Who ate all the pi?

"Memory Man" Tom Morton (of Wood Street, St Annes) on his way to learning all the hotels in the country! (Has launched hotel website).
"Memory Man" Tom Morton (of Wood Street, St Annes) on his way to learning all the hotels in the country! (Has launched hotel website).
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Forget booking.com-style bigwigs of the global hotel world. Instead, bang those tom toms of the drum and satnav variety for onemillionrooms.com – hailed the “next big thing” by the St Annes man who has founded it, Tom Morton.

If Tom’s name rings a bell it could be because he was the last big thing on the memory man market, an entertainer and taxi driver, who stormed our telly screens with amazing feats of memory, reeling off entire phone directories and pretty much anything involving numbers.

Esther Rantzen put him to the test on primetime TV, and back in the late 90s, he was seldom off the box or the radio.

Now he’s on his way to learning all the hotels in the country, for his own national directory (online and in his own memory) of every UK hotel and bed and breakfast. He not only wants to list them all, but be on call for others who want to put his memory of what they have to offer to the test.

It’s early days yet, which could be why he flunks our test – to give me the contact details for two leading seafront hotels. “They’re not on my website or in my memory bank yet,” he counters. A dry run, via a trial website, hoteltom.com, has already established demand.

Back in the 90s, his number was up when he flunked three or four (neither of us can quite remember...) attempts to enter the Guinness Book of Records by remembering and reciting the mathematical number, pi, to more than 20,000 decimal places.

For those who like to memorise numbers, pi is the big one, the ultimate test, in Tom’s case the challenge forced him to eat humble pi.

Tom’s first valiant attempt failed after three hours and more than 12,000 numbers, because one number was written incorrectly on cue cards he used as a memory aid. The small slip cost him the challenge.

“It was extremely frustrating,” he admits.

His second bid, which involved reciting the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter to 20,014 decimal places crashed, after a further three hours, because he was too exhausted to go on.

For the third trial, he lost his drift at number 15,220, again several hours into the challenge to Hiroyuki Goto of Japan’s world record of 42,195.

Gotcha, Goto? No. And, for the record, a quick glance at the Pi World Ranking list reveals that the current world record is held by Chao Lu of China, who recited 67,890 decimal places on 20 November 2005, although an unofficial world record was set the same year by Akira Haraguchi, a 60-year-old from Japan, who is said to have recited pi from memory to 83,431 decimal places, and to 100,000 decimal places five years ago. Tom is rated at number 11. “You don’t make money at number 11,” he admits.

For those of us who forget what we ate for breakfast, or where we parked the car when we go shopping, or what our email passwords are, the good news is Tom, of Wood Street, does much the same. “Numbers are my thing,” he admits, “but it’s a curse rather than a blessing.”

Not that it stops him forgetting his cash point PIN number too, from time to time. “I’m only human. You remember what you want to remember. You don’t always remember what you need to remember!”

Tom has Asperger’s Syndrome, sometimes dubbed Little Genius Syndrome, a form of autism, which is believed to have driven, and powered, the intellects of some of the greatest thinkers of all times – Einstein for one.

“It’s a fixation, and it can be tedious and time consuming,” says Tom. “For a while I couldn’t move on with it – it was psychological.” Having worked as an after dinner speaker, and memory trainer, he’s turned that talent to a different direction, hence onemillionrooms.com. Tom’s already got 2,000 registered with his trial site, hoteltom.com, and aims for at least 80,000 but says “a million has a nice ring to it...” How many to go? No-one’s counting.

Tom will deploy his selling point and promote the business by reciting chapter and verse on each hotel, telephone numbers and all.

If someone can get a cuddly CGI meerkat to market an insurance comparison website, why not an Irish memory man, with an IQ of 145, to promote Britain’s hotels?

Tom styles himself a human “search engine” and reckons he’s more than a match for a computer, in the right frame of mind...

Tom concludes: “The name onemillionrooms.com is now registered, and will go local later this month and viral via You Tube and the like. I’ve got 2,000 hotels already involved via the first site I trialled: hoteltom.com. I’m memorising their details and also marketing the platform of a competitive hotel directory.

“Blackpool is my bread and butter start-up. No better place to start...”