Abacus Display Clock
Our liberal representation of the abacus is that of a bead frame, which is what most people think of when the word abacus comes to mind. There are several types of abacus in use today, with the three major ones being the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Russian. Each one is composed of a version of a rectangular frame with beads on vertical wires. The number of wires and beads vary. Some have a horizontal divider in the frame but others do not. It is generally accepted, though it cannot be proven beyond any doubt, the Chinese are often credited with the invention of the abacus; certainly the popularization of it and mechanical calculating in general. The abacus was a great invention in ancient China. Often, it has been called by historians the earliest calculating machine in the world. The abacus has a long history behind it (and none of them have anything to do with hanging chads). It was described in a book of the Eastern Han Dynasty, namely Supplementary Notes on the Art of Figures written by Xu Yue about the year 190 A. D. Its popularization had occurred at the very latest during the Song Dynasty (960-1127), when Zhang Zeduan painted his Riverside Scenes at Qingming Festival. This famous long scroll clearly depicts an abacus lying beside an account book and medical prescriptions on the counter of an apothecary's (Feibao) shop. It is frequently mentioned in early references to the abacus, that on the first day of the year 7 A. D., the modern abacus came to fruition as a by product of tax collection (what else?). We are taking the liberty of equating that to January 1, with the bi-millennium anniversary of that being January 1, 2007.
The most common modern Chinese abacus has 13 vertical wires, with 7 beads on each wire. The wires and beads are in a rectangular frame. There is a horizontal divider within the frame so the 7 beads on each wire are separated into 2 beads above the divider (the heaven beads) and 5 beads below the divider (the earth beads). Those that know and use them say that they are as quick and accurate as a modern calculator.