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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Vintage Computers : The History of Computing

The Abacus

The abacus used the idea of place-value notation. This means that the value of a bead depends on its location. The beads on the rightmost wire represent ones , those on the next wires tens , those on the third wire hundreds , and so on following the decimal system. A bead is counted by moving it towards the crossbar: a bead in the portion of the abacus above the crossbar represents five of thoose below the crossbar.

People have been "computing" throughout history , probable since they first learned how to count with pebbles ( the word calculus comes from the Latin word for "stone"). People living in the ancient civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley about 5,000 years ago used a fire hardened clay board with grooves in which pebbles could be moved easily from one side to another. This tecnique was also known in the Far East , where both the Chinese and the Japanese adopted and modified it.

The abacus - which uses moveable beads strung on wires above and below a cross-bar - is thought to have originated in China about 2600 B.C.. The Japanese had a similar technique called the soroban . These inventions are still in use today.

Better techniques for keeping records by hand, along with specalized calculating devices , continued to be developed throughout the centuries.

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