Introduction, or What on Earth is a Tachistoscope?

(select a file then press SPACE to start reading)

A tachistoscope is a device for displaying an image or a series of images very quickly. Although originally designed by the US Air Force to help train pilots to recognise enemy aircraft, tachistoscopes were later used in early attempts to train people to speed read. By quickly viewing a series of words, the brain is conditioned to recognise words very rapidly, and because successive words are displayed in the same place the eyes do not have to move and refocus, saving even more time.

That is the theory anyway. On this page you will find a Java applet that you can try it for yourself. Personally, I have some reservations, but several people have emailed me to say they are using this page with some success.

Using the Applet

Firstly, make sure you are running the latest Sun JVM, you can get it from www.java.com. If you can't get the applet to work, then double check the Java is properly installed.

You may get a dialog box asking if you trust the applet. You can choose not to trust the applet (would I lie to you?) and it will still work, you just won't be able to read any local files from your computer. I have provided a small set of out-of-copyright poems, reading these does not require you to trust the applet.

Click the button at the top of the page. Select a file using one of the menus under the File menu (you can read a text file on your local machine if you trust the applet).

Press SPACE to start reading. The arrow keys control the speed and size of the text, there are other options under the File->Preferences menu that you may like to play with.

Using the JAR File

If you want to use WordUp without having to visit this web page, you can download the JAR file to your local computer. Its easy, right-click on this link and select Save link as.... If you have correctly installed the JVM you will be able to double-click on the WordUp.jar file to start the application. Using WordUp this way lets you read files from your local disk drive, or from any web site. A good place to download longer texts is from Project Gutenberg.

WordUp in the Press

I was recently asked to comment on a cell phone tachistoscope product for an article on the Technology Review website , apparently I am now some sort of authority on the subject! I have never been quoted by the press before, I wrote a copuple of blog entries about the process and some of my other thoughts about teachistoscopes in general: Tachistoscopes Take Off, written before the article came out, and My Opinion is More Important than Yours on the article itself after it was published.

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