The fascinating story of the Major System
I’d like to treat you now to a fascinating tale of how, after months and years of selfless struggle and study, I came up with what I like to call The Major System. And how I was universally acclaimed and eventually rewarded with a specially introduced Nobel Prize for Memory Enhancement Systems, together with a cash prize in excess of one million pounds.
Oh yes indeed, I’d like to, I really would. But I won’t. Because the Major System, wonderful though it is, was not of my making. 🙂 It was in fact devised by a French mathematician by the name of Pierre Hérigone, who lived from 1580 to 1643.
Well, that was the original system, but it was further developed by Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein (he probably needed a memory system to remember how to spell his name!), and still later by others. I could go on listing various developments in the history of this amazing bit of memory kit, but it would add nothing to what I’m going to explain. The only really important fact is that this represents a great advance in memory systems, and is still widely used today by many who aspire to be memory champions.
The Major System, the Swiss Army knife of Memory
The Major System is undoubtedly a powerful addition to anybody’s memory toolbox. I looked into it years ago and used it for a while, but for some reason eventually decided it wasn’t really for me. It didn’t seem to suit me somehow. Maybe I found it difficult or awkward to use, I can’t even remember exactly. I probably just confused myself by chopping and changing bits of it, when I should have been content to leave well alone.
Anyway, for whatever reason, I stopped using it and favoured other memory techniques instead. Over time the impression somehow built up in my mind that the Major System was a really complicated and obscure method, best suited to memory ‘experts’, and best left alone by the majority of people who just wanted some to see some memory improvement.
Recently, I took a fresh look at the system, mainly so that I could write about it with more accuracy and authority. I was surprised to learn (or maybe that should be re-learn!) that it isn’t particularly complicated or obscure at all! In fact, it’s a brilliantly designed memory system, and one that can add massively to a person’s memory capabilities with a minimum of effort.
Represent numbers by sounds
In essence, the Major System is a method of translating numbers into sounds. Once you’ve mastered the basics of the system, you can apply it, making it possible to remember a long number, for example, by transposing sounds for numbers and forming words, which in turn become mental images.
I’m sure you’ll agree it would be easier to remember ‘cat man’ (which might show up in your mind as a man in a fancy dress cat outfit, or maybe some other weird image) than the number 7132. Well, maybe not, since it’s such a small number.
How about 724603861? Maybe it would be easier to recall this phrase: “canary issues mafia widget?”. Even if you can’t immediately come up with a mental image for a canary issuing a mafia widget (admittedly, a bit challenging!), the phrase itself is easy enough to commit to memory. Say it three or four times and you’ve got it! If that nine-digit number was important to remember, I know which route I’d prefer to go.
On second thought, you could use a different phrase … “Connery shows movie jet” … and you could visualise Sean Connery acting as projectionist on an aircraft, showing one of his old James Bond movies to entertain the passengers. That’s better, a phrase that more readily translates into an image. The thing is, you see, you can make up anything at all, just as long as you stick to the translation ‘rules’.
Memorise numbers with the Major System
Numbers are hard to remember, it’s just a sad fact of life. There seems to be nothing to make them memorable. Four or five digit numbers aren’t too bad, six or seven are just about at the limit of comfortable handling, and a string of anything over ten is a nightmare.
The genius of the Major System is that instead of remembering numbers, all you have to do is remember the sounds associated with them. And these sounds are easily joined together to make words. You can use a bank of 100 words that represent all the two-digit numbers from 00 to 99, and in many situations that will be enough. But you can also link sounds together to make longer words – as long as you want – and this can make for an amazing degree of flexibility and variation.
Learn the basics of the Major System and get started converting numbers into easily memorised words
Move on to learning the Major System peg words, that will enable you to master the system
Learn how to use the Major System as a Mental Notebook
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