A: 19, Wakamatsuchō, Shinjuku City, Tōkyō-to, Japan

# A Soroban Beats an Electric Calculator

11/12/1946

Clipping from Stars & Stripes showing victory of Japanese Soroban (Abacus) operator in speed contest again U.S. Army electronic calculator operator.

On November 12, 1946 a contest was held in Tokyo between the Japanese soroban, used by Kiyoshi Matsuzaki, a champion operator in the Savings Bureau of the Japanese postal administration, and an electric calculator, operated by US Army Private Thomas Nathan Wood of the 240th Finance Distributing Section of General MacArthur's headquarters. Wood was the most experienced electric calculator operator in Japan at the time. The bases for scoring in the contest were speed and accuracy of results in all four basic arithmetic operations, and a problem which combined all four. The soroban won 4 to 1, with the electric calculator prevailing in multiplication.

"About the event, the Nippon Times newspaper reported that "Civilization ... tottered" that day, while the Stars and Stripes newspaper described the soroban's "decisive" victory as an event in which "the machine age took a step backward. . . ."

"The breakdown of results is as follows:

"* Five additions problems for each heat, each problem consisting of 50 three- to six-digit numbers. The soroban won in two successive heats.

"* Five subtraction problems for each heat, each problem having six- to eight-digit minuends and subtrahends. The soroban won in the first and third heats; the second heat was a no contest.

"* Five multiplication problems, each problem having five- to 12-digit factors. The calculator won in the first and third heats; the soroban won on the second.

"* Five division problems, each problem having five- to 12-digit dividends and divisors. The soroban won in the first and third heats; the calculator won on the second.

"* A composite problem which the soroban answered correctly and won on this round. It consisted of:

"o An addition problem involving 30 six-digit numbers

"o Three subtraction problems, each with two six-digit numbers o Three multiplication problems, each with two figures containing a total of five to twelve digits

"o Three division problems, each with two figures containing a total of five to twelve digits" (Wikipedia article on Soroban, accessed 04-15-2009).