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Initial comments[edit] This text came from an old public domain resource (copyright now expired) and, it turns out, duplicated an entry already added under an OldLink; I've redirected that page to this one. I wonder, though, if we should preserve the text as-is, as was done on the old one, or make every attempt to update it so it's useful as something other than a sociological curiosity. I personally favor updating it, but it won't be a problem to restore the old text in its original form if that's what the consensus is. --KQ

Yes! Yes! Update, combine, rearrange, add. Be bold! I also OK to mention Britannica and Gutenberg by reference on Talk pages, just don't mention either of them on the page itself, or credit them just to give credit. --LDC

While the page mentions the structure of various abaci and says they can be use for addition through cubic roots(!) I would very much like to see a description of how they can be used as such. Any experts out there care to add?

^^I agree. I came to this page hoping to gain an understanding of how the abacus works. I got a lot of great history, but nothing on how exactly to use them. 22:26, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Digital calculator?[edit]

Old history on this article shows this as a "calculation tool," but has since changed to digital calculator. The original user that changed this NikolaiLobachevsky justifies this with the following:

"It is a digital calculator in the since that it calculates and it is a digital device because the numbers on the rod only have meaning when they are all the way up or down, there is no meaning for a bead that is partway up or down, therefore it shifts between discrete states as a digital device instead of varying continuously as an analog device does. --NikolaiLobachevsky"

Although his definition does make sense, I don't think it is appropriate to state the abacus as a digital calculator as it is easily correlated with electronic digital calculators. Thoughts?

  • I saw this after my entry earlier today. An abacus actually doesn't do the work, so I don't think it can really be termed a calculator. See Not a calculator--Dataryder 19:45, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

An abacus should not be termed calculator as all the manipulation is by the user, not the abacus, the calculation is all in the users' mind, no matter voluntarily or involuntarily (somewhat like blind-touch-typist). In fact, it should be terms as a state-machine. It only records the state of all calculations (usually addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, some can do with cube root extraction, or conversion of units), including the intermediate steps. The only start state (initial state) are all the beads are at their home position. Punkymonkeypun 14:12, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Category:Computer science[edit]

Does this really belong in that category? siroxo 18:46, Jun 23, 2004 (UTC)

How so? Tom Harrison Talk 13:10, 4 August 2006 (UTC)


I clicked on the link to this at the bottom of the article, half expecting to see a wonderful write-up about Aztec scientific technology. Instead, it redirects back to this page. Abacus -> Nepohualtzintzin -> Abacus...not encouraging. --Ardonik 04:18, Jul 10, 2004 (UTC)

It's still doing that over a year later. --Andy Janata 19:51, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
Another year and it's still doing it :| 12:22, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
Let me add another year.(By the way, I would start the article, but I have too much going on to look up content)Hpfreak26 (talk) 20:11, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't ses that link in the article???--Niels Ø (noe) (talk) 11:19, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

tie to Roman Abacus???[edit]

Its similarity to the Roman abacus suggests that that was the ultimate source, and this was very possible, since there were direct trade relations between the classical world and China, and Mongol traders along the Silk Road were a bridge between East and West. It could even have been introduced by the Roman soldiers captured by the persians and sold to the Chinese emperor as engineers. Most were later ransomed, but many found China much to their liking.

This connection is way too far-fetched in my opinion for several reasons:

  • There are more dissimilarities than similarities.
  • Roman uses removable beads
  • Chinese uses sliding beads
  • Roman abacus uses 1-plus-4 beads to represent decimal numbers
  • Chinese abacus uses 2-plus-5 beads to represent either decimal or hexadecimal numbers
  • Roman used the abacus purely as a counting tool.
  • Chinese used it as a calculating device by developing advanced computation techniques to do multiplication, divison, square root and cubic root on the abacus.

Such claim needs more evidence than just pure speculations. Kowloonese 01:14, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

