Polynesian islanders spoke the language of computers centuries before the first programmer was born!
It seems that inhabitants of Mangareva Island in French Polynesia created their own particular hybrid of decimal and binary number systems to do mental arithmetic.
Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller at the University of Bergen in Norway studied the Mangarevan language, which dates back to AD 1500, or even earlier. The pair say that, as in the decimal system, there are Mangarevan words for the numbers 1 through 9. Beyond those, the islanders only had words for 10 (takau), 20 (paua), 40 (tataua) and 80 (varu) – the binary powers multiplied by 10. So they used the binary system to count in 10s, but added 1 to 9 in the normal way.
Read full story over at NewScientist (by Jacob Aron)
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