Origin

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How it all started

An email I sent to a friend:

So I couldn't sleep last night. I lay there for hours. About midnight my mind turned to the mechanical design I'm working on and what a pain it is that 2 is a standard divisor when working with physical distance but sucks for base10. Which when divided by 2 gives you 0.5, 0.25, 0.125, 0.0625, 0.03125, And so on.... Yuck.

For an engineer, base16 is much better. 0.8, 0.4, 0.2, 0.1, 0.08, etc... much nicer. Base16 is great for compact representation of binary numbers as well. Great.

The problem is that I don't have an intuitive feel for math in base16. The standard digit symbols are attached to the based 10 decimal system in my head. If I learn to do practical in-my-head base16 math then the base10 crap falls out.

So, no problem, I just select new arbitrary symbols for each base16 digit... But since I'm laying in bed doing this in my head, and since my brain has about 8 short-term memory slots it wasn't working for me. (I considered base8 but it doesn't work as well with computers...)

My mind wandered to base6 and base12 because sometimes it's nice to divide things into thirds... but again, they don't give compact representations of binary numbers.

And then it hit me. Base4. 4 symbols are easy to imagine/learn and if I draw them right, I can smoosh two of them together to get a single base16 digit.

I'm fairly pleased with the result although I haven't used it that much yet... It *is* really easy to remember... The attached PDF shows the base4 symbols (names too) and the base16 symbols which are the base4 symbols stacked vertically and tweaked for easy writing.

So not only am I one of those freaks using the Dvorak keyboard layout... I'm also going to be using a different number base.

You can contact me at the Wellington mental institute...