This is not pure speculation. Claiming the Mayans were influenced by the Egyptians solely because of a similarity of large buildings that exist in both civilization is an example of PURE speculation. There was no opportunity for the two cultures to come into contact.
The Roman abacus dates back to at least 100 BCE.
The well-known version of the Chinese abacus, the Suan Pan, emerged in the 13th century, when most of the cultures in the world were using the 10-digit positional notation system which, almost one thousand years earlier, the Romans lacked.
The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) was when the Mongols rule China. It was a period of cultural enlightenment. The Mongols replaced the Han Chinese bureaucrats and all important central and regional posts within China were monopolized by Mongols, who also preferred employing non-Chinese from other parts of the Mongol domain--Central Asia, the Middle East, and even Europe to fill positions for which no Mongol could be found. Scientic education, literacy, and public works florished under Mongols. It was in this melting pot of cultures and enlightenment, that the Suan Pan leaped into existance as a fully formed two-deck abacus in the 13th century.
Admittedly, as far back at 190 CE, there were references to abaci in China. It was mentioned in a book of the Eastern Han Dynasty, namely Supplementary Notes on the Art of Figures written by Xu Yue in that year. Of course, this was at the height of the Roman Empire. In addition to trading via the Mongols along the Silk Road, there is proof of direct contact between the cultures. Hou Hanshu (History of the Later Han) recounts that a Roman convoy set out by emperor Antoninus Pius reached the Chinese capital Luoyang in 166 CE and was greeted by Emperor Huan.
Chinese Trade in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) along the Indian Ocean and the Middle East would have provided direct contact with India and Islam allowing them to accquire the concept of Zero and the decimal point from Indian and Islamic merchants and mathematicians.
Another reference to an abacus in China occurred at the latest during the Song Dynasty (960-1297), when Zhang Zeduan painted his Riverside Scenes at Qingming Festival. In this famous long scroll, an abacus is clearly seen lying beside an account book and doctor's prescriptions on the counter of an apothecary's (Feibao). Worthy of note is the increased Mongol influences as Song Dynasty collapsed under Mongol incursions.
By the 13th century, the Chinese numeral system is a fully expressed 10-digit system with positional notation, so it is not unreasonable to expect the Chinese to have developed computing techniques for the abacus that are readily expressed as algorisms under a positional notation system.
Any form of advanced arithmetic is extremely difficult using Roman numerals which lacked the Zero and positional notation. Before an arithmetic operation could be transfered to an abacus, someone had to develop the algorism for the operation. The complexity of multiplication and division under Roman arithmetic did not mean they were limited to only counting on an abacus. The limitation of the advanced arithmetic operations is a function of limitations of the Roman numeral system and not their abaci.
The adaption of the Roman abacus to the needs of the Chinese numeral system could be the cause of the mutation from 1/4 to 2/5 beads. I have found no evidence for or against early Chinese abaci having other than the 2/5 configuration. If a Roman abacus was presented to the Han Emperor in 166 CE, (no doubt the staff and merchants whom accompanied the envoy would have had abaci as well) then the intervening centuries were sufficently long enough for the Chinese to make the abacus their 'own' by adapting to their needs.
Furthermore, I did find an obscure reference that there was a Roman abacus with 2/5 configuration, but I am not sure if the author was correct. The author of the article cites K. Menninger, Number Words and Number Symbols (New York: Dover, 1992) as the source.
Note that the text of the article did not assert the connection was proven. However, I believe that there is more than enough evidence to suggest such a connection and that such a connection is not pure speculation as you claim. If more evidence presents itself, I am sure references will be cited and proofs offered.
--Denise Norris 05:18, Sep 2, 2004 (UTC)
Updated--Denise Norris 12:20, Sep 2, 2004 (UTC)
Updated--Denise Norris 13:39, Sep 2, 2004 (UTC)
I am not convinced despite everything you quoted here. There were many similar inventions in Chinese and Western culture that were proven to be developed independently. Almost all cultures around the world figured out what a year and a month is because they all looked at the same sky, not because they made contact and shared notes. Almost all cultures around the world figured out how to count in ten. Not because the cultures had contact with each other, it was because human beings have the common physiology, the ten fingers. The 1/4 bead counting came naturally when people used one hand to count while the other hand was busy sorting things. People count in ten because of ten fingers in two hands, people modified it into 1/4 counting because one hand got busy and then they figured out that they can count using the thumb to represent 5 and the fingers to represents ones. The abacus could very well be a natural extention to finger counting. Chinese and Roman could easily come up with the same idea independently.
You could believe Mayan and Egyptian could came up with large buildings independently because you couldn't find any evidence that the two cultures made contact. What if the evidence show up tomorrow, will you then claim Mayan and Egyptian learned their building technique from each others? Substitute buildings with abaci, then the same argument becomes very weak. Proving Chinese and Roman had contact does not prove their abaci are related.
In my opinion, the 1/4 and 2/5 design of the abaci were developed independently. And Chinese stuck with the same design all along because they used it for both decimal and hexadecimal calculation. The Japanese adopted the Chinese abacus, but they didn't use them for hexadecimal calculation, and they removed the two redundent beads and resulted to a design very similar to the Roman abacus.
Another example is the weighing unit in China and the Imperial weighing unit from England. Chinese had one jin for 16 liang while the English had one pound for 16 ounces. You can argue they learned from each other because they made contact and the hexadecimal approaches are strikingly similar. However, when you understand the 16 based unit were natural result from using a beam balance scale to make division. For example, you spit one pound of your grains into two piles until the scale balances on both size, you repeat it 4 times and you get an ounce. The Chinese did the same with their grain to come up with the similar 16 base units. Whether the two cultures made contact or not is irrelevant.
Unless you have found literature that explained the origin of the abaci, the claim in the article is baseless and should be removed. Kowloonese 07:59, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Perhaps the problem here lies with understanding the what is meant by the word 'suggests'?
In the context used here, I define suggests as 'To bring or call to mind by logic or association'.
I don't see where I set out to convince anyone that they are related. The fact is that we just don't know and may never know, but the circumstantial evidence that suggests they could be related.
--Denise Norris 08:41, Sep 3, 2004 (UTC)
No, I think the problem here lies in whether certain suggestions are likely or not. If the possibility is there but remote, it is not worth putting in an encylopedia article. I "suggest" the opposite. I "suggest" that the similarity is due to the fact that both Chinese and Roman have 5 fingers in each hand, not because Roman contacted Chinese back in 166 CE. It is also possible that some alien civilization invented the abaci, but I rather not make such kind of suggestion here. Kowloonese 18:39, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I think you have a great idea. Why not suggest your alternative speculation in the article as well? We can make a subsection called 'Origins' and suggest both possibilties, present the underlaying evidence and allow the reader to decide what is non-trival content or not. We can refer the reader to the this entry in the discussion section for further infomation as well.
While we are at it, perhaps the article should be moved to its own page and a stub left here? We can also move this discussion to the new page.
--Denise Norris 20:36, Sep 3, 2004 (UTC)

To Denorris. It was because in 1958, two japanese (山崎 and 右衞門) quote some ancient script and, mentioned that Chinese Abacus was evolved from Roman Abacus. In their passage, they (the two Japanese) deliberately omitted two very important idea, (i) according to the first written discription of "bead arithmatics" in 数书记遗



No matter how the ancient chinese abacus re-made, NONE was like the Roman Abacus.

Also from the structure of Roman Grooved Abacus is far different from Chinese abacus:-

The groove marked I indicates units(i.e. 7th from left, or 3rd from the right, the 2nd LONG column from right), X tens, and so on up to millions. The beads in the shorter grooves denote fives—five units, five tens, etc., essentially in a bi-quinary coded decimal system, obviously related to the Roman numerals.

The eighth column (right 2nd, i.e. the rightmost LONG column) and ninth column (right most) are for 1/12 (one twelveth) and fraction of 1/12.

On the eighth column (right 2nd ) there are 5 balls (not 4) in lower groove, each represents 1/12 (one twelveth), and one ball in upper groove that represents for 6/12. (6 twelevth, i.e. half).

On the ninth column (right most) there are three grooves, the only ball (one only) in the upper groove represents 1/24 (i.e. half of 1/12), the only ball (one only) in the middle groove represents 1/48 (i.e. one fourth of 1/12). In the lower groove there are (two balls) each represents 1/72. (2 times one quarter of 1/12). Thus values ranges from 1/144 to 1+1/144.

The number to be denoted are represented by balls that are move upward (as there are 3 grooves on the right column), unlike that of Chinese abacus that move towards the central beam.

(ii) In the document quoted (original written by F cajori and G. Friedlein), they also [deliberately] omitted another important fact..

(translate back from chinese)珠算与实用算数 pp430 - 431 ISBN 7-5375-1891-2/O

No matter which method...multiplication and division of comparatively large numbers are beyond the average power of ordinary calculator (the one who calculates), sometimes (the user) have to consult the 'table of sum' and 'table of difference' and 'multiplication table' in order to minimize such difficulties (in order words unlike the chinese abacus which mnemonics are suffice to operate the abacus, even for ordinary people.

The modern Japanse abacus (soroban) do not use division table (归除) and the multiplication (隔位乘)is not that like the tradition chinese abacus (留头乘法), and the USA follows that of Japan, so they draw the wrong/misleading conclusion.Punkymonkeypun 05:54, 12 April 2007 (UTC)

So you believe in alien? I don't think I can find any supporting evidence.  :-) I think the debate does not belong to the article. This talk page serves the purpose. Kowloonese 21:38, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
So our discussion is at an end as I have nothing left to debate. If you wish to continue debating this, I will have to ask that it be done under the confines of Wikipedia:Requests for mediation as I believe I have tried to offer reasonable solution. Feel free to make a such a request and flag the article NPOV until such time as this is resolved.
--Denise Norris 22:11, Sep 3, 2004 (UTC)
Agree. End of discussion. I added a few sentences to the article too. I guess you knew the alien part was just a joke. Kowloonese 22:50, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Good enough. I believe that the Chinese abacus section is long enough to justify is own page and unless you strongly object, I will spin it off, leaving a stub here. I will also clarify the origins debate, additionally moving and referencing the bulk of our revelent discussion to the new page's Talk section.
Yes, the ':-)' gave away the fact that you was joking and not making an ad hominem attack, tho I did check with my controllers on Tau Ceti just to make sure!  ;-)
--Denise Norris 23:07, Sep 3, 2004 (UTC)
No one owns any article in wikipedia. You don't need my agreement before you do the spin off. Go ahead. Kowloonese 23:19, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Man that was bogus, the connection between weights and measures and the devices used to tally and collate them is intrinsic. Stripping out that info was a crime. 05:17, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

