History of numbers and numeral systems

A brief history of the creation of numbers and digits. People originally created different alphabets, hieroglyphs, pictograms, and so on. Because it was necessary to transmit and store information in writing. However, at the same time, there was a need to create special symbols denoting quantity. At first, they used letters of the alphabet, hieroglyphs and pictograms to indicate quantity. For example, in the case of the alphabet, letters were assigned quantitative values and used to communicate and store information in writing.

History of numbers by years

Left column of the table number system, right column of the date of their creation.
Numeral systemsDate
Babylonian 4000 B.C.
Egyptian 3 000 B.C.
Chinese 2 000 B.C.
Roman 500 B.C.
Greek 300 B.C.
Hindu–Arabic 500 B.C.E
Cyrillic 800 B.C.E
Mayan 900 - 1600 B.C.E

The Mayan number system is unique and consists of dots and horizontal lines. She is very simple. However, it is not suitable for calculating large numbers. Her writing style is different from other systems. Larger numbers are written from top to bottom.

Mayan numeral system

Mayan numerals Symbol meaning
𝋠 0
𝋡 1
𝋢 2
𝋣 3
𝋤 4
𝋥 5
𝋦 6
𝋧 7
𝋨 8
𝋩 9
𝋪 10
𝋫 11
𝋬 12
𝋭 13
𝋮 14
𝋯 15
𝋰 16
𝋱 17
𝋲 18
𝋳 19

For example, the Greeks used the letters of the alphabet to write numbers and numbers: The first nine letters of the alphabet were the numbers 1 to 9. The next 9 letters of the alphabet were the tens of 10 ... 90. And the next 9 letters of the alphabet, the hundreds of 100 ... 900. In the table you can see the Greek number system.

Greek number system

Greek numbers Letters meaning
Αʹ 1
Βʹ 2
Γʹ 3
Δʹ 4
Εʹ 5
Ϛʹ 6
Ζʹ 7
Ηʹ 8
Θʹ 9
Ιʹ 10
Κʹ 20
Λʹ 30
Μʹ 40
Νʹ 50
Ξʹ 60
Οʹ 70
Πʹ 80
Ϟʹ 90
Ρʹ 100
Σʹ 200
Τʹ 300
Υʹ 400
Φʹ 500
Χʹ 600
Ψʹ 700
Ωʹ 800
Ϡʹ 900

This table is a classic use of letters as numbers and numbers. Many ancient peoples who had their own written language used their alphabet similarly. However, not all people behaved this way. For example, in Egypt, where there was no alphabet and there was hieroglyphic writing, a set of special hieroglyphs was created to indicate the number. For example:

Egyptian number system

Egyptian numbers Meaning

However, over time it became necessary to use large numbers. Since the formation of empires was accompanied by the collection of taxes, the taxes were so great that large numbers and mathematical operations were required on them.

The first well-organized system was created by the Romans in 500 BC. They used only 7 letters of the Latin alphabet. It is also called Latin because the letters of the Latin alphabet are used to create it. The system looks like this:

Roman numeral system

Roman numerals Letters meaning

Although this system is 2500 years old, it is still actively used today. True, the system is no longer used to calculate large mathematical quantities and solve formulas, but it is actively used to create numbering. For example, houses, streets, etc.

As for the numbers and numbers we use today, they spread to Europe around the 16th century. It replaced the Roman system. This system was created by the Hindus around 500 AD. The first to approve and apply this system in their country were the Arabs. And from the Arabs, it spread throughout Europe. That is why it is called Arabic. But, as we have already mentioned, according to historical ideas, it is actually Indian. Their popularization and distribution in Europe was facilitated by one of the popes. He found that the Arabic number system was much more practical than the Roman one. Today it is known as the hindu arabic system.

Hindu Arabic numeral system

Digits Symbol name
0 Zero
1 One
2 Two
3 Three
4 Four
5 Five
6 Six
7 Seven
8 Eight
9 Nine

This is a table of hindu arabic numerals. Using numbers, you can write any number from 10 and above. There are large and very large numbers, their names can be found on the page large numbers.


Of course, this is not a complete story, but it will help give some idea of how computing systems have evolved. Although not all number systems are here, but each of them does not differ much from each other.



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