Memorizing in Base-64
This morning, I was confronted with an entirely new and unanticipated memorization challenge. A certain software product came with a preassigned password. "Well, that’s no problem," I thought, "we mastered that back in How To Remember Passwords Forever." But, the password came to me in base 64, also known as Radix-64. This is an encoding for numbers in common use in the Internet (see here), so you are likely someday to have the need to deal with codes like this. Well, the password I needed to memorize was (similar to) this:
I’m sure you’ve seen critters like this, but what to do? Phantasmagorias (chains) are the right approach, but we only have mental picture-words for the numbers from 0 to 99, not for lower-case and upper-case letters. Or do we?
Suppose we took the standard MIME base-64 alphabet and mapped it to our permanent pegs for 0-63 (and include 64 for the mandatory padding character, "="). We’d have it then, wouldn’t we? Here we go. The standard base-64 alphabet maps the upper-case letters to the numbers 0-25, then the lower-case characters to the numbers from 26-51, then the standard digits to the numbers 52-61, and finally "+" to the number 62, "/" to 63, and "=" to 64. The numbers for each base-64 digit in the password we need to remember are easy to calculate in our heads (don’t need to write anything down, isn’t this great?)
i is the 9th letter of the alphabet, so it maps to the number 25+9 = 34 and the picture word (peg) MARE
g is the 7the letter, so it maps to 25+7 = 32, thus MAN
6 maps to 52+6 = 58, thus LEAF
T is the 20th letter of the alphabet, so maps to 20-1 (the capital-letter encoding starts at zero!), thus to 19 or TAP
2 maps to 52+2 = 54 = LAIR
A maps to 0 thus SAW
M, 13th letter, maps to 13-1 = 12 thus TAN
s, 19th letter, maps to 25+19, thus 44 and REAR
We have the starting place, the pegs MARE, MAN, LEAF, TAP, LAIR, SAW, TAN, REAR and can start to build a phantasmagoria (and we can shift to other mental picture words with the same consonant structures any time in here, because this is chain memory, not peg memory – see last time)
imagine a MARE (34=i) standing before the computer, trying to remember the password, but she’s just an animal. SuperMAN (32=g) flies in for the rescue, but the mare LEAVES (58="6") because the whole situation is over her head. Superman TAPS (19=T) on the keyboard for a while, and he keeps getting popups trying to LURE (54="2") him into bad web sites. He sees some things he wish he never SAW (0=A), clicks something and a loud TONE (12=M) comes out of the speakers, ROARING (44=s) so loud that everyone nearby turns to look, embarrassing him.
Strong emotion, absurd situation, easy mapping. Job done 🙂 Tomorrow at the office I will remember this password without having to write anything down or store it in an email or anywhere else but my own little GPU.