What's your number?

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.