The Mnemisis Manual

A Hefty Substitute For A Sed Script

Revision History
Revision 1.5April 1, 2003
The Hobbes release. Large update due mostly to major source restructuring. Added graphics to table section, clearing up whole issue immensely. WARNING - this release includes such things as: attempts to use the <blink> tag, swearing, links to porn sites, and nested parentheses not in the context of source code, which may not be suitable for some weevils large enough to work a mouse, stoats which eat mice, and warblers which may inadvertantly look through a window while you are reading this.


His [S.] was a mind which operated through vision -- and in this sense only could it be termed "speculative."...

 A.R. Luria, The Mind of a Mnemonist


Before there were PDAs, people used to have to remember things. Sometimes these things were numbers, like phone numbers or social security numbers or other people's credit card numbers. Sometimes you would meet someone that could remember a lot of these numbers. That person, if not eidetic in some way, quite possibly used a mnemonic not unlike the one that Mnemisis is meant to teach.

Mnemisis uses a mnemonic system dating back at least three hundred years to Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein's idea of using phonemes to translate numbers into words. These words, it's hoped, will be easier to remember than 20-odd digits. By taking a dictionary that you supply, Mnemisis will construct a lookup table that you can then use for your own mnemonics.

Some background can be found here.

It's not as drab as it sounds... Imagine being able to punch some numbers into your computer and getting a text string you can then carry with you to decode on the fly when you need it. Mnemisis takes the difficult part of this mnemonic system and chops it down to size. All you have to do is translate a stream of words into their phonemes, and from there into their numeric equivalent.

And what better way to spend all available free time than dorking with numbers, memorizing things... Three little sayings, "Hum dirtily, banjo lamely, fib wacky. Opium, enemy of oration. A showroom movie maniac, happy always." give you, with a bit of decoding, Pi to 31 digits. Won't that be a nice little pebble to keep in your pocket? Won't it? It will.

Enter the dragon! Please wipe your feet.


If you do not have a word list dictionary on your system (which is required to get Mnemisis to work), you'll find a walkthrough for getting one for use with Mnemisis here. If you don't have grep on your system, but have a grep workalike, see here for information on making Mnemisis aware of the situation.

Initial Roadmap, as well as other Ramblings

Right out of the box (almost - you need to compile it first...), Mnemisis can only translate letters into numbers. This is because it doesn't come packaged with a phonetic dictionary, but rather, a huge list of inscrutable almost-standard regular expressions (the Phoneme_Table file). As we'll see, this allows for some marginally cool flexibility.

In order to get those number-to-word translations working, you'll need to package a flat-text word list into a bundle file (this is covered in the quick start, next). This is just your ordinary word list with the phonetic equivalent for each word shimmed in in front of it. Now you're ready to rock. Mnemisis has the magic ability to turn numbers back into words, which is really the whole point of the major system. Eventually, you should be able to do the word-to-number translations in your head. I do. And believe me, if I can...

Now, as to that flexibility I spoke of earlier...

Mnemisis also comes packaged with a crude Genetic Algorithm (capitalized because it's Scientific and Important) so that you can roll your own Phoneme_Table. This is nifty because (or in spite of):

  1. You can dump the major system and forge into bold new mnemonic territory with your own translation table.

  2. You can experience all the crazy enthusiasm of watching a population of Phoneme_Tables fight amongst themselves - kind of like a digital Zardoz, but without Sean Connery.

Enough of the claptrap! Onward! To a more practical mode of claptrappery!