Suggest 3 possible wiki links for Abacus.[edit]

An automated Wikipedia link suggester has some possible wiki link suggestions for the Abacus article:

  • Can link upper deck: than seven rods. There are two beads on each rod in the upper deck and five beads each in the bottom for both decimal and hexa... (link to section)
  • Can link decimal system: ...nese abacus, because these beads are redundant when used in decimal system. That makes the Japanese '''soroban''' (算盤) m... (link to section)
  • Can link mathematical functions: ... [[visual impairment]]s. They use an abacus to perform the mathematical functions [[multiplication]], [[division]], [[addition]], [[subtracti... (link to section)

Notes: The article text has not been changed in any way; Some of these suggestions may be wrong, some may be right.
Feedback: I like it, I hate it, Please don't link toLinkBot 11:30, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Abacus use in Russia[edit]

I live in Novosibirsk and I did not see an abacus in use for a long time neither here nor in Berdsk (a small town nearby) despite what the "Russian abacus" section currently says. Can anyone confirm if abacus is still used somewhere in Russia? --Mivlad 00:45, 19 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I believe that I'm the one who added that bit to the article. I lived in Karaganda, Kazakhstan for a year (in 2002) and saw the russian abacus used by the sellers every day at my local markets. Not used by everybody, but still quite common, in several different locations. Karaganda being the third most developed city in the country, I suspect that the abacus is even more prevalent in the rural areas of Kazakhstan and Russia, not to mention the other (lesser developed) republics.

--Staecker 05:15, 19 Jun 2005 (UTC)

May I suggest we replace
The Russian abacus is still in common use today in shops and markets throughout the former Soviet Union, although it is no longer taught in most schools.
The Russian abacus is still in use today in shops and markets throughout the former Soviet Union, although it is being replaced by other means of calculation and is no longer taught in most schools.

--Niels Ø 20:33, Jun 21, 2005 (UTC)

That sounds very good. In fact, I heard from some folks (don't really know if it's true) that the government was beginning to require that people use digital calculators or cash registers, and that the abacus holdouts were technically breaking the rules. --Staecker 21:02, 21 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I just returned from several days in Lukoyanov, a small town near Nizhny Novgorod. Because of my interest in calculation, my hosts showed me an old abacus they had, one essentailly the same as the "Russian abacus" pictured in the article. They indicated that the abacus was still used by older women in shops in the area. They also indicated that their ten-year-old daughter had used an abacus in school, but I suspect it may have just been a way of teaching the meaning of numbers, rather than the use of an abacus as a practical instrument.--LarryC 20:25, 2 August 2005 (UTC)


I've removed a section with the following content:

A computer is an automatic electronic abacus. Some early computers used ten switching elements per numeral, but a modern computer is a binary abacus.

We all know that an abacus is a computing machine, but to say that an electronic computer is an abacus is going too far, imho. This would require a definition of the word "abacus" that is hopelessly too general. Then is an electronic calculator also an abacus? How about my iPod? My cellphone? The space shuttle?

I'd like for some comparisons to the computer to be made, but not blanket meaningless statements like "the computer is an abacus". --Staecker 29 June 2005 20:59 (UTC)

Category:Examples of abacus usage[edit]

Is there anyone who can add a section explaining exactly how a abacus is used. Maybe with some simple examples, like adding 123 and 456 or something similar?

  • I'd add my vote for this. I came here looking to learn how one calculates with an abacus, and was surprised not to find at least a reference early in the article. Much of the text seems to assume this prior knowledge, e.g. mention of "the bi-quinary system, using a combination of two bases (base-2 and base-5) to represent decimal numbers" without explaining how. 15:33, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

School abacus[edit]

Some time ago, I contributed the text (and image) on school abaci, hoping others would elaborate a little on it. Here's what's in the article today:

==School abacus==
Around the world, abaci have been used in elementary schools as an aid in teaching arithmetics. In Western countries, a model similar to the Russian abacus and often known as a bead frame has been common (see image). - Image text: School abacus used in Danish elementary school. Early 20th century.

In particular, I am unsure of the "Western countries" thing, and of the history of such abaci - I know we've had them in Denmark, and I know some plastic toys designed in USA include wire frames of a similar design. Do you know more, or can you suggest references?--Niels Ø 08:08, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes .. here, for example, are three from a British toy store: Early Learning Co.. You might want to try similar searches in other stores/countries. quota 13:15, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

The pictured item is not an abacus, however. It is a counting frame. the danish translation is more properly counting frame. These are used in the US to tech numbers and number theory to kids so they can visualize, for example, 8 is really 5 + 3. I think it is improper to refer to this as a type of abacus. bsdimp — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:02, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

External links[edit]

How many of these tutorials do we need? This is beginning to look like a link directory and linkspam. I'm not really very interested in the abacus, but someone who is, and who knows something about them, should prolly look at them all and toss out the deadwood, which looks like about 60%? Bill 13:34, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

I just tossed out another 2 supernumerary links, to subpages of the same site. Also tossed out a link to WebArchive: WebArchive is essentially piracy of copyrighted material using as its excuse the fact that the authors of the various websites "archived" sites chose to remove their sites from the Web. The material still remains the property of the authors and WebArchive has no right to publish it. Bill 15:58, 23 February 2006 (UTC)
Continued — actually going to each of the links — I discovered that one of them was to a page in Japanese that didn't show anything about abaci, at least not prima facie, and wouldn't be understandable to most of English Wiki's users; and that another was to a site that merely sold abaci. Both: OUT. I hope the subdivided organization is helpful. Bill 16:41, 23 February 2006 (UTC)
Do google search - you'll find that nowadays there is only one Abacus company sells outside Japan. Others sell in bulk - you have to order 1000 or so.

Punkymonkeypun 20:07, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

I am curious why isn't there any resource link showing where to buy Abacus from? If it's ok I would recommend [] —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) .
Because we don't like advertising on Wikipedia, or anything that looks like it. Staecker 19:35, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
Here's a great virtual European abacus for free: [Free virtual European abacus] - Maybe this link would fit at "external links"? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:22, 30 June 2012 (UTC)

Practical Usage[edit]

The article seems to focus on the historical aspects of the abacus well but does not seem to mention the potential of the abacus as a arithmetic tool. I feel that it should be noted that many schools of the Japanese abacus (soroban) learn to calculate with both the abacus as well as mentally. More specifically, calculations are done mentally in the same way that they are done on the abacus (i'm just trying to say that they aren't done the same way we were taught in school). With proper training, the abacus user can become faster than a calculator. Of course, this is assuming the calculator is slowed down by a human pushing the buttons. I can be more specific as to how this is accomplished if you feel this is something that should be mentioned in the article. Basically, I felt that the tone of the article made the abacus sound like an outdated artifact that is only used in elementary education. While this is somewhat true, I know that there are still competitions up to around middle school grades where the soroban is anything but outdated and slow.

With proper training, the abacus user can become faster than a calculator, but only in addition and subtraction only. In multipilcation, say 1234 * pi (take 10 or 8 digists), or 1234 / pi (just take 10 or 8 digits), then the electronic calculator is much faster. And, in fact, most user (the one who manipulates the abacus) will give wrong answers, trust me or not. It is only after a long training can the user be accurate (makes little or no error).

