, we can consider the abacus as the ancestor of the modern computer.

There are many theories regarding the invention of the abacus. Several ancient civilizations are known to have used the abacus. However, the civilization that invented the abacus cannot be easily pinpointed due to its usage in various civilizations and archeological complexity.

Archeologists and historians do not exactly know for sure which civilization used the abacus for the first time. Almost all ancient civilizations like the Chinese, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used the abacus. In addition, the ancient Mayas also used a type of abacus. So, the question of who invented the abacus remains a bit difficult to answer.

Though no proper consensus exists, the abacus might have been invented either in ancient China or Babylon. It was probably invented 5000 years ago. The primitive abacus was a simple surface on which sand was spread. Numbers were represented on it by drawing with a finger or a stick. Subsequently, the bead abacus was invented in the following centuries.

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There is evidence that indicates that the bead abacus was invented in Egypt around 500 BC. Subsequently, it spread to other civilizations. It came to Europe in the middle ages and continued to be used until the 17th century. After decimal system became popular in the later years, the use and popularity of the abacus declined.

In the New World, various meso-American civilizations used a type of abacus. It was known as the Quippu. Unlike the bead and rod abacus, the Quippu was made from colored strings. In addition, it was more of a recording/accounting device rather than a calculator. However, it can still be considered as an abacus.


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