UX,

There I was, scratching my head and trying to remember where amongst the 500,000+ work files I might have decided to store the example on microphone access I made four years ago. You might think, being a reasonably sensible chappy, that I would have called it something like microphoneAS3Example.fla … nope, no such luck, knowing me it was far more likely to be called rabbit_ears_demo or something equally unusable as far as searches are concerned. Of course I tried it, in the vain hope of success, using the ridiculously slow windows search engine across three drives and … nope, nothing there. After some rather fruitless random directory poking, still nothing. Well, on the positive side it wasn’t that complex so repeating it from first principles wouldn’t be too hard. I just wished I could have that hour and half back that was wasted looking in the first place.

At this point I sat back and started musing. Wine always helps me muse, or beer. Alcohol in general is a great musing tool in my arsenal.

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my memory. Nope, could still do Pi to 24 places, no problems with phone numbers or dates. So why couldn’t I remember where that stupid file was? I started looking up memory using Google and it’s quite interesting stuff, all about long term and short term and how we transfer items between the two – sleep is the general method or emotional trauma. (+ve as well as -ve)

If you need to artificially create a hard index then manufacture a traumatic connection yourself. For example I have a terrible memory for names of people I only meet briefly [thank God for name badges] but if I need to, I just create a visual or alpha numeric index key. My neighbours on one side are Sue and Rob, Yvette on the other, which took quite a lot of digging through past Xmas cards to rediscover. I then just created a simple connection of someone suing an e-vet was the same as robbing them after their tamagotchi died and there I have Sue, Rob and e-vet and all I have to think of is that I live next door to tamagotchi.

It doesn’t have to be semantic, a funny/sad image is as good a method as any – A colleague of mine is called Eitan and, being from where he is, has quite a nice tan all year around, one might almost say an A+tan.

Or sometimes we create blocks in our subconscious against remembering certain items, I always had a problem remembering that Mark Twain was really Samuel Clemens. So a simple image of Hamlet being told “Thou hast cleft my heart in twain” whilst holding up a large clementine. And that was that. All I needed to do when the block occurred was think of the silly image and I get “clementine, twain” and the rest I can still manage.

The other aspect of memory is that it does bear a remarkable resemblance in action to the Windows search indexer (slow and annoying – but it keeps chugging away) and just letting it work on its own for a while will usually work, you just need to stop thinking about the search term so much, look at a tree or something and let the engine work for you in the background.

All of which was interesting but it didn’t get me my file. My memory, I mused, was much like a new shiny library. While we are young we keep adding in new books of experience, sort and stack them neatly and then at some point it starts looking cramped and we might have a

larson-memory

few books stolen. As we get older and it starts filling up more and more it is at this point that someone decides to steal the bloody index. So, be warned.

There is a point to all of this and it’s something that I wish I had taken to heart when I was younger, but is never too late to start. Take the time to re-index your library and back it up, especially the electronic type. Spend a day every 6 months just going through the many thousands of files we accumulate and place them in a structure which will facilitate finding them 1,2,5 years from now. It doesn’t take long, 2 days a year max, but it WILL SAVE YOU TIME.

Just another aside. If, like me, you have now switched off your Windows search indexer there is a lovely free programme called Everything from http://www.voidtools.com/ which indexes your entire hard drive in seconds and provides instant results.