Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Authors Invented A System For Taking Notes In The Dark?

George Orwell
Stephen King
H.G. Wells
Lewis Carroll
A reconstruction of a nyctograph with a five euro cent coin for size comparison.
Noah Slater/Wikimedia

Answer: Lewis Carroll

Although best known for his iconic works centered on Wonderland, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll was quite a Renaissance man with a number of inventions under his belt, nearly a dozen books written on the subjects of mathematics and logic, and a keen eye for photography.

Among his inventions, perhaps the most curious is a night time writing device he created in order to pen down his thoughts without the effort of lighting a lamp and getting out of bed. The device, known as a nyctograph, was a grid of sixteen squares arranged in an 8×2 format. The note taker would use the grid and a knowledge of the companion symbol system to take notes in total darkness as each symbol relied on a series of lines and dots that could be written down solely by using the edges of each square as a guide.

For those of you that recall the early days of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), you might find Carroll’s system a bit reminiscent of the Graffiti script system that appeared on early Palm devices to assist the user in transcribing notes via the relatively primitive touch interface.

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