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  1. ABACUS, plural ABACI, OR ABACUSES, - calculating device, probably of Babylonian origin, that was long important in commerce. It is the ancestor of the modern calculating machine and computer.
  2. ABACUS, in architecture, a simplest type of a capital - crowning member of a column, pier, anta, pilaster, or other columnar form, providing a structural support for the horizontal member (entablature) or arch above. A. is a square (initially wooden) block placed on the top of a post.

Abacus is a Latin word meaning sand tray. The word originates with the Arabic "abq", which means dust or fine sand. In Greek this would become abax or abakon which means table or tablet. (see Ref. 1)

Abaci are known as suan pan in China, soroban in Japan, and schoty in Russia, and have been in use until recently in those countries.

In the following pages an inquiring reader can find facts and ideas about ancient calculating machines.

1. Totton Heffelfinger & Gary Flommanual "ABACUS: MYSTERY OF THE BEAD"


A brilliant description of abaci, and a manual for abacofiles.

2. Fernandes, Luis. "Introduction, The Abacus, the Art of Calculating with Beads


This site was selected by Scientific American as a winner of the 2003 Sci/Tech Web Awards.

3. E. A. Young


A lot of additional web-references

4. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abacus

5. The League of Japan Abacus Associations


6. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SorobanAbacus/

7. http://www.enlight.ru/ib/also/calcs/calcs1.htm

History of Soviet mechanical calculators (including schoty), in Russian.

8. http://rk86.com/frolov

A great many pictures of mechanical calculators, a collection of Sergey Frolov.

9. http://www.geocities.com/Russian_rules/

Russian slide rules, a collection of Sergey Frolov.

10. http://it.stlawu.edu/~dmelvill/mesomath/index.htm

Studies of Mesopotamian mathematics by Duncan J. Melville.