The modern usage of abaci are in fact have much linkage to fast calculation, not the simply arithematics as its historical usuage.

The competition between human user of soroban in 1946 is japanese soroban against ELECTRIC calculators, not the electronic calculators we use today. (not the IC, the transisotrs that we have today). Punkymonkeypun 14:22, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

I think editors should add a short paragraph on how to use an abacus. has a piece on how to add with an abacus. The wikipedia article on the slide rule has an instructional section so I ask why not the abacus? User:ibnsina786 —Preceding undated comment added 01:22, 19 December 2011 (UTC).

Bi-quinary system[edit]

"From this, a variety of abaci were developed; the most popular were based on the bi-quinary system, using a combination of two bases (base-2 and base-5) to represent decimal numbers." Is that strictly true? Are we sure that isn't supposed to be a combination of base-1 and base-5? I don't own an abacus, but it seems to me that it would be difficult to represent binary with a string of beads. --Skrapion 21:16, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Each column in a Japanese has one upper bead and 4 lower beads. The upper bead can be in the up or down position, which up/down = two states i.e. binary. The lower beads can be moved in zero-up, one-up, two-up, three-up and four-up position, i.e 5 different states, i.e. a base-5 number. Likewise, the Chinese Abacus has 2 upper beads and 5 lower beads. Usually one of the bead in both upper and lower deck is not used, so it is used like the Japanese version. When the extra bead is used, the upper deck can represent 0, 5 or 10, (a base-3 system) and the lower beads continue to be used a a base-5 system with one bead unused except in a special case where all 5 beads moved up together with the 10 in the upper deck to represent 15. i.e. the beads' position in each column can represent 0 to 15 by combining the base-3 and base-5/6 values. Kowloonese 01:56, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification. --Skrapion 17:54, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Concerning "bi-quinary"

With the traditional Chinese abacus, the tradistional multiplication method is different from that of pen and paper calculation (similar for division, too). During the intermediate states, the sum of digits (including "進位" (carries) from lower digits can sum up from 11 to 19, i.e. and this intermediate sum can't be represented with all the beads in the same column (up to 15). In order to record this number, the lower of the upper bead is moving a little bit downward, not touching the top frame, nor thouch the central horizontal frame, and that is called "懸珠" 'xuan chu', literally means "suspended beads", in mainland China. (This method is NOT found in books outside mainland China.) Some users use their brain to memorize this number (as well as on the 1+5 configuration Japanese abacus).

There are some progression in method in mainland China, so this method is gradually NOT used as newer algorithim on Chinese abacus (not the same as the algorithm of the Japanese Abacus), when the Chinese abacus changes from 2+5 configuration to 1 + 4 configuration.

So strictly speaking, it is not bi-quinary system at all.

In Chinese it is called 五升十進制, literally means, promotion to 5 (when larger than 5), and with base 10, the base 2 system is not mentioned at all.

Punkymonkeypun 14:45, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

IBM 650[edit]

Interestingly enough, the IBM 650 (c. 1955) was a Bi-quinary coded decimal machine internally. The first pair of bits represented 0 or 5, mutually exclusive, the others represented 0 1 2 3 4 and were mutually exclusive as well providing a means for checking decimal digits as they were passed from unit to unit. The machine had some halt checks which were necessary since vacuum tubes were notoriously unreliable, degrading over time and use. The IBM 650 article references the abacus article.

Softtest123 13:30, 29 August 2007 (UTC)


Ther's a duplication (partial overlap) of this page with Nomogram - Meduz 09:55, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Not really -- one is an analog device, the other is digital. About the only overlap is that they can both be used for calculation (as can a slide rule, computer, or pencil & paper). quota 11:21, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Not a calculator[edit]

The abacus is not a calculator, rather it's a calculating tool. Take a simple multiplication problem as an example. Enter 2 * 3 = ? onto an abacus. Whereas a calculator can give the answer, the abacus can't. All it can do is record the answer that the abacus operator provides.--Dataryder 13:40, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

Not even a calculating tool. it can better be classified as a "state machine" which records the steps (including intermediate result). The only initial state is all the beads off the central horizontal bars (reckoning bar), no matter it is Chinese or Japanese abaci Punkymonkeypun 14:34, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

A tool used for calculations (to record the steps, yes) is a calculation tool.--Niels Ø (noe) 19:00, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

A suggestion[edit]

I think the usefulness and practicality of binary and hexadecimal representations and manipulations is understated in the article. The weights and measures in the older systems were all binary in nature due to the use of scales. Its the reason there are 16 ounces in a pound. If you have a 1 ounce weight, by performing a few transfers you can arrive at any weight up to a pound. A counting system such as the abacus is an almost inevitable result of dealing in weights and measures. And hey, if you take 666 divide it by pi and see what the result is in hex, firestarter indeed. 04:57, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

Binary and hex - what are we talking about here,
  1. documented historical uses of abaci,
  2. documented present uses,
  3. suggested future uses,
  4. speculations about historical uses,
  5. speculations about present uses,
  6. a testimonial about present uses?
--Niels Ø (noe) 07:21, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

This page does not provide any reference to latest abacus tools used in telecommunication this one [1] this is an important area which is missing in this page i guess. Can any-one gather and put some related info here ? --Shashwat pandey 10:46, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

An Abax is not an Abacus[edit]

The Abacus article conflicts with the definitions of "Abacus" found at Abacus: All modern definitions of Abacus describe a framed device with wires and beads. A sand table, (Abax) has no frame, wires or beads. The Abax evolved to have columns and stones, a clear predecessor to the abacus.

I suggest that the material on sand tables be moved from this article to Abax and reference to that article be included.

Softtest123 22:29, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

I suggest (Talk:Abax) this be merged in here. Tom Harrison Talk 12:31, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
As the original author of [Abax], I agree. We need a single forum for discussing this issue and this is the place. Being a newbie to the Wiki thing, I'm not sure how to do the merge, but if you would help with that, we can continue the discussion here.
Softtest123 13:06, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, I mean merge the article abax into the article abacus. Tom Harrison Talk 13:20, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
I understand that you think the articles should be merged but I disagree. I think we need debate and a common forum for doing that and this should be the place. As you will see in Talk:Abax, I have arguments against the merger and I have not seen overwhelming sources to convince me that the merger should take place.
The discussion, however, should be merged, if that is within the Wikipedia Talk rules. And I don't know how to do that. Is it just a cut and paste from Talk:Abax into here leaving a link behind?
Softtest123 13:39, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
Putting a link and a note on the other talk page should be fine. Cut-and-paste is not allowed because then the edits aren't attributed, as required by the GFDL. Tom Harrison Talk 13:45, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

Okay, that link is in place.

The prior discussion in Abax Talk includes a metaphor concerning tea and words meaning tea. I believe that metaphor does not apply but perhaps a musket:rifle metaphor does. The invention of rifling distinguishes a musket from a rifle. What distinguishes an Abax from an Abacus? The removal of sand? Portability? A frame? Wires? Beads instead of stones? As I have pointed out, the demarcation is unclear, yet I do believe, unless there is a genus/species issue, that they are two different things.

