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Roman numerals

The more I think about the Roman empire and Roman numerals, the more baffled I become. Like, the Romans must have been some pretty amazingly competent people to have an entire empire like that with such a shitty numeral system as Roman numerals. How the fuck did they even do math with a number system like that? Or did they just use abacuses and scratch hash marks into clay tablets for everyday math, and only used Roman numerals for things like plaques, statues, and so on? Because seriously, how the bleeding frack do you do math in Roman numerals? XIV + IX = ??? How do you solve that? I can barely friggin READ that, and I friggin WROTE IT!

XIV
+ IX
-----
???? What do??? How math???

Thank Goddess for the Arabs, and Arabic numerals, amirite?

Actually, I think I *can* do that problem. 14 plus 9 is 23, so break the V into II, drop the I from IX, and add the remainder, you get XXIII. Still, that might not work for other problems.

EDIT: I found this on Google: http://www.pims.math.ca/~hoek/opinions/Romans/ I don't really understand very well, but I think the basic idea is that the Roman numeral system is designed with the abacus in mind, and that it works a bit like the binary clock my friend Brooke has, in that you put a certain number of beads in different places depending on how many of a certain letter there is. From their explanation, I gather that the Roman system is actually a hell of a lot more simple than the Arabic system in some ways, once you understand it, and things like multiplication and division are especially easy in the Roman system when you know what to do.

This was cross-posted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1266537.html
You can comment either here or there.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
kengr
Jan. 23rd, 2015 01:27 am (UTC)
I thought I showed you how you could do roman numerals on an abacus?

bring a pad with some scratch paper and something to use as tokens, and I can show you how counters worked. Basically an abacus with lines on a flat surface instead of wires.

And the guy who wrote the article missed the biggest reason that IV, IX, etc weren't used back in the old days.

If you use them then it's way too easy to alter the accounts ledger by changing a V to an IV and pocketing the extra.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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