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Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold

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Chapter 18. From Abaci to Chips

Throughout recorded history, people have invented numerous clever gadgets and machines in a universal quest to make mathematical calculations just a little bit easier. While the human species seemingly has an innate numerical ability, we also require frequent assistance. We can often conceive of problems that we can't easily solve ourselves.

The development of number systems can be seen as an early tool to help people keep track of commodities and property. Many cultures, including the ancient Greeks and native Americans, seem to have counted with the assistance also of pebbles or kernels of grain. In Europe, this led to counting boards, and in the Middle East to the familiar frame-and-bead abacus:

Although commonly ...

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