References distinguishing Abax from Abacus (as opposed to the etymology of "abacus"):

Softtest123 14:48, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

It is my opinion, based on everything I've seen (including the History of Computing Project), that abax and abacus are merely two different words for the same thing. Both mean "sand table". Both refer to the adding devices from the sand table to the advanced form of beads and rods. As for your reference, here are quotes from them:
  • From Fusion Anomaly: "The first use of the word abacus, recorded in Middle English in a work written before 1387, refers to a sand-board abacus, in this case, one used by te Arabs." - Demonstrates that "abacus" refers to the "sand-board", not the beads version.
  • From Math Mojo: "If you look at the three abaci ("abaci" is the plural of abacus) you will see that each have some differences. It took thousands of years to develop from the abax to the soroban." - Under the blanket term "abacus" there are three distinctive types from the "abax" to the "soroban".
  • From Abacus History: "It is important to distinguish the early abacuses (or abaci) known as counting boards from the modern abaci." - the counting boards (abax) were early abacuses.
  • From The History of Computing Project: "The name Abacus derives from the Greek word ABAX meaning table or board covered with dust." - which goes back to my opinion that Abacus is just a word derived from Abax. It is not a different item.
I believe the Math Mojo explains it best: Abacus is the blanket term for everything from the sand board to the beads version. It is now common to refer to the sand board as either a "counting board" or an "abax". The beads version is usually called a "soroban". I do not feel we need a new article for "abax" just as we don't need a new article for "soroban". -- Kainaw(what?) 14:21, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
The definition at the top of this article certainly includes "soroban" but does not include "abax". By your definition of abacus, a backgammon board is also an "abacus" (I have a reference that so states), and though it would seem reasonable to refer to the abacus entry in Backgammon, it does not obviate the need for a the Backgammon entry. If the definition at the top of the abacus article were to be changed to include any board or framed type manual calculating device, then I would consider whether "abax" should be included in abacus, just as "soroban" is. In fact, there is a redirection from Soroban. However, an abax was used for much more than calculation and was clearly a student's study tool for things other than calculation (such as writing and geometry).
It is not common in the U.S. to refer to an abacus as a "soroban", but rather as a Japanese abacus, as shown.
I do recognize the genus:species issue. There is ambiguity in the word "abacus" in that unabridged dictionaries include more than one definition including one for a wired device and one for a sand table. Commonly used abridged dictionaries, such as the American Heritage, do not include the sand box definition indicating to me that that definition is somewhat obscure. Again, this article does not describe that ambiguity and until and unless it does, abax is certainly a thing different from an abacus.
Softtest123 15:10, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
Please note that my argument is to put Abax information in the Abacus article. It appears you have read my argument as "do not mention abax anywhere". I expect that it will be added as a "history of the abacus" section that begins with the abax and continues through the soroban. -- Kainaw(what?) 15:19, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
No, I don't think I read it that way. I could see including it that way if an abax was only a version of abacus; if abax was a species of the genus abacus, perhaps. I stand by the "abacus not defined to include 'sand table'" argument. If the definition at the top of the abacus article were changed to be inclusive, I could perhaps understand an abacus section on abax. If "abax" is the offending word, "sand table" is an acceptable substitute with a redirection from "abax".
Perhaps there is another topic, somewhere in the history of education, where abax should be included, but confining it to a calculating device, abacus, confines the meaning of abax unnecessarily.
Softtest123 18:31, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

I am thinking that perhaps Abax should be merged, but not into Abacus but rather into Sand Table. The Sand Table article is still pretty crude but seems an appropriate home for Abax. Softtest123 15:18, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

I am adding mergefrom/mergeto templates to Abax and Sand table. In this case I think the "tea" metaphor does have bearing since "Abax" seems to be the Greek name for "Sand table". I still maintain the argument, now reading, "A Sand table is not an Abacus", though I would include a "See also" reference to Sand table from Abacus. Should there be no compelling argument otherwise, I will remove the mergefrom/to templates between Abax and Sand tables and prepare for an Abax/Sandtable merge.
Softtest123 18:04, 2 October 2007 (UTC)
Since I have seen no counter argument, I am deleting the {{Mergefrom}} tag in preparation for merging Abax into Sand table.
For additional discussion, if any, see talk:Sand table.
Softtest123 14:34, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Abacus, by "Webster's Universal Dictionary", has these meanings:
  • A framed calculating device
  • The top of a stone column
  • A sideboard divided into compartments for storing cups etc.

The ultimate root is abaq (hebrew) for dust, the sense here is a table strewn with dust for tracing etc. The division into compartments permits for calculation, and the device on a column similarly.

One might note that bank/bench is a word refering to the table, (bankrupt = table + broken = not allowed to trade), and that calculate refers to work the pebbles (calculus). The transfer to the sliding beads on rails is a later devision.
It is not improbable to regard the digital computer as an abacus, since a byte corresponds to a column, which has usually eight rows, each with a single bead (bit). It is the processor that operates on these columns, in much the same way that operators on the abacus operates on the bytes. --Wendy.krieger 10:54, 7 October 2007 (UTC)
There have been discussions about equating a computer to an abacus and all such arguments seem to fail because: 1) an abacus does not use binary notation 2) though a computer can emulate an abacus, an abacus cannot emulate a computer 3) an abacus cannot even calculate.
There is some value, I think, in comparing an abacus to the memory of a computer particularly the registers of a computer.
Softtest123 14:00, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

One of the works cited for this article is by Pullan and he wrote, on pages 17-18, "The Latin 'abacus', derived from the earlier Greek word 'abax', meant, simply, 'a flat surface'. The word 'abacus' did not derive from the Hebrew word 'abaq', dust, and there is little evidence to support a common idea that a table strewn with dust, or sand, was at one time widely used for reckoning. On the other hand, Sanded tables certainly seem to have been used for the drawing of geometrical figures, ... But it is not so easy to imagine counters being moved easily from place to place on a sandy surface."

On page 89, Pullan also writes, "It is, strictly speaking, a misuse of the word [abacus] to apply it to a bead-frame calculating device."

Menninger, on p.301 of his book (listed in Further reading) writes, "The [Romans] called the counting board or table ... the abacus; the Greek work abax means 'round platter' or 'stemless cup' and thus also a 'table without legs.' It is unlikely that this word was derived from the Semitic 'abq' (dust) ..."

At the beginning of my IEEE paper I write, "In classic Greek architecture, an abacus is a flat slab of marble on top of a column’s capital, supporting the architrave, or beam. Such an abacus (perhaps chipped beyond use in construction) makes a fine flat surface on which to inscribe lines; from which we get the name, counting board abacus. Developed later, constrained bead devices with less arithmetic functionality are also called abaci, e.g., Roman Hand Abacus, Chinese Suan Pan, and Japanese Soroban."

I know from experience that it would be very slow to actually use pebbles on a sand surfaced line abacus (it could be done ... but very slowly).

Much better and faster is sliding flat pebbles or coins over a hard clean surface, like that of The Salamis Tablet (made of marble), or sanded wood, like in the middle ages.

I'm no smarter than the ancients who used counting board abaci, so I'm sure they cleaned their boards of any dust or sand before they used them too.

