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As a traditional Chinese calculation tool and an important ancient Chinese invention, the abacus is widely used before the invention of Arabic numerals in the world.
Before the invention of abacus, people in ancient times used small wooden sticks called calculation chips for calculation. Along with the increase in calculation volume, calculation with small wooden sticks failed to meet the demand. Therefore, people invented the first calculator-abacus. The origin of abacus can be traced back to 600 BC in the Spring and Autumn Period. The inventor strung 10 counting beads in a group and held the rods with stringed beads in a frame. Calculations can be conducted by moving the counters. Such a calculator was called Calculation Board, which was the embryotic form of the abacus.
Abacus is a rectangle with wooden frame. Within the frame, rods with stringed beads are fixed. The beam in the middle of the frame divides each rod into two parts. The two counting beads in the upper part of each rod represent five and the rest five beads in the lower part represent one.
With the application of the abacus, people summed up many calculation tips to help expedite the calculation. This kind of calculation method using abacus is called abacus calculation. By the Ming Dynasty, the abacus calculation is not only applied for the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division operations, but also for the measuring of land area, shapes and sizes of various objects. As abacus is simple in production, inexpensive in price and the calculation tips are easy for memorizing and operating, it was widely used in China. Gradually, it was spread to Japan, Korea, the United States and Southeast Asia, and other countries and regions. Even in the prevalent use of the modern electronic calculator, abacus is still being used in addition and subtraction for convenience.