The History of Modern Numbers & Their Probable Future


People throughout the thousands of years of our recorded history have used numbers and letters to get their messages across to and from one another. Though our languages still vary, the Hindu-Arabic system that we use today has been widely accepted by many.

It took many years for this system to arise, but how it got here is something that many people still do not know. Many systems have been used and tried in the past but none of them could possibly hold up in the modern world.

The systems for these numbers drew inspiration from the natural world but always showed their inadequacies in real life situations and mathematics alike, when the system we use today was introduced it was a life changing innovation that made writing numbers much easier.

In the very beginning, all people had were their own hands and fingers to do simple counting towards livestock. Along with their hands and fingers came the formation of tally marks, which served as a way for the numbers they just counted to be recorded and understood by someone else.

As people evolved and time went on and the need for more sophisticated methods became apparent, and the way people symbolized their numbers began to evolve as well.

While it is still not up to par with today’s methods, the ancient babylonians used a system far more complex than tallies. How our system revolves around 0, theirs revolved around 60. They chose 60 because of how highly divisible it is.

\This was monumental for a civilization like theirs because a big part of their life was about equally dividing things such as land, crops, livestock, etc. in to equal parts

Another ancient civilization with their own set of numbers were the Romans. Their numbers were fine as long as whatever you needed to record was something small, but as the ancient mathematicians put them to work the flaws in their incommodious system were exposed. Their numbers were similar to tallies with a few tweaks.

They had their basic 1 symbolized as I, as well as their special numbers for the powers of 5 (50, 500) and 10 (100, 1000). All other numbers were made by a conglomerate of these. For example, IV is four and VI is six. Four is just written as 5 minus 1 while 6 is shown as 5 plus 1. With this being it’s easy to see how bothersome these numbers could be while working with large numbers.

It was so bothersome, in fact, that they tried to remedy it by writing horizontal bars over their numbers as a way to show that the number was being multiplied by 1000.

Today we have something much easier for those experienced with system and for those who are just picking it up.

Unlike the numbers of days past, we have only 10 symbols that we can use to quickly and efficiently write any number. Those symbols being 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. The main component that makes these few so effective is the 0.

With the 0 came the introduction of the tens place along with the places for hundreds, thousands, etc. The Hindu - Arabic system we use goes by the place value of 10. Each 0 after the tens place respectively increases by powers of 10.

With the 0 came the introduction of the tens place along with the places for hundreds, thousands, etc. The Hindu - Arabic system we use goes by the place value of 10. Each 0 after the tens place respectively increases by powers of 10.

Even though this may seem as advanced as it gets, people are starting to wonder if it might be time for a change. The Hindu - Arabic numerals are roughly 14 centuries old and we’ve experienced great exponential growth in technology since then. The new base that people have thrown up is 2.

Since everything in modern technology works in 1s and 0s as well as many natural things such as sound, people think that this system will work much better for the future we’re headed towards. The 2 base works the same as 10 does, except it’s multiple of 2. As an example 2 would be 10, 4 would be 100, etc.

Thinking of how this all stems back to people using their hands to count and tallies to write is astounding. It’s amazing how far we have come and how far we can go with the system we have in place.

#Feature #AdamMuhammad

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