18 January 2019

Review: Japanese Soroban Abacus

Let's say you go on a balloon ride around the world. Obviously you bring your calculator collection in case of emergency. Then an emergency happens. The balloon starts to rapidly lose altitude over the ocean. You grab the first calculator you get your hands on because there's no time to make a decision, and calculate that there's an island ahead. You land on the island safely, but the balloon is badly damaged and won't ever fly again.

Days pass, then weeks, and every calculator that uses batteries eventually stops working. But it's okay, because you also have your solar calculators. Well, it was okay until winter comes. See, you're in the Arctic circle, and nights can last more than twenty-four hours. Now you're going long periods of time with no access to an electronic calculator. Are you screwed?

The Japanese Soroban Abacus
Of course not! Because within your collection is the Japanese soroban abacus. It requires no electricity at all, and is just as effective as a calculator with basic functionality. I won't be one of those purists who claims an abacus is more effective than anything from Radio Shack, but it'll get the job done.

Even though it's built from wood with lots of open areas, the soroban is solid and sturdy. The beads slide smoothly over their individual dowels. Unfortunately, they slide a little too well, so this thing has to be operated on a flat surface for accuracy.

There's a plunger on the top left that resets the abacus. It never ceases to be satisfying, so I included a gif of this in action for you to enjoy.

I have no idea when this particular soroban was built or even what company made it. It's a beautiful device that I was excited to find at Goodwill for 99 cents.
Back of abacus, button not pressed.

Back of abacus, button pressed.

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