Memory Association System of Pop Culture Icons & Famous People for Numbers & Playing Cards (Works with Major, Dominic, PAO)

Click here for the latest version of this system:

2018-01-18 Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted updates about my progress on this system. I’ve continued tweaking things over the past months, such as now using Cupid for 14 (St. Valentine’s Day) and a Leprechaun for 17 (St. Patrick’s Day). They aren’t quite as specific as a named person, but they are very much a part of U.S. culture and easy to remember.

Another change has been to move Muhammad Ali to spot number 74, edging out John Denver (the list didn’t need another singer/guitar player), and putting George Washington at spot number 1, since after all Washington was the 1st U.S. President among many other firsts. This left 76 open, so I put Thomas Jefferson in that slot.

I’ve made some other changes here and there, but as always I keep a running list of candidates at the bottom of the spreadsheet, in case I or anyone else decides one of those is a better fit for their particular system.

Most recently I’ve been working on filling out a 3-digit Josh System, and since this 1 and 2-digit system is not dependent on a particular conversion of numbers to letters, I’m pronouncing all 1, 2 and 3-digit numbers according to the pronunciation rules of Josh’s system. This gives me a short way to speak (or subvocalize) a number like 57 as “leh” instead of “fifty seven”, 1 syllable instead of 4 syllables.

2017-07-20 Update

Almost there! Over the past few weeks I’ve added in the 52 playing cards, based on associations for the face cards and based on available numbers for the rest of them, in Bridge suit order: 1s = Clubs, 2s = Diamonds, 8s = Hearts, 9s = Spades.

I finally relented on the 20th century requirement for this system. I was having trouble finding anything suitably iconic for 16 and 76 and Abraham Lincoln and George Washington fit so well there. 15 could be Martin Luther King for his birthday, yet he fits very well at 65 and Julius Caesar’s iconic ‘Ides of March’ fits nicely at 15. 17 is a tough number too but it’s Ben Franklin’s birthday. I didn’t want to use too many old-time characters for the aforementioned reason of there being no recorded audio or video of their actual person. Yet a few like these are still so iconic in our present day that there are some very satisfactory portrayals of them in modern films.

Again, any constructive feedback on this welcome. Thanks.

2017-06-08 Update

Hey folks I’d really appreciate if some of you super-intelligent mnemonists reviewed my system for accuracy and logic. I’m getting ready to call it finished soon but some outside input could really help.

Some of you would be much more cultured than me on movies, video games or history, so if you see a number match that would make more sense or an action or object that would be more fitting I’ll be glad for your input!

2017-06-03 Update

I’d like your input! I’ve made lots of changes to this system and I think it’s getting closer to completion. But some more eyes on this list should hopefully avoid the “Duh I wish I’d thought of that before!” syndrome later down the road.

Again, this system is intended to be as intuitive as possible for the new learner who has no prior knowledge of memory systems. No number-letter conversion systems need to be learned in advance, most of the people/characters will already be recognizable (all are famous), and there should be logical reasoning for every number association.

All of these people/characters lived in the 20th century, which means there is usually video footage of them, but I relaxed this latter requirement to include such icons as Houdini and the Wright Brothers.

So if you think there’s a more logical person assignment to a number, or a better action or object, I’ll appreciate your feedback! Thanks

2017-05-13 Original Post

I’m starting over. Over a year ago I created a 00-99 PAO memory system mostly based on the Dominic number-letter conversion. It’s been a good system, but now I want to make a better one.

The goal I have in mind is a PAO memory system for numbers (which could also double as a system for playing cards) that is a complete, ready-to-use package for new learners.

I see great potential in teachers using such a system in the classroom to help students remember important dates and numbers. But whether it’s students in a classroom or a new memory hobbyist, time is precious, and I believe a new learner’s time could be much better spent in skipping the system-build phase and jumping directly to memorizing and using the system itself.

So I’m saying enough with the Major System versus Dominic system arguments, let’s make a system that doesn’t use either–which yes has been done by others–but in this case will only be composed of famous, iconic, or otherwise outstanding characters who lived in the 20th century. Thus the new user will either already have some mental association to that character, or will benefit by learning about such an iconic character.

Characters can be assigned to numbers based on a number that they or their action/object are associated with (e.g. Michael Jordan Jersey #23, George Orwell’s book “1984”) or important days and years (e.g. Martin Luther King’s birthday January 15, Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd President elected in 1932).

To make the system appropriate for all ages, I’m omitting any characters that are highly controversial/polarizing (e.g. Adolf Hitler) and any content that would be rated ‘mature’.

Now, why only go as far back as the 20th century? Video. When there’s video footage of a character, you can see their mannerisms and you can hear their voice. George Washington and Alexander the Great are very famous, but no one knows for sure how they rode their horse or gave a speech. I was surprised to find real video footage of people like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. […]

I’ve tried to include a wide variety of characters who were iconic or ‘best’ in their field, and more female characters when there was opportunity to do so, though the gender gap is still going to be considerable.

