1970s: Calculator / Abacus

“The soroban (算盤, そろばん, counting tray) is an abacus developed in Japan. It is derived from the Chinese suanpan, imported to Japan around 1600. Like the suanpan, the soroban is still used today, despite the proliferation of practical and affordable pocket electronic calculators. 

“Dual soroban-calculators were produced from 1979 and in recent use in Japan”
- Wikipedia

Sources: TechnabobTotton Heffelfinger / Open Hammerhead

6 Responses

  1. qka

    I once read that just after WWII, then state of the art electro-mechanical calculators were in a contest against abacuses. A very proficient US Army operator was ran the calculator, a experienced japanese ran the abacus.

    As I remember, for addition and subtraction, the abacus was MUCH faster. For multiplication it was about even. Only in division was the calculator faster.

    This may be the logic behind these hybrid devices.

  2. chuck

    i lived in japan in the late 1980s, and they still taught the abacus in elementary school. just about everyone i asked was able to show me how to do basic math much faster than using a calculator. clerks often totalled up my purchases on an abacus, and then entered the final amount into the cash register rather than ring things up.

  3. Vlad

    I’m from Soviet Union and we had to study abacus in the first classes in the school in math lessons. I went in my first classes after Soviet Union collapse in 1992., but we had to learn abacus. After that it was often used by traders in the market. Now i haven’t seen abacus in trade, but i have one in my house, old one, it’ from 1920s or even older, maybe from monarchy time.

  4. nagaijin

    I’ve lived in Osaka, Japan, for nearly 20 years and I haven’t seen a soroban in ages (I have *never* seen those combination calculator-soroban things, ever: few young people would use the soroban any more) . The last place soroban were used regularly was in the post office (by the clerks, but there was also always one for customers at the postal savings counter).They disappeared a good 10-12 years ago. An accountant I know, a man in his mid-70s, says he still has a soroban next to his computer for quick calculations (his younger colleagues don’t, though!). @qka, yes, he agrees that a calculator is much faster for division. When he’s calculating something in his head, he visualizes the soroban beads (you see many older Japanese twiddling their fingers at the bank or in a shop and you know that’s what they’re doing). Some parents still send their kids to after-school soroban lessons – an elderly former math teacher operates a small classroom not far from my home.

  5. Gauldar

    The 5th image down from the top the manufacturer is Suntory. Is this the same company that makes Suntory whiskey and beer? If it is, I had no idea they dabbled in electronics, but then again, large Japanese companies dabble in a bit of everything.


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