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Bebop to the Boolean Boogie, 3rd Edition by Clive Maxfield

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Chapter 7. Alternative Number Systems

Fingers, Toes, and Pebbles

The first tools used as aids to calculation were almost certainly man’s own fingers, and it is not simply a coincidence that the word “digit” is used to refer to a finger (or toe) as well as a numerical quantity. As the need to represent larger numbers grew, early man employed readily available materials for the purpose. Small stones or pebbles could be used to represent larger numbers than fingers and toes and had the added advantage of being able to easily store intermediate results for later use. Thus, it is also no coincidence that the word “calculate” is derived from the Latin word for pebble.

Bones with Notches

The oldest objects known to represent numbers are bones with ...

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