Friday, December 21, 2012

This year's can't-miss gift: the abacus!

An abacus: get one of these babies now while they're still affordable!

Are you still puzzling over what to get people for Christmas this year? Well, puzzle no more, dear reader! I have the answer. Simply get everyone on your list an abacus.

"An aba-wha?" you might be saying right now. Relax. Let me explain.

An abacus is a simple yet ingenious calculating tool consisting of a frame and beads which slide on wires or dowels. Dating back to 2500 B.C., it is the precursor to the calculator and, thus, the computer. Think about that for a moment: the abacus is the original computer! Version 1.0. Compared to the abacus, the Commodore 64 is a newbie poseur. Although generally considered obsolete here in the West, the abacus is still crazy hot in Japan, where it's known as a soroban and is in common use by children whose math skills put most Americans to shame. There might be something to this. We're so used to letting machines do all our math for us these days that maybe we should have to physically move beads around to do simple addition and subtraction. We've gotten lazy, and our minds have turned to instant oatmeal as a result. Just watch this video to feel instantly humbled:

Insufferable people like this will soon be everywhere.
Congratulations, Einstein. You just got your ass handed to you by a 7-year-old girl. But that's not why I'm recommending the abacus as the ideal gift for 2012. Yeah, they're educational and help strengthen our brains, but screw all that. Instead, I'm recommending it because I have the sneaking suspicion that, within a year's time, abaci (that's the plural of abacus -- learn that word!) will be very trendy indeed and will be used by influential tastemakers around the world. Did you know that someone who uses an abacus is called an abacist? I think by this time in 2013, every would-be cool person you know will be bragging about being an abacist to the point that you'll be sick of hearing that word. People will be lugging abaci around with them the way people tote Kindles and iPhones today. Why do I say this? Just look at the evidence. The abacus has all the qualities necessary to achieve coolness. To wit:

  • It's popular in Japan. And we know that's where all the cool, exotic shit comes from, right?
  • It's ridiculously old school, and if there's one thing cool people like to do, it's using totally outmoded and impractical technology. Witness the resurgence of vinyl records and 8-bit video games. This just takes that idea to its ultimate extreme.
  • It requires no batteries or electricity and is, therefore, environmentally conscious. Compared to this, the Prius might as well be a Humvee. Once you become an avid abacist, you can be all judgy and self-righteous around people who still use laptops and smartphones.
  • The word "abacus" just sounds cool. Say it out loud a couple of times and hear for yourself. And if you know related words like "abaci" and "abacist," you'll instantly sound smarter than you actually are.
  • Design-wise, the abacus is very sleek and minimalist. Abaci come in a variety of colors and styles. There is great potential here for customization. Imagine a shiny, blinged-out abacus with a gold frame, jewels for beads, and platinum wires. Or at the opposite end of the spectrum, picture a tasteful, all-white abacus with the Apple logo on it -- the perfect accessory for your regular Sunday trip to the bookstore or coffee shop.  Whatever your personal style, there's an abacus for you.

So there you have it, folks. You can get a very nice abacus for about ten or twenty bucks today. In my opinion, you'd better snap 'em up fast before some Portland barista gets wind of this and the price skyrockets. Don't say I didn't warn you.


  1. I thought Abacus was the record Genesis put out between Duke and Three Sides Live. Thanks for setting me straight.

  2. Do you realize how close I came to putting a Genesis joke into this article? The answer is very. One of the items on my list was going to be: "It sounds like a mid-period Genesis album before they sold out and did that Michelob commercial, man!"