Chess and Memory
By Gerry.
Published: February 13, 2016
Updated: March 18, 2016

I have just finished a game of chess.

I won! I should explain I was not playing another person; I was playing the computer. The instructions first asked the intended player to select a difficulty level between one and six. One being very easy and six being Grand Master level. I was of course on level number one. I have played chess before, but I had forgotten most of the rules. I was amazed at how clever the computer was. To be expected, at this basic level, it is anticipating my moves lightning quick, with not much thinking time, but I still have to work very hard to beat the beast.

(I went into my computer room yesterday and spent ten minutes looking for my glasses, before I realised I already had them on.)

Our brains can be compared to a computer.

Think of the brain as a computer storage device, when the drive is full something has to be erased before anything else can be added. Our brains are the same: they have a limited capacity – when that capacity is reached something has to be erased. We have no control over this, and it is always recent stuff, very rarely old stuff which we forget.

(I can remember pre 1940 events from my childhood, but some days cannot remember what day it was yesterday.)

There is nothing to be done about this; unfortunately, we were not meant to live more than seventy years. Our brains just haven’t got the capacity to handle the extra years efficiently. It wasn’t always thus – for me anyway. We go through life cramming info into our brain at an alarming rate and never even consider that it will ever say ‘enough, I am full’.

(Just before bedtime I always let my little West Highland Terrier out for his last sniff round the garden. When he is back in and tucked up in his bed, I check that the door is locked and the mains switches are off about five times. My instant memory is clearly not functioning at all.)

When I first started my lifetime of work in the electronics profession there was no television coverage in Yorkshire. The nearest transmitter was at Sutton Coalfield, in Birmingham. The year was 1951, so it would be true to say that I was in it right from the start. I worked and studied my way through the start of Television in Yorkshire, the early days of sound recording devices, the development of stereo broadcasting, and then Colour television. During this period, I was two years adrift serving in the Royal Air Force working on aircraft electronics. In the early days, all equipment had discrete components, no integrated circuits or printed circuit boards. All amplification was done with thermionic emission devices ‘Valves – Tubes’. All televisions, radios, and amplifiers were full of ‘resistors, condensers, coils and wires’. No board changing in those days. For the last thirty years of my working life I worked in Medical Electronics. In the early seventies solid state devices were still in their infancy and much medical equipment still operated with the old systems, very primitive by today’s standards.

(I sometimes look at words that I have used thousands of times, and cannot tell if they are spelled correctly or not; they just don’t appear to be right. I am usually correct but always have to check. I used to be quite eloquent in my speech, able to throw in the occasional decent word; how frustrating it is to search for that word now and find it will not come; well, it does eventually, but usually too late.)

Please don’t think that this problem is a loss of intelligence.  How often do we hear the expression “the silly old fool – or fools.” The irony usually is that the people uttering these phrases are usually quite thick, and have no comprehension of the situation. I am not suggesting for a minute that I was anywhere near the top of the list when brains were given out, far from it. However, I am fairly computer literate, and can just about manage online banking. In the past I have composed and played my own compositions, and I wrote the wedding march for my daughter’s wedding. I have lost this ability completely now – but thank goodness I still have recordings. I have had short stories and poetry published in anthologies, and have two books published. My first novel is just about ready for publication. I tell you this because I don’t, thankfully, seem to have lost totally, my ability, such as it was, to write.

Did I punctuate that correctly?

(I have forgotten what I was going to write here!...But I sometimes go into a room and completely forget why I am there and have to leave. I sometimes try to put my spare pair of glasses on – when I already have some glasses on. I frequently set my video recorder to capture selected programmes for future viewing only to realise when in bed that I have turned all the power points off before leaving the room, just minutes after setting the recorder.)

What was I talking about? Oh yes, I remember, chess. I am going to stick with it and hope that I can progress maybe to at least level two and hopefully retain a few details. I am also hoping that the bits of memory that I keep losing and probably will keep losing at a greater rate, will not be too obvious to others. You may be wondering what prompted me to write this. Well, I have now surpassed that ‘three score years and ten’ by ten years. (Just maybe the evolutionary process has dealt us the best hand that it could – under the circumstances.) You may have to think about that one...

PS. I have remembered what it was I was going to write above. It was - ‘I sometimes forget what I am going to write’.

An octogenarian.