Why was the abacus invented?
It is difficult to imagine counting without numbers, but there
was a time when written numbers did not exist.
The earliest counting device was the human hand and its
Then, as larger quantities (larger than ten human-fingers could
represent) were counted, various natural items like pebbles and
twigs were used to help count.
Merchants who traded goods not only needed a way to count goods
they bought and sold, but also to calculate the cost of those
goods. Until numbers were invented, counting devices were used to
make everyday calculations. The abacus is one of many counting
devices invented to help count large numbers.
The more affluent people, could afford small wooden tables
having raised borders that were filled with sand (usually coloured
blue or green).
A benefit of these counting boards on tables, was that they
could be moved without disturbing the calculation- the table could
be picked up and carried indoors.
With the need for portable devices, wooden boards with grooves
carved into the surface were then created and wooden markers (small
discs) were used as place-holders. The wooden boards then gave way
to even more more durable materials like marble and metal (bronze)
used with stone or metal markers.