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In the beginning

For thousands of years, humans have needed to count. Families needed to know how many animals, how much food and how much land hey had. This information was important when people wanted to buy and sell things, and also when people died or got married. There were many different ways to count and write down the numbers. The Sumerians had three different ways: they used one for land, one for fruit and vegetables and one for animals. They could count, but they had no easy way to do calculations.

Around 1900 to 1800 ÂŃ, the Babylonians invented a new way to count which used place values. This meant that two things decided the size of a number: the digits and their position. Today, we still use place values to count. We can write any number using only ten digits (0-9): for example, 134 means 1 x 100, 3 x 10, and 4x1. Computers also use place values when they do calculations. They only use two digits (0 and 1): for example, 11011 means 1 x 16, 1 x 8, 0 x 4, 1 x 2, and 1 x 1 (=27). Without place values, fast calculations are impossible.

Between 1000 and 500 ÂŃ, the Babylonians invented the abacus. It used small stones which they put in lines. Each line of stones showed a different place value. To do calculations they moved stones from one line to another. Later, different kinds of abacuses were made. Some of them were made of wood and used coloured balls. (It is also possible that the abacus was first invented in China, but nobody really knows.)

Although an abacus can be very fast, it is not really a machine because it does not do calculations automatically. In the seventeenth century, people began to build calculating machines. In 1640, the French mathematician Blaise Pascal made an Arithmetic Machine. He used it to count money. During the next ten years, Pascal made fifty more machines.

In the 1670s, a German called Leibnitz continued Pascal's work and made a better machine. Leibnitz's machine was called the Step Reckoner It could do more difficult calculations than Pascal's Arithmetic Machine. Interestingly, Leibnitz's machine only used two digits (0 and 1) for doing calculations - just like modern computers! In fact, calculating machines like Leibnitz's Step Reckoner were used for the next three hundred years, until cheap computers began to appear.


Ex.1 Open the brackets using the verbs in the appropriate form:


It historically (to happen) so, that people (to need) to count.

There (to be) several different ways to count.

Probably the Babylonians (to invent) the abacus.

People (not to use) modern numbers until the Romans (to begin) using them.

Famous French mathematician Pascal (to make) an Arithmetic Machine in 1640.

In 30 years other scientists (to continue) his work.

Step Reckoner (to able) to do calculations.


Ex.2. Say whether the following statements are true or false and correct the false ones.


1. Humans didn`t need to count in ancient times.

2. The Sumerians invented the modern way to count.

3. Computers do not use the place value, though they do very fast calculations.

4. There was only one kind of abacus which was used in different countries.

5. Chinese people were the first to invent the abacus.

6. Abacus could do calculations automatically so it was the first calculating machine.

7. Pascal was not successful in making Arithmetic Machine. Leibnitz made it.


Ex.3. Choose “make of” or “make from” and put them into appropriate form.


1. Most things ……plastic nowadays.

2. My mother often ….. wonderful jam ……strawberries.

3. This watch does not seem…… gold.

4. Cheese …..milk.

5. I can`t see through you. You ….not ……glass.


Ex.4. Explain the meaning of the following words:

to need, to use, to count, to invent, to appear, abacus, Arithmetic Machine, chip computer, Step Reckoner.



Ex.6. Make up your own story using the following words:

to make, to put, to build, to call, machine, place, abacus, computer


Ex.7. Find antonyms to the following words:

to buy, to appear, to die, to get married, to move, easy, value, work, fast


Text 3

Read the text and answer who invented the first computer.


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 1775

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