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An abacus is a tool for counting. Abacus was the first calculator and first appeared around 2500 BC in Mesopotamia and in Egypt. Later, it was used by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese etc.
A typical abacus has 2 rows of beads. Each bead in the top row represents 5 and each bead in the bottom row represents 1.
The bead that is shifted upwards from it’s original location is the one that needs to be acknowledged. The rest can be ignored. In this manner, here’s how you’d read the abacus depicted above – 621100.
Over the years, abacus has evolved into many forms and a lot of the ones we see these days, comprise of several horizontal rows without partition. These are typically meant for kids learning how to count. Each bead when moved to the right is counted incrementally so as to add “1” per bead that is shifted. There do exist a lot more advanced calculations that can be performed using an abacus, and in India, there exist professional tutors who aid the understanding of these techniques.