Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Story - Chapter 02 "I Know Kung-Fu"

For nearly a year, Supermemo remained strictly a Japanese learning tool. From time to time I would insert non-Japanese material.

Then came an intense training course for my job. For two weeks I attended a class during the day, and studied for the next day of class during the evening. I went to sleep, woke up the next day, did Supermemo (Only required 15 minutes or so), and went to class. After the first day of class, I thought to myself "This information is very valuable, and I'm spending a great deal of time learning it; I should at least TRY to use Supermemo to remember this stuff." For the remainder of those two weeks, after attending class, I would look over my course book and type out any relevant information that was discussed in class into a text document. At the conclusion of the class, I had about 200 good, solid statements that would be beneficial to commit to memory.

Over the next several months, I put these things into Supermemo, and I recalled them with as much ease as I did Japanese vocabulary. If I had trouble recalling them, the reason was likely that I structured the flashcard in an incorrect way. While on the job, I was talking with someone that attended the same class. I asked, "Do you remember such-and-such point?" My co-worker said "No, was that in the class?" This same thing happened with a number of others that attended the class; clearly it wasn't a fluke. What was the reason? We all went to the same class, experienced the same things, took notes over the same things, yet I seemed to be one of the only ones that could recall them all with such clarity. Was it because I was smarter or more talented? No, I was much younger and I'm just as prone to forget things as anybody else. I concluded that it was only because of Supermemo that I could recall this information.

The true value of this tool began to dawn on me. Not only could it be used to recall foreign-language words with ease, but it seemed that I could implant ANY thought or concept into my head, and (In theory) such things would be FOREVER at my disposal. It was like being a character in a computer game, and being granted access to the programmer's code. I suddenly realized the GREAT deal of potential control I had over my rational thought processes.

"The rules of the game had officially changed."


  1. Question worth answering would be if any participants of this course did anything to remember/strengthen gained knowledge. You should compare SuperMemo to other methods of learning.
    My point is that any method of learning is tenfold better than doing nothing

  2. Yes, that is a very good point; the other participants did indeed try to review their notes periodically, but their doing this seemed to mirror my use of physical flashcards. I had good intentions, but because there were other things that I wanted to do and learn, in the end review was very much hit-and-miss, only a few frequently used pieces of information were retained, and my overall retention was low.

    While using Supermemo, on the other hand, was a simple matter of daily review; as long as I completed my daily allotment of cards, committing new thoughts to memory required only making another flashcard (Which would only be reviewed a small number of times in my lifetime).

    I guess the point is to show that near-perfect retention required very little effort on my part. I had no intention of proving that I could retain information better than my coworkers, but it was at this particular moment that I noticed a pattern emerge: No matter how old the information was, everything I've learned and retained using Supermemo feels just as fresh as the day I learned it. This feeling is hard to describe, and the only contrast I can see is when others have learned the same information but fail to retain it.

  3. Hi LittleFish, Happy New Year!

    I really glad that you started your story, and it's pretty fascinating. This is good stuff.

    I have a question about incremental reading, I've started just downloading books (Ben Franklins Autobiography, How To Win Friends and Influence People, Walden, and some texts from the Supermemo website) and going through them from the beginning, inputing them into Surusu as I go. Khatsu (from AJATT) recommends a swiss-cheesing method of reading, which I have only tried with Japanese. Basically my question is: do you do you swiss-cheese, or do you go from start to finish?

  4. I'm making a post out of my response to DJ's comment. You'll see it shortly.

  5. Hi LittleFish,

    Thank you for making this blog available. I am about to embark on the Supermemo journey as well, but want to make sure I get the right one.

    There are a half dozen versions of Supermemo available on various hardware platforms and they're not all the same thing. For example, I've read that the Palm, Pocket PC, and iPhone versions only run a stripped down version of the SM11 algorithm and omit some features in the user interface. Then there's the web based which appears to be a completely different product altogether. I'm left with the impession that best version to use is the $50 PC version which runs the full SM11 algorithm, but I'm not sure. It would be extremely helpful if you could post a brief article that sorts all of this out and describes the pros and cons of each version, which versions you've used in the past, what your impressions were, as well as what version(s) you currently use now.


  6. Thank you for the response.

    When I first started using Supermemo, I used the 2002 version (Because I could find a torrent of it, I couldn't find one for 2004). I stopped using it a couple of times, but eventually I stuck with it. After a couple weeks of solid use, I realized that it wasn't a small diversion that I would quickly get rid of, this was truly worth the money.

    I have used Supermemo 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. The only big feature I use regularly is Incremental Reading, but even Supermemo 2002 has Incremental Reading. Most of the changes are small tweaks and features that I either do not use or do not recognize right away (Under-the-hood changes). The main reason I keep upgrading is because I am very confident that if the author of Supermemo himself is choosing to use the new version, it's good enough for me. Even if I don't understand all of the changes that come with the next version, such changes are probably for the better and will help me learn more material faster in the long run.

    Also, Supermemo is something I feel most certainly deserves support and funding, so even though upgrading is a possibility ($20), I purchase the $50 standalone version (I also wish to install the newest version of Supermemo on backup machines. This makes that process easier).

    If I were you, I would download the trial version of 2004 or 2006 and use it for a while (Maybe even buy one of the older versions if the trial period is up and you are still using it). Once you have used that version for a long time (Long enough to KNOW you will keep using it in the future), then upgrade to 2008 (Supermemo 2010 will be released sometime in 2011; Supermemo 2008 was released in 2009, Supermemo 2006 was released in 2007, etc.).

    Which version you use isn't as important as how regularly are you using it. Once you know you will use it regularly, feel free to buy the more expensive models. You get (Most likely) a better a product and you help support the cause.