What Number System To Choose?!

I have been messing around with memory techniques for a while now. However I’m not able to pick a system and stick with it. I’m always looking for “the best” and afraid of learning one just to find out it’s inferior or something.

But now I have to make up my mind …

I’m using the shape system for one digit numbers.
First I want to pick a two digit system that I can use ASAP (while learning a three/four digit system if I ever do).

For any system to work you first need to code numbers into letters. I’m thinking of using the Ben way of doing this. My code is made using the most frequently used letters to maximize the potential of finding words. What’s the pros/cons of Ben vs normal Major System? Wish there was some sort of overview.

Ways of making a two digit system:
PA (Dominic System)
Just using the code to make an object or person

Is there something I’m missing? Tips for deciding?

I’m not sure that there is an “inferior” memory technique. Most–if not all–memory techniques use the same principle of changing information into images. There are world champions of memory who use a very simple system. That would lead me to believe that the best memory technique is the one that you are most comfortable with and the one you will PRACTICE.

Ben’s system is complex and takes a long time to learn but is powerful enough to set the record in speed cards. The Major system is less complex but no less successful.

If you are looking for something that you can use immediately, you should go with Major + PAO. I know that that combination can win any memory competition. A more complex system should only be used after a simpler one has been mastered. That’s the advice that anyone would give for any other discipline. You must crawl before you walk.

I see what you mean. I was very surprised hearing the chinese guy used a simple two digit system.

Regarding the two digit system. Using just the major system to make people and objects will use many more locis than PA/PAO. Therefore I strike that off my list.

I don’t know if I should go for a PA or PAO yet. I have used a PA system before. Anyone tried both and can share their experience?

What do you think of designating people to a number without following the major system at all? For example 00 should be SS, but you just use XY. It would make it harder to memorize all the people, but will it have the same speed when getting to the reflex level? The benefits would be that you can use your favorite and most memorable persons, which I really want.

I personally didn’t follow the Major system rule-by-rule when creating my 00-99. Reflex is reflex regardless of how you originally learned. I like having people who are the most memorable to me. Slappy Sammy (or whoever) for 00 follows the rules but is nothing compared to Groucho Marx for me. It could take a little longer to memorize 00-99 without using the Major system, but once you have it memorized it doesn’t matter. Using the Major system for 00-99 (or whatever) is just a crutch for initial memorization not a perfomance enchancing drug for competition. If you don’t have competition in mind and speed is not a factor, do what makes you comfortable.

One extra feature of phonetic systems is that they make it easier to double your number system as a way of memorizing names and words. If numbers have sounds like 194=“TUR” and 64=“BA”, then you have images that you can immediately attach to words or names that you encounter and remove any ambiguity in the image.

Even if you use a phonetic system, the images don’t have to match the sounds exactly. For me, the number 972 is pronounced “PEL” and is an image of Apollo. After running through it enough times, “PEL” becomes a new made-up word that means a picture of Apollo.

This is what I was thinking about when I was choosing a system, and why I made my system phonetic:

More here:

Like Josh_Too mentioned, the best system is the one that inspires you to practice the most. Wang Feng won the championship with a 2-digit system, and Boris Konrad is a top competitor with just one card per locus


But as I see I can still use your “double system”. I will use the major system (Ben’s) for three digits, but just not for two digits. The problem will be remembering what’s actually a number and what’s a trigger for a word/person, if remembering long term info. Have you thought about it? Don’t know how much of a problem it would be.

Here is my major system (I don’t use the english language):

0 = h
1 = t
2 = k/c/q
3 = m
4 = f
5 = s/z
6 = b
7 = l
8 = v/w
9 = p

0 = o as in ?
1 = i as in “in”
2 = y as in ?
3 = e as in ?
4 = a as in ?
5 = ø as in “sun”
6 = æ as in “sad”
7 = u as in ?
8 = å as in “octagon”
9 = ei as in “eight”
(couldn’t come up with every word on the go)

Josh, I see you haven’t used the consonant “h”. I used this reference (words starting with each letters) to take the best consonants. As you can see “h” is a good letter. But maybe you use it for cards or binary’s or whatever.

t 16.671%
s 7.755%
h 7.232%
w 6.661%
b 4.702%
m 4.374%
f 3.779%
c 3.511%
l 2.705%
d 2.670%
p 2.545%
n 2.365%
g 1.950%
r 1.653%
k 0.690%
j 0.631%
v 0.619%
q 0.173%
z 0.050%
x 0.005%

A question about Pridmore system. He describes the consonant/vowel method for creating his 2700 images. Are the consonant/vowels simply a way to think of images to start with, or do they serve a mnemonic function?

I’ve read through a bunch of Dominic system lists, and the same question applies. O’Brien’s idea seems to be that calling 23 “Bill Clinton” helps remember the number because of the letters BC, but wouldn’t it be smarter to use an organzational method for the whole list of 100?

For example, make all the images for 01 - 10 Marvel superheroes, 11-20 DC superheroes, 21-30 characters from famous novels. That way it’s not an essentially random list; it’s got a mnemonically significant organization.

Even more interesting, think of a list of 3000 images that have a structure that mirrors the world. Throw ourselves back a number of centuries and use the Medieval “great chain of being.” For the first 500 objects, take elements at the base of the chain; the next 500, images from the next level up. Within each broad category, there would be an organizational principle as well.

To make this personal would involve the memorizer in a truly profound activity, clarifying one’s personal system of organizing the world metaphysically. Then, when I see numbers/cards, I see the world as I see it.

I don’t think it will be a problem very often because of the context (competition, meeting someone, memorizing a poem, etc.). I haven’t run into the problem yet, but if there is ever an ambiguous situation, I could add an image modifier like a cactus. Everytime a teddy bear cholla is stuck to an image, it means it’s a word. (I have a chain of association between “teddy bear cholla” and “word”.)

