The Abacus: Is It Taking Jobs From People Who Are Goode At Counting Things On Their Fingers?
Can it replace the “human touch”?
People hath long feared that technologie is coming to take their jobbes. Whether it be mighty machines of war like the longbow taking jobbes from humble regular-length bowmen, or innovative transportation inventions like the cart and horse taking jobbes from people’s feet, technologie doth march forever forward.
But nowhere is this more present nowadays than in the abacus. Human computers throughout the Realm hath long been employed in manually counting all manner of things on their fingers: taxes, tolls, tithes, tariffs, tributes, bodies, etc.
Technologists hath criticized their methods as inefficient, seeing as no one can count higher than ten because that’s how many fingers they have. But ‘tis an honest jobbe for low-level nobility or high-level commoners that many fear will soon disappear.
“The abacus is simply more efficient than having five people each count to ten on their fingers every tyme one needs to count to fifty,” sayeth Royal Economist Meethal Pickelgräber. “Not to mention, like half of the population is missing fingers so we need to hire even more people to compensate.”
Already abaci are taking the Kingdom by storm and putting hardworking computers out on the streets. Some abaci can count as high as 40 or 50, replacing 4 or 5 workers in one fell swoop. Future models currently in development are rumoured to go as high as 60!
But finger counters are fighting back, marching on counting houses and smashing their abaci to bits.
“I’ve been working as a finger counter since age 6, an I’ll be damned if I let some abacus take my job!” sayeth veteran computer Steephen Thumb. “Counting things takes a human touch. The abacus just can’t provide that.”
Career finger counters are fighting an uphill battle. Experts doth predict that within ha’score years human computers will be a mere niche industry for people that need to count things between one and ten.
Finger counters warn that the abaci won’t stop once they take their jobbes. They say they’ll continue growing more and more powerful until the entire Realm is o’ertaken by abaci that control and count every aspect of people’s lives.
“Tyme doth march on,” sayeth Pickelgräber, whomst remains undeterred in his quest for better counting. “I, for one, look forward to one day bowing down before our abacus overlords and their empire of perfect efficiency.”
Behind the story
The abacus and related counting devices have existed since long before the Middle Ages, so chances are the “finger counters” had already lost their jobs by this point. Variations on the abacus existed from Ancient Rome, to China, to Mesoamerica. Their campaign of trying to take our jobs was pretty ubiquitous.
There are multiple different methods of finger counting, enough so that there’s an entire Wikipedia article on it. One uses the thumb to count the bones on each finger, so that you can count up to 12 on a single hand. Another, called finger binary, lets you count up to 1,023 using both hands, although I have no idea who actually uses this. And finally, one from the 1400s lets you count up to 9,999 and looks like this:
Humans have been counting for tens of thousands of years. The abacus may have taken the finger counters’ jobs, but the finger counters had a good run while it lasted.