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Object Timeline

  • We acquired this object.

-0001

1905

  • Work on this object ended.

2014

2019

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Soroban (Japanese Abacus) (Japan)

This is a Soroban (Japanese abacus).

This object is not part of the Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. It was able to spend time at the museum on loan from National Museum of American History as part of Tools: Extending Our Reach.

Its medium is wood, bamboo.

Long before inexpensive electronic calculators, Japanese merchants used sticks to track the results of routine calculations. By 1800, a simple calculating device known as the abacus was adopted from the Chinese. An abacus consists of a series of equally spaced rods, each representing a single digit, set in a rectangular frame with beads that slide along each column. A horizontal bar divides the columns: the upper section represents fives, the lower section, ones. To add, one moves beads toward the crossbar, while to subtract, one moves beads outward. Different from the Chinese abacus, this Japanese soroban features distinctive biconical beads, which were easier to manipulate. Wood and bamboo, as in this example, were used extensively before World War II, but today’s abaci are often made from molded plastic.

Our curators have highlighted 2 objects that are related to this one.

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

This object may be subject to Copyright, loan conditions or other restrictions.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460687/ |title=Soroban (Japanese Abacus) (Japan) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=20 August 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>