A brief view on development of Numbers (Numeric Systems)
Men of ancient times used sign language or sounds to communicate with each other. These sounds were oral and did not have any corresponding signs or signage (alphabets). It was only later that each sound was given a shape in the form of alphabets. Similarly, when men counted they used sounds and their fingers for signs. The Roman numbers are a classic example.
||Explanation of the signage
||Five but one finger taken to left hand
||Thumb and index finger
||Five and additional finger
||Five and the remaining fingers on the hand
||Both hands full so 2 fingers crossed or 2 fives while one is inverted
But again, they ran into a roadblock as they could not calculate any numbers larger than 10.
The Arabic number also did not have the zero and could not proceed any further. When the tenth came along the ancient man would make a mark of the floor, or use a stone to indicate each ten.
The word 'abacus' derives from the Greek word 'abax' or 'abakon' meaning table or tablet, which originated from the Semitic word 'abaq' meaning sand. The plural of 'abacus' is 'abacuses' or 'abaci'. And a user is called abacist.
The first abacus was almost certainly based on a flat stone covered with sand or dust. Words and letters were drawn in the sand; eventually numbers were added and pebbles used to aid calculations. In outdoor markets of those times, the simplest counting board involved drawing lines in the sand with one's fingers or with a stylus, and placing pebbles between those lines as placeholders representing numbers (the spaces between 2 lines would represent the units 10s, 100s, etc.). 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.
As civilizations grew they were able to develop abacuses that met their needs the best. The Babylonians used dust abacuses as early as 2400 BC. The origin of the counter abacus with strings is obscure, but India, Mesopotamia or Egypt are seen as probable points of origin. China played an essential part in the development and evolution of the abacus.