Indeed, Pythagoras is here using a clean board without dust or sand, as is the monk here.

So shouldn't we remove the sand table statements?

And shouldn't we think of a "counting board abacus" as the first "abacus", with constrained bead abaci as functionally subsequent developments that were more portable (yet less functional)?

-Steve Stephenson Sks23cu (talk) 18:50, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

Korean Abacus = Japanese Abacus?[edit]

Changes have been made to equate the Japanese and Korean abacii. I cannot tell if this is a legitimate edit or an anonymous vandalism. I am going to add some {{fact}} tags so if you delete the Korean stuff as vandalism, please whack my tags as well. Thanks. Softtest123 14:13, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Proposed splits[edit]

I just proposed splitting Nepohualtzintzin and "Korean/Japanese Abacus". First off with the Nepohualtzintzin, they're almost certainly not related. Their physical forms are entirely dissimilar and their counting methods aren't even using the same base math. Associated the two promotes an incorrect viewpoint. With the Soroban section, I can see why they'd be linked to the abacus, however they're still distinctly different items. They're certainly related, however they aren't the same thing. Sticking them both on the same page is akin to having all of Coca Cola and Pepsi's product lines redirecting to a short snippet on the Cola page. EvilCouch 11:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

So what is an abacus, and what isn't? There are several approaches:
  • What do informed people consider correct use? It's a Latin word, so the Roman abacus may be the only one in this narrow sense.
  • What is frequenctly referred to as an abacus, based on a close similarity, analogy or historical connection? The Chinese and Japanese devices certainly qualify in this sense, and in my opinion deserve a treatment in this article, with links to the relevant main articles. Electronic computers and mezoamerican decvices are sometimes referred to as abaci; personally, I think this is stretching it, and while they may deserve a mention in passing, with links to relevant articles, they should not be given much weight in the Abacus article.
  • How is the word "abacus" actually used - and who are we to decide if it's "right" or "wrong"? Well, I think I've made my views on this clear under the previous bullet.
--Niels Ø (noe) 07:17, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
On the last bullet, the OED has (as the first two of its four senses for the word):
1. A board or tray strewn with sand, for the delineation of figures, geometrical diagrams, etc. Obs.
1387 Trevisa Higden's Polychr. (Rolls Ser.) VII. 69 Abacus is a table wiþ þe whiche schappes beþ portrayed and ipeynt in powdre, and abacus is a craft of geometrie. [Not in the original Higden.]
2. A calculating table, or frame; spec. one in which balls slide upon wires, and gen. any arrangement for the mechanical solution of arithmetical problems.
1686 Obs. conc. Chinese Char. in Misc. Cur. III. 216 Their Abacus or counting Board, for performing the Operations of Arithmetick, which I find pretty near to agree with that of the antient Romans.  1861 T. Wright Ess. on Archæol. II. xv. 67 The system of the abacus appears to have continued in use+till late in the twelfth century.   1871 Earle Philol. Eng. Tongue 353 The science of calculation by nine figures and zero, which was gradually superseding the abacus or ball-frame, with its counters.  1881 Nature No. 625, 593 M. Gariel has thus arrived at a kind of abacus by which the various problems that arise may be geometrically solved by simple inspection.  
(sorry about the HTML) ... which is notable for the big gaps, and only two quotes before 1861. mfc 11:58, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
I, for one, favor the split. I think sections of any article should support and comply to the definitions in the heading of that article. In this case, a frame with wires and sliding beads, the modern definition of abacus. See arguments under An Abax is not an Abacus, above. In fact, I believe there should be a separate article, Counting board. Softtest123 13:13, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
We can make a separate article for the Japanese abacus. I'm thinking of one now because although it spun off from the suanpan, it also has extensive research. But on the Nepohualtzintzin, I don't think splitting it will be a good idea because not much is know about it, not even a physical object (only an "abacus" representation exists). - 上村七美 (Nanami-chan) | talkback | contribs 11:53, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Awesome! Thank you, Nanami. EvilCouch 03:34, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Korean abacus[edit]

In this source[2], there is no description about the mechanism of Korean abacus. This source explains only the mechanism of the Chinese abacus. It seems that the mechanism of Korean abacus is quite the same as Chinese and the mechanism of soroban(Japanese abacus) which was improved in Japan is different from the Chinese abacus. Then, If the Korean abacus is described, the part of Chinese abacus is appropriate.--Opp2 (talk) 05:55, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Please don't substitute your opinion instead of citations. The Korean abacus sentences are supported by the sources. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ttthishhh (talkcontribs) 08:03, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

It is not my opinion.

For a long time in Japan two kinds of abacus were used concurrently until the 1868 political revolution: the Chinese-style one with two five-unit counters and five one-unit counters and the older Japanese-style one with one five-unit counter and five oneunit counters. After the time of the revolution, the Chinese-style abacus went completely out of use. Finally since around 1940, the older-style Japanese abacus has largely been replaced by the present more advanced and efficient one with one five-unit counter and four one-unit counters.[3]

This present Korean source explains only the Chinese-style.[4]--Opp2 (talk) 09:02, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

About transmission route to Japan[edit]

There are some hypotheses about transmission route to Japan because there is no spesific record.--Opp2 (talk) 10:37, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

  • Hypothesis1:Via Korea[5]
Just as the Japanese received the sangi from China, perhaps by way of Korea, so they received the abacus from the same source.(p31)
  • Hypothesis2: Japanese foreign student to China[6]
The soroban in Japan did not come into common use until the seventeenth century. However, the historical fact that beginning with the seventh century, there were at times as many as 2 000 Japanese students studying at the then Chinese capital in Chang-an, now called Si-an, furnishes us with reliable evidence that the abacus was introduced into Japan at a far earlier date, although the oldest documentary evidence of the Japanese abacus does not date further back than the sixteenth century.
  • Hypothesis3:Chinese merchant [7] [8]
It seems that the Chinese merchant brought the abacus for dealings.(中国の商人が取引のために持参したようだ。)
  • Hypothesis4:Japanese trade merchant [9]
The abacus was introduced through the merchant in Nagasaki and Sakai.(P1)

I can add some events in the chronological list of soroban. -- Firstmimic (talk) 21:39, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

  • In the document "the Descriptions of Japanese Features (Riben feng tu ji/日本風土記)" edited in China by Hou JiGao(侯継高) in 1570s, Japanese pronunciation for the device is described.
  • The existing oldest soroban (2/5 design) was owned by MAEDA Toshiie (前田利家), a military commander. He is an expert calculator and a skilled user of soroban. He was using the oldest soroban at the headquarters at Hizen-Nagoya(current city of Karatsu, Saga prefecture) in 1592 and has left it to posterity.
  • In a Latin/Portuguese/Japanese dictionary edited in 1595, it appears the description of Soroban for Abaculus.
  • In the Folding Screen of Construction of Sunpu Castle (Sunpu Chikujo-Zu Byobu/駿府築城図屏風) painted in 1607, carpenters were using soroban.
These probably tell that soroban were widely used in the late of 16th century in Japan. I support the hypothesis of direct transmission from China by merchants of active licensed trades between China and Japan in the previous era.