I also do this for colors. I have a basic mnemonic system for colors that overlaps with my number images. If there is ambiguity, I can attach a paintbrush to the image. A soccer ball is the number zero or the color white. If I need to remember white and there is any chance of confusion, I can have a giant paint brush painting the soccer ball.

I use “h” for cards and binaries. If a 10-digit binary starts with 1011 it starts with “h”. If a card-pair has two hearts, it starts with an “h”. My key is here:

If I need to insert an “h” somewhere else, I can use an image of a hotel (though “hotel” represents a letter for me, not a sound).

I’m not sure exactly how he does it. For me, the purpose is to try to compress as much data into the smallest unit of language possible.

I think Dominic O’Brien recommends first going through digits 00 to 99 and the first images that come to mind (if there are any). 10 could be Tony Blair because of 10 Downing Street (back when the book was written). Then, for any numbers that don’t have obvious associations, the Dominic system can be used to fill in the remainder.

I think you could do that. After enough practice, it doesn’t matter how you come up with the images, because they will come to mind immediately when seeing the number.

I like the idea. It sounds like what people were doing with memory techniques in the Renaissance. Have you read Frances Yates’s The Art of Memory?

I spend a lot of time carefully choosing my mnemonic images, because I think of memory training as a type of brain surgery (only half-jokingly, because we are intentionally changing the physical structure of our brains). I think that the associations we choose to make in our brains influence our perception and thoughts. A lot of our thoughts are unconscious–they just follow well-worn paths. The way I see it is that the memory techniques (systematic associations) are etching new paths in the brain that thoughts can flow along…

Well… I’m a big fan of the major system. There’s this dude, Arthur Bornstein who sells a dictionary of words for the numbers like 0001 through I think 1000. He provides lot’s of alternative versions. Now this is cool if your going to primary use it to remember numbers, but if your going to use your list like a big loci list, then you need to choose one consistent word.

Later on, you might also consider finding a verb word for each of the numbers. That way you can set up your mem as like Subject verb object.

About the last line… this is referring back to PAO. I don’t like the person thing much so I just use OAO instead, but this affords you the benefits of PAO if you go the major route.

Pick one. Go with it. Whichever you pick is the best, if they fill the same function. Regarding how strict you have to be:

I chose some of my persons to be extremely off-system. For example: 58: 5 looks kind of like a lightning, and 8 = H, so Harry Potter. 35: 34 kind of looks like BA and Belgariad is one of my favourite books, so 34 is the main character from that book, and 35 is another character. So far I see no more difficulties remembering these kinds of links than the “perfect” 23 = Bill Clinton links. In fact, Dominic O’Brein even writes in the book I have that you should first assign the numbers that you can directly relate. I get the feeling that the character conversion system is just to be sure to have a way to fill the gaps.

Some advices that I haven’t seen mentioned before:

  1. Just write down a list of the names at first, don’t memorize it. That way it is very easy to change your mind. My rule is: Once I have used it in an actual memorization, I’ll stick to it. (Don’t worry about the reason that you’re effectively making a decision that will stick for the rest of your life. That forever until you die you will associate this number to that person. Forever.)

  2. Choose characters that you really know. The more you have interacted with the characters before, the stronger sense you will get from them, and the easier it is to connect them to whatever weak link you choose. I much rather have a weak link with a strong character than the other way around.

Because of this reason I ended up changing some of my numbers. For example 17, AG: Art Garfunkel: I have only seen photos of him, and his face didn’t really stick in my mind. So instead I changed 17 to Patrick Jane of The Mentalist. 17 is “the most random number” that people will just say if you ask them to give you a random number. It’s the typical kind of mind trick that he would use, although I haven’t seen him use that one specifically yet.

When I came to the point that there were maybe 40-30 names left, I started going from the other side instead: I wrote down a list of names that I would really love to have in there, and then found a way to get them in there.

  1. Maybe not the best for remembering, but: choose people you love to have in your head. I have avoided people that I hate as much as possible, and really tried to fill my list with lovely characters and role models. You’re probably going to spend a lot of time with these imaginary friends dancing around in your head, so might aswell make their stay pleasant for you. My list includes people like Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and just random lovable characters of different shows and books.

  2. Try out the action/object on your most difficult characters: I have pikatchu and King of Hearts in my list, if I can imagine THEM doing the action, it is distinctive enough.

Tl;dr: Don’t worry about the rules, just make any kind of connection that you can find between a number and your favourite characters. The rules are there as a crutch if you have problems doing this. You don’t have to show your list to anyone, so the links can be as stupid as you want them to be, and break any rules you want to, as long as they’re memorable. It really doesn’t matter.

Just quickly relate to my experience for creating a list. I initially looked at Dominic’s system for PAO but as okiol has kind of inferred it is not necessarily required so I decided to just look for connections.
In fact it was good fun just thinking of people and an associated number which mean’t something to me instead of an arbitrary system. Some are really obvious and others less so but creating a meaning for the link I believe at least in the initial stages helps solidify the memory. Obviously they will connect anyway with more practice and you can utilise tools like Anki to imprint the memories.
Some examples on my list…
06 Patrick McGoohan
16 Gary Kasparov, 16 pawns
19 Usain Bolt, 19.19
21 Jack Black, blackjack
22 Sherlock Holmes, 221b Baker Street
24 Jack Bauer
39 Alfred Hitchcock, 39 steps
42 Douglas Adams
46 Valentino Rossi
57 Mr Bean, Heinz baked beans (57 varieties)
Also as per the last post some characters are just too dull so I like to get fun interesting people and even find a place for them if needed, I figured Richard Feynmann should be there so 93, distance from the sun in millions of miles which is related to physics was a good connection for me.