Off-topic: Magic Number 7 (WAS: Re: XML Editors - Word 2000??)

Eric Bohlman ebohlman at
Fri Jul 2 16:10:29 BST 1999

On Fri, 2 Jul 1999, John E. Simpson wrote:

> Couldn't find any mention of AT&T or Bell Labs (or for that matter, any
> occurrences of the string "phone" except in "phoneme") in the HTML version
> of the paper that Dan pointed to. That I heard of this 7-more-or-less
> theory as "belonging to" AT&T about 20 years after Miller's paper was
> published possibly reflects the embrace-and-extend philosophy: "Not
> invented here... but if it's useful, we can say it was!"

Note, BTW, that the "7 items" theory refers to the limits of *working
memory* only.  In particular, it is completely irrelevant to tasks
involving picking a single item from a displayed list; such tasks require
only *one* item to be held in working memory, regardless of how long the
list is.

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