Apple's abacus emoji is wrong. Or, technically not "wrong" per se, because you can probably still use it, do math if you actually know how to use an abacus (I don't). However, the ever-useful emoji – added to the Unicode 11.0 update to the emoji standards as part of IOS 12 – is apparently malfunctioning on Apple devices when compared to almost all abacus used throughout human civilization.
The error was first discovered by Twitter uses @ Sophophobic who noticed that Apple's abacus configuration seemed to be one that was never used at any point in history.
When in history was a 2: 4 abacus ever used?
The Greeks / Romans used 1: 4 count stones. Chinese used 2: 5 (for decimal or witch). Japan adopted China's 2: 5 via Korea, then 1: 5, then 1: 4 in modern times. Russia had 10 (between 2 pearls colored). Europe used 9 coins on a line board …
– John (@ophobobic) May 6, 2019
It was a funny tweet, but I was not happy to post it there. So I went and took valuable time out of my day to contact several abacus experts to get them to touch the abacus in question, because I'm a serious journalist who apparently cares too much about historical accuracy when it comes to emoji .
Professor Eli Maor, a mathematics professor at Loyola University Chicago and the abacus historian, could not "remember one with a 4-2 pearl arrangement (except perhaps as a toy)." For more on historically accurate abaci, see Professor Maor's "At Abaci of All Kind" article in Journal of the Oughtred Society .
Although Apple's pearl arrangement (with two beads on one side of the divider and four on the other), it seems that emoji itself is misaligned. According to Peggy Kidwell, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, "I want to find the orientation of the abacus more unusual than the number of beads. The Chinese usually used 2 beads (each representing 5) at the top and 5 at the bottom. The Japanese used usually one at the top and 4 or 5 at the bottom. "
Kidwell was not aware of any abaci in the museum's collection using an arrangement similar to Apple's, and even those who came near would not have been arranged horizontally as Apple's icon is . She pointed out that you could use Apple's abacus to do math if it was properly oriented, though.
And in the name of justice, some abaci from various phone manufacturers are also out, historically, but Apple's is the worst offender. I know this because I went and checked them all.
Google, Microsoft and Facebook are the leaders in this field: all three have mathematically and historically correct abaci: Google is a Western model with ten gems, and Microsoft and Facebook use a 1: 4 Japanese model that is properly oriented.
On the other hand, Samsung, Twitter and WhatsApps abaci are also wrong. All three brands also use western style, but with seven, six and five beads, respectively, making them slightly more than portrayals of toys. Apple is still worse, but given that the company has failed both the number of beads and the orientation of its abacus emoji.
This is not the first time Apple spilled up an emoji like this, either: the company's squid emoji has been upside down for years, as pointed out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Unfortunately, (and much to the dismay of marine biologists, I guess), that mistake has not yet been resolved, leaving me with little hope that Apple's abacus will ever be corrected either.