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India plays an important role on the world stage today. It has the planet’s second-largest population and the sixth-largest economy when measured in nominal GDP. In recent years, the country has become a key player in sectors like manufacturing, IT, communications, and business process outsourcing.  

However, India’s significant and important contributions to the world go back much further. The country has given the world a whole series of important inventions and creations that have shaped the reality that we live in today.  

USB

USB or Universal Serial Bus is ubiquitous today. Just about every electrical device you can buy today contains at least one port that is designed to one of the USB standards.  

It wasn’t always this way though. Before it was invented in the mid-1990s, there was an entire suite of different interfaces to connect computers to peripherals. On top of that, each manufacturer used its own proprietary plug for powering its devices, meaning you’d have to buy an expensive cable each time your phone charger broke.  

This call changed with USB, which was the brainchild of Ajay Bhatt, an Indian-American computer scientist.  

His original version could transfer data at speeds up to 12 Mbit/s but the latest USB4 standard can run at speeds more than 300 times faster.  

So whenever you plug in your budget smartphone or games console controller, remember you have Bhatt to thank for it. 

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Chess

Chess is one of the most popular board games in the world. It is held in very high regard because its strategic elements provide an intellectual challenge that most players spend a lifetime trying to master.  

It evolved from an Indian game known as chaturanga that also used a chequered board and pieces with different values.  

This makes chess one of the oldest games that we can play today as it was found to have been played at least 1,500 years ago. Card games like blackjack can be traced back to Spanish and French games from the 17th century, known as trente-un and vingt-un respectively. That makes chess more than three-times older than one of the world’s most popular card games.  

The pieces used in chaturanga are slightly different to modern chess sets, with the Indian version including “Gaja”, an elephant that could move in a similar way to the bishop.  

Weighing Scales

We use scales to weigh all sorts of things today. They help us check our health, ensure we are getting a fair deal in stores, and include the right amount of ingredients when we’re cooking.  

They are so ubiquitous and important to life that it is hard to imagine that there was a time without them.  

However, most historians believe that they were first used in the Indus valley civilization sometime between 2400 BC and 1800 BC. They were relatively primitive, using a fulcrum and some standard weights to balance out the arm when an object was placed on the other side.  

Rulers

Like scales, we have used rulers and other similar devices to measure length for millennia. However, it was again around the year 2400 BC that these measuring devices were first recorded.  

The people of the Indus Valley made their rulers from ivory and would be very accurate. One specimen that was found in the region had intervals of less than 2 millimetres, an impressive feat for the time.  

Mathematics

India was one of the biggest contributors to mathematical concepts. While the Greek Pythagoras is credited with creating his theorem, it had already been discovered in India and included in the Baudhayana Sulba Sutra between 800 BC and 500 BC.  

This isn’t the only Indian discovery and contribution to this field though. Indian mathematicians helped to develop trigonometry, algebra, and arithmetic.  

One of the biggest contributions was the concept of zero. While it seems strange today, there was no zero used in counting or maths for thousands of years. Even when this idea was mooted, some prominent figures baulked at it on ideological grounds.  

Today, zero is necessary for all modern computing, science, and accounting practices used by businesses. None of this would have been possible had it not been for Indian scholars.

 (guest article)

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