The Roman pocket calculator

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The Roman pocket calculator, also known as the Roman hand abacus, was a portable calculating device used by the ancient Romans. It was designed for use by engineers, merchants, and presumably tax collectors, and it greatly reduced the time needed to perform the basic operations of arithmetic using Roman numerals10. The Roman abacus was made of bronze and was used for basic arithmetic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division5. It was a significant tool for merchants to calculate the cost of goods and services, and for bankers and money lenders to keep track of accounts and transactions5. The device used grooved beads that could be slid up or down on numbered slots. The shorter slots on top would have each contained a single bead, representing units of 5, while the longer slots on the bottom would have each contained 4 beads, representing units of 12. The slots were arranged in ascending order from right to left, and the first two columns on the right were used to calculate fractions2. The Roman abacus was also used in conjunction with Roman numerals, a numerical system consisting of seven letters representing different values: I, V, X, L, C, D, and M5. Each bead on the abacus represented a certain value based on the position of the bead, allowing for efficient calculations with Roman numerals5. Only three or four original specimens of the Roman hand abacus have survived. Three are made of bronze and are located in Aosta, Paris, and Rome1. A fourth device, made of ivory, is known to exist, but its location is currently unknown14. The Roman abacus was not only a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of ancient peoples but also played a significant role in commerce, trade, and daily life in ancient Rome5. It facilitated trade and commerce throughout the Roman Empire by allowing for more efficient and accurate calculations5.
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