Is Abacus a Computer?

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Many a time this question would come to our mind that if abacus is a computer. Let’s not come directly to the conclusion, first see what the abacus is and its history. 

Abacus is an ancient calculating device, the abacus itself doesn’t count but helps humans to do the counting. 

 Abacus was found between 300 BC to 500 BC which is approx 5,000 years ago. The plural of Abacus is abaci or abacuses. Origin of the abacus can be detected, a tablet sort of thing was found near the Greek island Salamis around 1846 AD (the Salamis Tablet) dates back to 300 BC, which makes it the oldest counting board discovered so far. It is a slab of white marble approx  149 cm (59 in) in length, 75 cm (30 in) wide, and 4.5 cm (2 in) thick, on which it has  5 groups of marmarkings. We can say it is the oldest studied calculating device. Now, let’s learn parts of the abacus and then types of abacuses –

It consists of rows of movable beads, or other objects, which represent digits. One of two numbers is set up, and the beads are manipulated to implement an operation involving a second number (e.g., addition), or rarely squares or cubic roots. 

Types of Abacus


  1. Babylonian  Abacus 

Babylonians might have used the abacus for addition and subtraction. But this antique device proved to solve much more complex calculations. Some professors point to a character from the Babylonian cuneiform which may have been extracted from a depiction of the abacus.


  1. Egyptian Abacus

Use of the abacus in ancient Egypt is mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote 

The methods and usages by the Egyptians were opposite in direction while differentiating from the Greek methods. Archaeologists have found ancient disks of various sizes that are thought to have been used as counters. However, wall depictions of these instruments have not been discovered, casting some doubt over the extent of use of these instruments. 


  1. Greek Abacus

A tablet found on the Greek island Salamis in 1846 dates back to 300 B.C.E., making it the oldest counting board discovered so far. It is a slab of white marble 149 cm long, 75 cm wide, and 4.5 cm thick, on which are 5 groups of markings. In the middle of that tablet there is 1 set of five  collateral lines uniformly divided by a vertical line. Crowned with a semi-circle at the intersection of the bottom most horizontal line and the single vertical line. Below these lines is a wide space with a horizontal crack dividing it.  After this gap there’s another set of eleven co-lateral lines and once again divided into two sections by a line which is A

at 90° to them, with a semi-circle at the point of intersection; the third, sixth and ninth of those lines are with a cross where they intersect with the vertical line.


  1. Roman Abacus

The normal method of calculation in formar Rome, as in Greece, was by moving counters on a smooth table. Originally pebbles, calculi were used. Later, and in medieval Europe, jetons were manufactured. Marked lines indicate units, fives, tens etc. as in the Roman numeral system. This  order of the ‘counter casting’ carried on into the late Roman empire and in the medieval period, some parts of the Middle East continued the restricted use in the nineteenth century.

In addition to the more common method using loose counters, several specimens have been found of a Roman abacus, shown here in reconstruction. It has eight long grooves containing up to five beads in each and eight shorter grooves having either one or no beads in each.


The groove mark indicates units, X tens, and so on up to millions. The bead side of shorter grooves signifies 5-5 units, five tens, and more., significantly in a bi-quinary coded decimal system, clearly related to the Roman numerals. The shorter grooves which are on the right side  may have been used for marking Roman.


  1. Indian Abacus

Improves the skills management techniques that activate the infinite hidden potential of the human brain and its effective use. With  Indian Abacus, children obtain the expertise which will be a lifetime charm to them, which they can use in all areas.


  1. Japanese Abacus

Japan only introduced Abacus which were brought initially from China in the middle of the  14th century. In Japanese, the abacus is known as SOROBON. Although everyone these days uses electronic Calculators, the abacus is still in use in Japan and also abacus is used in the primary Schools of Japan to develop mental arithmetic skills.


  1. Chinese Abacus- 

The Chinese Abacus is called Suanpan. The archived proofs lead to the use of Abacus in China in the 2nd century BC. The Chinese Abacus has more than seven rods. In the upper deck, each rod has two beads on both sides and in the bottom, there are five beads each.

Who invented the first abacus?

The specific origin of the abacus is still unknown. But many believe the origin of the abacus can be detected, a tablet sort of thing was found near the Greek island Salamis around 1846 AD (the Salamis Tablet). 

Benefits of Abacus

Abacus is not just a calculating tool, it enhances the brainpower of the children and also upgrades brain skills. It removes the fear of maths mathematics by making arithmetical calculations easier. Abacus not only improves mathematics but also creates interest in it. It develops the skill to fight day-to-day challenges. Mental arithmetic calculations improve a lot with good speed. It complements arithmetical calculations. It improves the lack of focus in children. Maximum development of the brain is from age 4-14. Also, the growth of nervous tissue is from age 4-6. Students who are learning abacus have lesser chances of suffering from nervousness during stress. The abacus helps the student’s memory in two ways. In the first way, students no longer have to memorize answers for any arithmetic problems. When students learn the abacus, they know how to solve any arithmetic calculations. Students won’t have to memorize solutions or steps because it is always going to be the same.

Comparison of Abacus with Computer

Abacus is a device that doesn’t calculate mathematical problems itself but helps the human brain to calculate. whereas the computer is used for general purposes like storing data, Solving math problems itself, 

We can watch videos, can listen to music, store videos, photos and do the editing,

Create sounds or videos, Communicate with other people across the globe.  The Abacus is an early calculating device whereas a computer is a modern device but we can’t deny the fact that the abacus was the ancestor of computers. As it gave an outline for computer inventors.  

Binary abacus explains how computers influence numbers. The abacus reveals how letters, numbers, and signs can be stored in a binary system on computers. The device is made up of a series of beads on parallel wires arranged in three separate rows.


Let’s come to the conclusion of whether Abacus is a computer or not. See, we can say the abacus was the oldest counting device and the ancestor of the computer and calculators.

 The development of computers began with many early inventions. The abacus helped early societies to execute computations.

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