Usage? How does it work?[edit]

Well but how do you use an abacus? How does it work? I didn't find any explanation of that. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:25, 15 March 2008 (UTC)

I second that. This article is little more than "History of the Abacus (and how it looks like)", the most essential piece of information seems to be missing. :/ -- (talk) 14:40, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

As an engineer and math teacher, my approach was to use historical clues to figure out the structure of an ancient counting board abacus and the way it was used. The clues were: The Salamis Tablet, the Roman Hand Abacus, and the Japanese Abacus (Soroban). Two free online sources contain my analyses and conclusions:

  1. How to Use a Counting Board Abacus
  2. Ancient Computers

Some surprising results:

  1. all four arithmetic operations are accomplished with surprising ease.
  2. multiple number bases can be used (e.g., decimal, sexagesimal, and duodecimal).
  3. numbers are held in exponential form; i.e., each number has two parts, a fraction and a radix shift (exponent),
  4. so no decimal point is needed, and no trailing zeros.
  5. each number part can contain both positive and negative values.
  6. there's some built-in error checking in the number entry process.
  7. there is extreme pebble/token efficiency:
    1. multiplication or division of two base-10 numbers with 10 digits in their fraction part and 4 digits in their exponent part can be expressed with an average of about 1.9 x 14 x 4 ~= 100 pebbles or tokens. That could be two rolls of pennies or a small bag of pebbles.
    2. The Ancient Babylonians using base-60 numbers with 5 digit fractions and 2 digit exponents would only need on average about 2.9 x 7 x 4 ~= 80 pebbles or tokens.
  8. in the videos I use Heron's method to calculate the square root of 2 to the precision on Yale tablet YBC 7289 in only 25 minutes; blindingly fast for that time (c. 1800-1600 BCE). Note that the Babylonians wrote their numerals on clay tablets with reed styluses that they cut with bronze knives that they sharpened on stones -- no paper or pencil!

-Steve Stephenson, Sks23cu (talk) 01:22, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

Reasons for teaching soroban use in Japan[edit]

In this edit, the following was removed as unsourced:

And Soroban is taught in primary schools as a part of lessons in mathematics because the decimal numerical system can be demonstrated visually. Some parents send their children to private tutors to learn soroban because proficiency in soroban calculation can be easily converted to mental arithmetic at a highly advanced level.

I think it's interesting enough; perhaps someone can find a source.--Noe (talk) 11:01, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

When was the abacus first used ? -Jessy was here ! >:] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:06, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

Crabertotous (so-called greek historian) definitely does not exist. Source might be Herodotus, but I can't verify. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:20, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

AD/BC vs CE/BCE Inconsistency[edit]

The article has inconsistency between AD/BC and CE/BCE, as the article originally ( had AD/BC terminology used that is what I'm going to change it to, as it is the standard used on Wikipedia to keep it the same generally as discussed on WP:DATE. Eraserhead1 (talk) 19:00, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

The Small Abacus of Al-Khwarizmi[edit]

Al Khwarizmi Numerals.PNG

This figure explains a “New Theory On The Graphical Roots Of The Modern European Numbers”.

Each number we use today should be read as a numeric ideogram and the numbers were defined using simple arithmetic: [10]

a) The numbers 1 (one), 2 (two), 3 (three) and 4 (four), were based on additives angles.

b) The numbers 5 (five), 6 (six), 7 (seven), 8 (eight), 9 (nine), and o (ten) were defined using the knowledge about the abacus manuscript notations. The especial abacus used had a base-five/ten like the human hands.Roberto Lyra (talk) 11:12, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Please do not put that in the article unless you have some solid references. The article you are pointing to is completely devoid of references of any kind. I cannot see how that theory is supposed to work if one goes back to the original Brahmi digits, sources are required. SpinningSpark 17:45, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Sed hoc totum quasi errorem computavi respectu modi Indorum. “But all this I have regarded as a transgression against the operations of Indians.” Leonardo of Pisa, 1202. Number Words and Number Symbols - A Cultural Hystory of Numbers Karl Menninger (mathematics) ISBN 0-486-27096-3 [11] Roberto Lyra (talk) 12:44, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

In what way is that meant to verify the claim? I have read the all the pages in that section of the book (except the ones I can't get in preview) and see nothing that links the form of graphic symbols to the abacus. It does the opposite if anything. On page 395 you can see the Brahmi symbols, which the book says, and are generally accepted to be, the parent of our modern symbols. The angles shown in the portugeuse article simply do not exist in those symbols, so the Brahmi symbols could not have been developed in that way. The theory that the development went abacus-count_angles-graphic_symbols is at best WP:OR and quite possibly pseudo-scientific nonsense. The more usual explanation of our modern symbols is that they developed from the Brahmi by way of Arabia and Europe, Arabic writers adding cursiveness and European writers bringing the style into line with European alphabets. SpinningSpark 17:32, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

Regulae Abaci, l'autre intitulé: De numeris, sont la même chose que l'Abacus. [12] Regulae abaci [13] Roberto Lyra (talk) 20:45, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

Please do not put that in the article unless you have some solid references: "Arabic writers adding cursiveness and European writers bringing the style into line with European alphabets"~ Roberto Lyra (talk)

Native American abaci[edit]

Could somebody try to rewrite this section? It looks very un-encyclopedic. A few particular troubling examples:

"But now we know with certainty that it is a concrete example of the great scientific and technological development that the majority of the native cultures already had in those times."

Not referenced. Oddly phrased. A bit jingoistic. "Great scientific and technologic development" is a bit much, given that this very article shows abaci to be a fairly common invention.

"It is worth to mention that in the Nepohualtzintzin, amounts in the rank from 10 to the 18 can be calculated, with floating point, which allows calculating stellar as well as infinitesimal amounts with absolute precision."

So this abacus can represent infinitesimal amounts with absolute precision? Using a finite number of "bits"? That doesn't sound very convincing. And what's the technical meaning of "stellar amount"? And I can't quite parse "in the rank from 10 to the 18". Does it mean "up to 10 to the power of 18"?

"There have been also found very old Nepohualtzintzin attributed to the Olmeca culture, and even some bracelets of Mayan origin, as well as a diversity of forms and materials in other cultures. This gives us an idea of the so early epochs in which our ancestors already had the sufficient knowledge to devise and to handle a device of such complexity, and the notion of the extension of its use in their daily activities."

