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

[1][2][3] — Preceding unsigned comment added by Spinningspark (talkcontribs) 22:36, 25 September 2009 (UTC)


I am not an expert on this subject, but am concerned that some of the sections reference Ifrah as their only source. Reviews of his work cite many inaccuracies, and I would treat his books as unreliable sources. See for example this review in The Review of Modern Logic and this one in the Notices of the AMS. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Goodale (talkcontribs) 16:17, 12 January 2016 (UTC)


After my deletion of the addition of Europe as a place where abaci are in current use was reverted, it struck me that at least until recently, abaci were in fact used in Russia, Ukraine and possibly other Eastern European countries. But sources are still needed to include this, and perhaps writing "Eastern Europe" would make sense.-- (talk) 11:59, 26 March 2016 (UTC)

We need sources, as you say, and a discussion in the body of the article. It is of course still used a bit in most countries by some ethnic groups, but nonetheless its use has virtually died out in Western (at least) Europe.p.77. It was never popular in North America. Doug Weller talk 13:01, 26 March 2016 (UTC)
Use in Russia notwithstanding (and by the way, most of Russia is in Asia by land area) it is entirely incorrect to state that the abacus is "still widely used by merchants, traders and clerks in Europe". I have now fully reverted the whole series of edits by user:Raguks which are all dubious to some extent or other as I explained in the edit summary. SpinningSpark 14:33, 26 March 2016 (UTC)
I wonder, are abaci in fact widely used in Africa and Asia today? I recall seeing in China (and in Ukraine and Japan, actually) around 1987-1992 that abaci were often present in shops or other places where simple calculations were needed, but few employees were actually proficient in their use. So I imagine their use has declined rapidly since - and wonder if there are updated sources (or even just eyewitnesses among wikipedians) that say otherwise.
PS. Is Russia European? Historically, yes, mostly so, I think. Geographically, mostly Asia. Demographically, 78% live in Europe, but Slavs can be seens as separate from as well Europeans as Asians. As I said, "Eastern Europe" is where abaci have been in widespread use in recent times.-- (talk) 15:18, 26 March 2016 (UTC)
Abacus is not from India. Indians do not use it because they don't need to. In fact Europeans used it the most until decimal system arrived from India via Arabs. Saying Abacus is widely used in Asia is saying Europe has somehow moved ahead. The truth is Europe was stuck in Abacus until decimal system arrived from India. To say Indians still use it doubly wrong. Italian merchants used abacus, they learnt Indian system from Arabs. This is all clearly recorded even within Wikipedia. Calling something dubious without reading wiki itself is lazy. Russia, India, China all form Asia? And a place as big as India is a continent. These areas should be addressed separately as Russia, India, China etc. That is for some other day. Also, you need to provide proof/citation for its use in India. No support can be given for no use.

~rAGU (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 16:11, 26 March 2016

Abacus and India[edit]

@Doug Weller: Sorry to pick this up so long after the event, but I have been away from Wikipedia for quite a while. This concerns the claim that the Abacus was never used in India and this is a result of the Hindu invention of the modern numerals. In this edit summary you pointed out that Boyer and Merzbach's A History of Mathematics is alleged to be the source of the information. As this book happens to be on my bookshelf, I thought I would share what it has to say. Although it discusses the abacus extensively, nowhere does it say that it was not used in India, let alone propose a reason for this.

They also say some interesting things about the symbol for zero, casting doubt on whether this was truly a Hindu invention. They say the earliest verified occurence in India is 876, quite a late date, and

It is not even established that the number zero (as distinct from a symbol for an empty position) arose in conjunction with the other nine Hindu numerals. It is quite possible that the zero originated in the Greek world, perhaps at Alexandria, and that it was transmitted to India after the decimal positional system had been established there.

— Boyer & Merzbach


The new numeration, which we generally call the Hindu system, is merely a new combination of three basic principles, alll of ancient origin: (1) a decimal base; (2) a positional notation; and (3) a ciphered form for each of the ten numerals. Not one of these three was due originally to the Hindus, but it is presumably due to them that the three were first linked to form the modern system of numeration.

— Boyer & Merzbach

I haven't looked to see if this requires any change to the article, but at least I have put the information out there. SpinningSpark 10:33, 30 May 2016 (UTC)

Hi User:Spinningspark. Thanks for finding that out. So he was wrong. The other source I left in doesn't seem to support the text either. Doug Weller talk 15:28, 30 May 2016 (UTC)
I wouldn't go so far as to say that user Raguks is categorically wrong, but at the moment we have no source verifying that the abacus was absent from India due to the invention of the Hindu counting system. If there is no verifiable connection, I still maintain that singing the praises of the Hindu system (although I agree it is a great invention) is going off-topic for the abacus article. SpinningSpark 15:49, 30 May 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I agree. I thought that there was a link that mentioned Boyer and Merzbach, but I don't have time to reconstruct my original search. Thanks though for this. Doug Weller talk 18:24, 30 May 2016 (UTC)
I'm not sure what the quoted line
"It is not even established that the number zero (as distinct from a symbol for an empty position) arose in conjunction with the other nine Hindu numerals."
really says. I see that "zero" is (at least) two distinct thing: (i) A glyph representing an empty position in a positional numeral system (which it makes sense to consider together with the glyphs representing the other possible values for a position), and (ii) a number in one of the sequences ...,-2,-1,0,1,2,3,... or 0,1,2,3,..., or in the set of real numbers. Well, I can only makes sense of the quote like this: "Yes of course the glyph arose in context with glyphs for 1-to-9, but the number may have arisen sooner or later, in an altogether different context.-- (talk) 20:26, 30 May 2016 (UTC)


Section Korean says

The Chinese abacus migrated from China to Korea around 1400 AD. Koreans call it jupan (주판), supan (수판) or jusan-means calculating with an abacus- (주산).
[Citations omitted]

The last half of the second sentence makes no sense, and the source cited,, is in Korean. Can someone please untangle this mishmosh? (I'm also posting this request at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Korea# garbled text.) --Thnidu (talk) 01:12, 24 August 2016 (UTC)

See [4]. Doug Weller talk 17:32, 24 August 2016 (UTC)
@ and Doug Weller: Nø has edited the page, commenting
removed the bit that made no sense, per talk. However, I wonder if someone wanted to indicate that "jusan" is not name of device, but its use.
Could be, but they gave no source, unlike Doug Weller's contribution just above here. And defines that pair of hangul syllables as "abacus". --Thnidu (talk) 04:13, 27 August 2016 (UTC)
I totally agree, which is why I edited the text the way I did.-- (talk) 10:59, 27 August 2016 (UTC)

Modern Useage[edit]

Abaci are still used practically in some countries, and it would be a great addition to the article to add information on what the abacus is still used for. Currently, the article is mostly focused on the history and various types of abaci, so it could use a section on modern use. Bass77 (talk) 00:05, 15 February 2017 (UTC)