The Indian Reader Studies

Incas Used Early Computers and Decimal System

ITHACA, NY (IPN)-The Inca Indians were already using a mechanical precursor to modern day computers by the time the Spanish conquistador Pizarro invaded Peru.

The nation used a system called quipus, or "talking strings," that were capable of doing the basic operations of the larger and more complicated 20th century machines, according to an article by Ruth Rodriguez Sotomayor.

"A string made of llama wool represented the principal concept that they (the Incas) wished to record. Other smaller, different colored strings were tied to it to indicate the characteristics of the main concept," wrote Sotomayor. "The smaller strings were knotted."

The knots referred to numbers and colors of the strings which comprised the data bank. The Incas recorded their information using a decimal system, long before the system became known in Europe after the French Revolution.

By using the quipu, the Incas had access to a wide range of information including population census, crops harvested in various communities, and the amount of wool and grain in the storage houses.

After several years of training with the quipus, the mathematicians were divided into groups and were sent to four different regions to collect information on astronomy, engineering and agriculture.

The Inca mathematicians, who used the quipus, were trained at the Inca's seat of learning, the Yachayhuasi-an institution for the ruling circles located in Cuzco. Every year, a copy of the collected information was sent to the Cuzco Palace to inform the Inca leaders about the empire, said Sotomayor.

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