Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, March 10, 2021

I’ve often noted that, with the rise of mobile phones as many people’s primary/only phones, no one bothers to commit phone numbers to memory anymore.

I figured the main reason was just due to the number of phone numbers an average person has in an addressbook. It turns out there’s a more fundamental reason:

The human memory is best suited for recording information up to nine digits long, he said, but a phone number and its area code are 10 digits, which exceeds people’s levels of comfortable memorization. “And that has all kinds of consequences,” [technology historian Edward] Tenner said.

I guess that’s what leads to one of my pet peeves: Communicating one’s phone number minus the area code. It’s bad enough when someone tells me their number that way, but what really drives me crazy is when businesses do it on their signs and advertising. But if people really have trouble remembering that many numerals in a row, I suppose it makes sense to chance that they’ll guess on the right area code. (Still seems dumb, though; personally, I have no problem memorybanking the area code along with the number.)

Naturally, outsourcing your memory to your phone or computer means you risk losing those digits if when the device crashes, gets lost, etc. No one backs up anything, so it’s inevitable.

I’m thinking the wireless providers can make some nice extra scratch by offering addressbook-backup services for their customers. They could even get away with making it a monthly charge: The handsets would periodically get pinged, the data on it get synced back to a big central database, and whenever the customer needs to restore or transfer it, it can be done instantly. It’d be an easy sell, and reinforce the notion that you never need to memorize a phone number again.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/10/2021 11:13:36 PM
Category: Tech, Society | Permalink |

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  1. it’s irritating. you’re writing down the number, and get to the seventh digit, waiting for the rest, and the person just stops.

    Comment by tommy — 03/11/2021 @ 09:05:57 AM

  2. I like to use those little word-generator things to create mnemonics for numbers I really want to remember. Some favorites of mine (and these are real)..EGGO (3440), LICK (5425), FLAW (3529) and of course WINK (9465). Amusingly enough, it seems like a lot of times the words these numbers form have some common ground with the people who belong to them.

    Comment by The Belt — 03/12/2021 @ 07:23:29 AM

  3. […] Sunday, May 29, 2021 OUTSOURCING YOUR MEMORIZATION A while back, I noted that the ubiquity of mobile phones and othe […]

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