It occurred to me this morning that the sum total of all the phone numbers I know from memory can be counted on the fingers of two and a half hands:

  1. My mobile.
  2. My husband’s mobile.
  3. Our home number.
  4. My best friend’s home number.
  5. My mother’s home number.
  6. My (2) sisters’ home numbers.
  7. Our oldest friends’ home number.
  8. My in-laws’ home number
  9. Two other friends’ home numbers.
  10. My agent’s office number.
  11. The reception number for my UK publisher.

Whereas the numbers I phone frequently but have failed to memorise could fill the Titanic:

  1. My daughter’s mobile number.
  2. My agent’s mobile.
  3. My editor’s direct line.
  4. The dog walker, my next door neighbour, the doctor.
  5. The close friend whom I phone three or four times a week.
  6. Approximately 28 other friends.
  7. My cleaner, my daughter’s school, my riding teacher.

And lots, lots more, as we used to say in the advertising biz.

My daughter, who seems able to memorise pages and pages of chemistry, physics and irregular verbs, says she knows a mere seven phone numbers by heart.

Which got me to thinking that not much has been written on the statistical shift in phone number retention between 1950 and the present day (scholars take note). Or for a slightly broader topic, the influence of Google on human memory.

I’m no neuroscientist, but it does seem to be a big change from when I was a callow youth back in the early 1960s.

At which time, by the way, my home phone number was DEcator 2-7276.

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8 thoughts on “What’s your number?

  1. Tony 5 years ago

    Well, you whup my ass – I know 3, and I’ve never managed to remember any mobile number. However, I can tell you the name of every English novel that contains the word ‘amphibitronic’.

    1. Meg Rosoff 5 years ago

      Amphibitronic, eh? I’ll never forget that the word infundibuliform is used in Catch-22 but as for my daughter’s form teacher of the last three years? Miss Something or other.

  2. nicola baird 5 years ago

    Meg, I think you know a staggering amount of numbers. I only know my own mobile by heart, and that took days of practice scrawling it with felt tip pen on my arm. I look forward to finding out from other comments that will surely be posted if the modern things we need to know are changing the way we think/learn/react.

  3. cathy cassidy 5 years ago

    I know one… our home number (we have lived here for 18 years…) I don’t know my mum’s number, or any friends, or the mobiles of husband/ son/ daughter. Or even my own. The only other numbers I know by heart are my own date of birth (have to struggle & work out to get my children’s) and my pin number… and that took years.
    Think I am number blind.
    xxx

  4. Lesley Martin 5 years ago

    I know only 3 – my home, own mobile and work numbers. Anything else is stored in my phone memory not my own memory! I believe there is some research showing that people are remembering less and less because it is easier to google it than to remember it.

  5. Lesley Martin 5 years ago

    I know only 3 – my home, own mobile and work numbers. Anything else is stored in my phone memory not my own memory! I believe there is some research showing that people are remembering less and less because it is easier to google it than to remember it.

  6. Meg Rosoff 5 years ago

    I find that strangely reassuring, as I seem able to remember almost nothing at all. I don’t know how I’d survive at all without google.

  7. Sue Hyams 5 years ago

    I’m really impressed. I know six numbers in total. Well, six active numbers, plus the number of the house I grew up in (Radlett 5853), which is now utterly useless. Mobile numbers just escape me. I have no idea what my sister’s mobile number is, nor any of my friends for that matter. Quite worrying, really.

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