Finally, I put “U.S. Edition” in the thread title because I am creating this system from the perspective of someone born and raised in the United States. So for our friends in other countries, this list may not be so “ready-to-use”, but maybe parts of it will still be useful. […]



The problem is if you aren’t using a phonetic system or similar the system will be much more difficult to learn. Since you are targeting this on learners that seems like a big issue. Yes, it has been done without such a system, especially with catagories, but the biggest drawbacks to not using a phonetic system is in learning which is contradictory to your goals.

Thanks for your reply. There are pros and cons to each approach, but for me this method is more intuitive. No matter what method you use there is going to be some time involved in learning the number associations.

The list I’m presenting here ends up doubling as a list of trivia, so at the end of the system memorization process you not only have the number associations but you’ve also gained relevant historical information.

In my former list based on letter-number conversion, I had Santa Claus as number 80. But Santa is already widely associated with the number 25 because of Christmas Day, so I find this more intuitive. Neil Armstrong as number 91 confused me for a long time, because in my mind he’s the man of 1969 (or could have been 11 for Apollo) [Edit: Now using Neil as number 11]. Many of the other numbers I didn’t know at first, but very quickly my mind accepts them because of their logical place in the historical timeline.

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No matter what method you use there is going to be some time involved in learning the number associations.

I agree, I love the Major and Dominic systems, they both show how you can generate images, and images are what we see, remember and use to memorise. As long we have an image that matches with the data we want to memorise, then any method that works for each individual is good.

I started off with the Dominic system and then moved onto the Major system, but I was having some issues with creating the right images for myself, until I found what worked for me. I realised that I didn’t need the Major or Dominic to create images, while I was trying to work out how I can use both systems, I started seeing images by the shapes of the numbers, this was what I was also experiencing while using the major or dominic, so I started to create images using the shapes, and for me it worked like magic, however with some of the numbers, I couldn’t find any shapes that matched, so I used associations to come up with the shape or the image, such as - 25, I couldn’t find a shape for it, so I also use that for Xmas Santa. So I think, it’s whatever you see in your mind, and whatever you can associate it with that matters, and should greatly help to learn and to recognise the images instantly. As you said, this will take time using any method, but I think that spending that extra time and effort to create the associations is what will provide instant recognition of the images and it’s actions. I think that the image recognition should be “mastered” before using it with any system.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Erol. And as was discussed in the thread on your Shaper System, number shapes can be found in many images. I obviously assigned Santa and his sleigh to 25 because of Christmas Day, but check out how the sleigh itself can resemble that number!


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that shape/image is just perfect!
It was always Santa for me because I could not find the perfect image that’d represent #25, I love images that represents numbers. It works like magic for me.

I usually aim for no reasoning to come up with a shape, so as much as I can help it, I try to imagine the shape itself, and If I can’t find one, then I will try to reason why the shape should match, it’s kind of like Associape :slight_smile:

Hi, this is an old thread but I see the attached the document as an excellent start to define my own PAO system. But out of curiosity could someone explain some few items I don’t fully understand from the linked spreadsheet and a link in that spreadsheet. So what are the following items…

  • What is the Slate system?
  • What are the columns BD/BY/DD/DY?
  • What is the concept of the document linked called - Phonetic Pronunciation of 1, 2, 3 & 4-Digit Numbers as Single-Syllable Sounds?

Hi, Glad sharing this could be of use to you!

  • What is the Slate system?

In brief, it is a phonetic number system for all 1, 2, 3 and 4-digit strings of numbers. You can check it out on the Slate System thread.

  • What are the columns BD/BY/DD/DY?

Birth Date / Birth Year / Death Date / Death Year. In my months-long researching of many possibilities for this Pop Culture Icons & Famous People system, I amassed as much number-related trivia as I could regarding possible candidates in order to aid in making their final assignments.

  • What is the concept of the document linked called - Phonetic Pronunciation of 1, 2, 3 & 4-Digit Numbers as Single-Syllable Sounds?

That is the same as the Slate System, linked above. There is quite a lengthy explanation of the system on that thread, but if you still have specific questions about how to use the system, feel free to post those questions to that thread.


Not being that into sport, 42 - Jackie Robinson / Home Plate / Jersey #42 & 43 -
Richard Petty / NASCAR #43 / NASCAR #43, just don’t work for me.

I’ve opted for:
42 - Anne Frank / Diary / June 12 1942 - On her 13th birthday, Anne Frank makes the first entry in her new diary.
43 - Jacques Cousteau / Aqualung - 1943 - Jacques-Yves Cousteau co-invents, with Émile Gagnan, the first commercially successful open circuit type of scuba diving equipment, the Aqua-lung.

Great choices @Magicdave thanks for sharing. I added those to the running list of candidates at the bottom of the spreadsheet for anyone trying to brainstorm ideas.