What do Mayan bracelets have to do with anything? And is that sentence really saying that these people had "sufficient knownledge [...] to handle [...] the notion of the extension of its use in their daily activities"? What does that mean? The entire section seems like bad poetry more than an encyclopedic entry. WorldAsWill (talk) 07:08, 11 April 2009 (UTC)

Opinions on the earliest date of the Chinese abacus[edit]


"Dust" in Hebrew[edit]

Per the original source and the discussion here, I restored the original version of the Hebrew translation for "dust." I wanted to leave this note here though to open the change up for discussion if anyone is more familiar with the Hebrew language, particularly as far as the confusion noted on my talk page link above regarding modern vs historical practices. Thanks. --Zoeydahling (talk) 01:21, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

Why refer in the introduction to abacus being used in parts of Asia? I feel this only encourages the myth that the abacus is of Chinese origin. (talk) 06:41, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

Edit request from, 4 July 2010[edit]


Please add an interwiki for sd:ڳڻپيوڪر

-- (talk) 10:55, 4 July 2010 (UTC) Yes check.svg Done, thank you. sonia♫♪ 11:09, 4 July 2010 (UTC)

Iranian Persian???[edit]

The section titled "Iranian Persian Abacus" is really redundant. Can we all agree that Persian would be the correct demonym considering the historical period? Persian can be linked for those people who learn about "abacus" before they learn about "Persia" or that, in any case, it is the modern day Republic of Iran. (talk) 02:10, 5 October 2010 (UTC) Tom

George Sanchez[edit]

I have restored this paragraph which was deleted with the edit summary rv good faith edit; needs cleanup: provides too little detail on how it was actually used (ie: choose all or nothing), and a standard citation is needed (ie: not specified directly in text). I have no strong view on whether or not this should be in the article, but none of the rationales given for deletion seem valid to me. If a contribution needs cleaning up, it should be cleaned up, not deleted (unless beyond hope of rescuing); too little detail does not make sense as a deletion argument, tagging for expansion would be more appropriate; and improperly formatted citations are especially inappropriate as a deletion reason, such a simple fault is easily fixed, even by the deleting editor. SpinningSpark 00:45, 30 December 2010 (UTC)


The abacus is a digital device according to Barron's Dictionary of Mathematics Terms. Digital can mean for a number to shift between discrete states, instead of rotating continuously. That is what the beads on an abacus do, ie there is no meaning for a bead partially up or down it can only be 1 whole number or another it can't be a fraction. -- (talk) 16:41, 1 May 2011 (UTC)

Agreed, but I still wouldn't advocate adding it to the "digital technology" category (as you did in an earlier edit) due to fact that current practical usage of the term relates to electronic devices. Sebastian Garth (talk) 18:30, 1 May 2011 (UTC)

Operations is missing[edit]

So what is it used for? The article never explains! Can it add? subtract? multiply? divide? and if so, HOW?

The article about abacus never explains what it is used for and how, except for one vague mention of arithmetic "processes" whatever that means.

This is just ridiculous! WillNess (talk) 09:06, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

before calculators were ivented there was abacus . — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:02, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

See my comments in above section Usage? How does it work?. -Steve Stephenson Sks23cu (talk) 01:28, 9 August 2013 (UTC)


I can't see how a Japanese mathematician can be a reliable source for this. The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China: By Joseph Needham, Colin A. Ronan says "However, one nan book of considerable importance was the Shu Shu Chi I (Memoir on Some Traditions of Mathematical Art) by Hsii Yo, who lived and worked around a.d. 190. We know of it owing to a commentary written some four centuries later by Chen Luan, and it was clearly a very different kind of book from those already mentioned, being much nearer to Taoism and divination. Nevertheless it contains one of the earliest literary references to a magic square - a discovery in the theory of numbers which we shall consider on page 18 - and the earliest mention of the abacus."[17]. Not everyone agrees, From China to Paris edited by Yvonne Dold-Samplonius[18] says "The Use of Counting Instruments. In China the abacus was used as early as the 12th century" What other sources links the Tso Chuan [Zuo Zhuan] to the abacus? And if we are going to mention this book we need to mention it could be middle 3rd century BCE. Dougweller (talk) 18:58, 8 April 2013 (UTC)

I am not disputing the facts of when the book was written. In fact, my book does not give a date of authorship for the book in question, only that it refers to the abacus at 542 BC. Also, I am not sure what a Japanese mathematician can't bring to the table. I can't see the book being a fringe book, as it is in reputable university libraries across the country. Sorry, that was US-centric.:) Across the US. Maybe the answer would be to read the text in question. I don't however read any form of chinese. I have a journal coming to me from the U of U that "may" help, but it is an old article, so I am not sure what it will bring to the table. Thank you for not just reverting again. I appreciate the open discussion that some editors will instigate rather than the aggravating style of revert revert revert. speednat (talk) 19:10, 8 April 2013 (UTC)
I didn't suggest it was fringe, just that the author is not a historian. I'm reverting again for several reasons. Given the better sources I've listed above, I don't think that we can use this one. There's a problem with your wording also as I don't see a source for "the best evidence" bit and am assuming that's your words?
The other problem is the text about defining an abacus - the origin section. I agree that it's origin is probably never going to be known but not with your text. Eg "To some historians, the "dust abacus" was a type of abacus, in name only.[1] The Hindu civilization used this method in ancient times. However, the counter abacus, is the most agreed upon form of the abacus." Does Smith actually say "in name only" as I can't find that in Google Books, nor do I see a source for the most agreed abacus. In any case, I don't see how this is important - they are both referred to as an Abacus. Your are also assuming that there was one origin rather than multiple inventions of it, which is unsourced and probably unsourceable. Dougweller (talk) 08:10, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
I wish I didn't have to do this as you are working hard on it. You might want to look at Wikipedia:Third opinion. Dougweller (talk) 08:13, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
I don't agree with your reverting my changes back again; however I am not going to re-revert again, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I am not an expert nor even close, I was reading an encyclopedia, I compared the information to wikipedia, I saw a glaring hole. I added sourced data. Second, this is not a topic near and dear to me. again see above. However I will request that since it obviously is a topic that holds some interest to you that you fix the missing information. I understand that the origin is very questionable, but that can be put into words, just the fact that there is nothing written in Wikipedia prior to the Mesopatamians does not seem like good article writing technique. PS. I reserve the right to include the abacus in subjects that I hold near and dear to my heart and I reserve the right to become an expert in said subject. :) PSS I still have a copy of that journal article on its way from the U of U and if that holds answers I will probably post as I do trust that a academic journal holds the necessary credentials. Thanks for your time speednat (talk) 17:56, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

Origin in alphabetic systems of Numerology[edit]

The late emergence of the word abacus suggests an origin in the 'Latin' speaking world. Since children are, colloquially, taught their ABCs (alphabet) it is surely likely that learning to count and to calculate with an ABaCus has a related root. This is not an explanation to replace the conventional etymology, but one that parallels the received wisdom because, as often as not, new words embody a play on words. Another example is the acronym: NASA, which is also a transliteration for a Hebrew word meaning, very aptly, 'raise up'. --DStanB (talk) 19:23, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

I presume you don't have a reliable source for any of that. SpinningSpark 21:31, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Sadly, the esoteric flavour of this apparent origin does not accord with scholarly sensitivities. So there is little chance you will find a 'trusted' source. That is why I placed it in the Talk page rather than in the main article. Think of it as an invitation to others to be on the lookout for existing supporting sources. --DStanB (talk) 09:00, 4 October 2013 (UTC)

Special Thanksgiving Day Request[edit]

At dinner last night I had an argument with my younger brother regarding the correct plural form of the word Abacus. He strongly believes that "due to the word's Greek origin" the correct form is abacuses. I went to this page today because I was curious if he was correct, and was delighted to find the etymology section describing the disagreement on the plural form. In the name of humor and Thanksgiving generosity, can you please just for today add this sentence to the end of the etymology section: "Kyle Pratt is at the forefront of this controversy." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Spratt237 (talkcontribs) 15:42, 28 November 2013 (UTC)

No. SpinningSpark 18:32, 28 November 2013 (UTC)
    • ^ Cite error: The named reference Smith1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).