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Project by rdlaurance posted 11-08-2010 10:27 PM 3083 views 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I was just looking through some old jpegs when I found this one. It was a fun little project that I did about 8 year ago, thought I would post it, though the humor is just a bit out of sync with the times, or maybe not.

Shortly after moving here (to Sweden from Tampa Bay) I was enrolled in a Swedish Language course for Immigrants. One of the other students was a Chinese woman that coincidentally worked in an Art Museum in Guangzhou, where I had one of my glass sculptures on exhibit (she actually helped to install the work in the exhibition….small world). One day while we were talking in our new language, I asked her if she knew how to use an abacus. Since high school I had always had a curiosity to see how they worked and how fast they could be in computational work. It turns out that she was very good with the abacus, telling me that all Chinese students are still trained to use them in school. And no batteries required….ha ha!

I asked if she would be willing to give the class (about 12 Vietnamese, 1 German, 2 Czechs, 2 Persians, 1 South African, 1 Peruvian, 1 Honduran, this American gringo and the Swedish Teacher) a demonstration on how the abacus works. She was thrilled, but replied that she hadn’t moved her abacus with her to Sweden. I told her I would make one and bring it to class the next Monday. So she gave me the configuration of wires and beads and then I allowed my creativity to run rampant in the workshop.

I had just bought one of the first models of iMac shortly after Apple® had released them. I had noticed by then that so many things were being labeled as “i-”this and “i-”that and so using the (then) iMacs color scheme I set upon making an “i-Abacus” (calculator) to jump in on the “i-” marketing fanfare.

When I brought the abacus to school, I and all others were astounded by the speed in which she could multiply and divide with. Seven and eight digit numbers by other seven and eight digit numbers were calculated about as fast as it took to say the numbers. Literally as fast as any nimble fingered keypuncher using a ten digit key-padded calculator. And she added, quite bashfully in a typical Asian manner of humility, that she was really rusty because she hadn’t used one in a few years…...

She was a real sweatheart, so I gave her the iAbacus as a gift, which I had also made a cardboard box for, complete with pictures and product description as if it was an item purchased off the shelf from a vendor.

It was definitely a fun project.

-- Rick, south Sweden

10 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3317 days

#1 posted 11-08-2010 11:16 PM

thank´sfor sharing it and the story

take care

View rance's profile


4266 posts in 3362 days

#2 posted 11-08-2010 11:42 PM

That would be fascinating to watch. Nice job with your ‘take’ on the unit. Another alternate spelling could be:

” The iBacus “

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View blackivory69's profile


84 posts in 3218 days

#3 posted 11-09-2010 12:03 AM

That’s a nice little project. I wish I know how to use one. By the way is that 120 volts or 220 volts? ;)

-- blackivory69

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3308 days

#4 posted 11-09-2010 12:32 AM

Hey Rick, this will fit in with my electric putter and corncob. lol Rand

View learnin2do's profile


889 posts in 3053 days

#5 posted 11-09-2010 12:43 AM

love it!

-- ~christine @ used2btrees

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3278 days

#6 posted 11-09-2010 02:09 AM

How cool! Thanks for sharing Rick!

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View tinnman65's profile


1364 posts in 3616 days

#7 posted 11-09-2010 04:54 AM

Great story, very cool project.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View rdlaurance's profile


367 posts in 3548 days

#8 posted 11-09-2010 08:46 AM

Thanks all…

rance- I like the ‘iBacus’ name…. but maybe will save that for internet software that will automatically control the fermenting of wine… or drinking it…. :-)

blackivory69- 220v…Sweden’s typical home current. A dummy plug, of course. It surprised me at school how so many didn’t see the (quirky) humor of the added plug on an obvious non-electric invention… hmmmm…maybe should’ve added a small gasoline engine to it with a kick start…. :-)

lilredweldingrod- is that an electric corncob holder? I love it, if one is slow eating the cob, it turns into already buttered popcorn while you’re eating… :-)

Incidentally while the Chinese lady, Min, was demonstrating the use, I was competing with her on a small hand-held calculator. Not being a real whiz at the number keypad (I humbly add also) our finish times were generally within a second. She also said that many students at the universities also used other style abacus’s to do higher algebraic and trig functions as well. I love the idea that they have used this calculator for thousands of years without the use of batteries. That would have amounted to a lot of extra pollution.

-- Rick, south Sweden

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4362 days

#9 posted 11-09-2010 12:17 PM

how wonderful

I have seen these in action before (as well as some hand /knuckle use) and it’s totally amazing.
Why aren’t all students taught to use these messages??

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View rdlaurance's profile


367 posts in 3548 days

#10 posted 11-09-2010 01:29 PM

Yeah Debbie… that would be my query as well. They would certainly be cheaper for parents, or even schools to supply to all students, than present day power consuming calculators. Maybe it is a good technological item that China could export to the Western World, which if statistics are correct most seem to be suffering from student’s disinterest in math/sciences.

They would even be a good quick and cheap woodshop project for beginning students, as well… each making twenty abacuses to be supplied to the lower grades. It could offer the lessons of some basic joinery and assembly, repetition of parts cutting and finish work… a good introductory project. They could even design and construct some of the more elaborate three level abacuses for higher math use.

-- Rick, south Sweden

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