Image of the glider from the Game of Life by John Conway
Skip to content

The Number Eightyeight

For those who know me, know I use the nickname or alias "eightyeight". I use it on IRC as my main nick I chat with, I use it on the microblogging service, and I use it elsewhere here and there. There are several reasons why I use this nickname, and I'll cover those here, but there is one reason that I do NOT support, yet people think that is my reason for picking it. So, finally getting really fed up with people accusing me of views I don't support, I'm putting up this post. I'll be pasting it to anyone who asks, provokes or is otherwise curious about my choosing "eightyeight" for my online alias. Don't take offense. I'm using this as a teaching moment. If you want to learn more than what I post here, there's a great Wikipedia article on the number 88.

First, the reason I do NOT endorse.

Hitler and Nazism
The letter "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet in many languages, including German. So, substituting the number 8 directly to a letter of the alphabet results in H. 88 substituted results in "HH". Apparently, "HH" is short for "Heil Hitler!" in German. So, people who use the number 88 are associating themselves with the Nazi regime and the cause of Hitler, showing their support. I am NOT one of these people! I do not support Hitler, Nazism, antisemitism or anything related to WWII, the Third Reich, etc. I am not a skinhead, I don't own a Broken Cross, I don't persecute anyone for their religious beliefs, I don't hang out in gangs, and I don't believe the Caucasian "race" is superior to any other. I have nothing to do with this movement, old or new, and people who know me personally, know this is the case. I value life, religious tolerance and racial and social equality. As far as I'm concerned, Adolf Hitler was one of the most, if not the most, immoral and unethical people in the 20th century.

So, if you take one thing out of this, take this: I don't support Hitler, his regime, his values, nor his sadistic, screwed up way of viewing politics.

Now, the main reason why I chose this nickname.

The Piano
For the uninitiated, there are eightyeight keys on a standard piano, and guess what? I play the piano. I formally started at 6 years old, and had formal and informal training on and off from that point to today. During my early teen years, I found a passion for competing in local, regional and statewide competitions, and participated in them frequently. Not only this, but I played the piano for choir as an accompanist, I played the piano for school musicals, I played the piano in band and orchestra when appropriate, and I play the organ now for my church. I have taught lessons, and still play quite frequently, despite my very busy schedule. When I reached about 16 years old, kids in school started calling me "88" or "88 keys". I think this was the result of the Warren Beatty film Dick Tracy that debuted about the same time, and kids who had seen it thought it was an appropriate nickname for me.

Now, not all pianos or keyboards for that matter have eightyeight keys. The Bosendorfer Imperial Grand, a piano that I have yet to play on, has a full 13 octaves, from low C to the high C- an astonishing 97 keys. Organs, while not pianos, have many manuals that can total far more or far less that eightyeight keys. However, it's generally understood that a standard piano has eightyeight keys, starting from the low A and reaching the high C.

There are other reasons why I like this number.

Back to the Future (UPDATE)
88 miles per hour is the magic number for a modified DeLorean car to time travel. Invented by Dr. Emmett Brown and considered "heavy" by Marty McFly, it was a staple of the '80s. As a child of the '80s, I grew up watching the BTTF trilogy films over, and over, and over. I even share the same birthday as Michael J. Fox (June 9). I get a lot of flack for not having this reference in the original post, so seeing as though today is actually October 21, 2015 (Back to the Future Day), I'm adding it. Happy? 🙂

Amateur Radio (UPDATE)
I've been spending a great deal of time studying Morse Code, aka "CW" and received my ham radio license. While talking with Dianora in #hamradio in, it was brought to my attention that I missed another cultural significance of the number 88. This update adds it here. In ham radio, a few number codes are used CW. "73" means "best wishes" when signing off with a QSO (contact), however, "88" is usually given to QSO of the opposite sex, and means "loves and kisses". "88" is used not only with CW, but spoken verbally and digitally (RTTY, packet radio, etc.). It's said that these number codes, 73 and 88 both, are at least a century old in amateur radio.

Asian culture
The word eight implies wealth in Mandarin Chinese, and as a result, symbolizes good luck and fortune. This is quite the drastic difference from neo-nazi culture. In fact, the Asian culture have deep roots in the luck and wealth that the number 8 brings. Many prices in markets, stores and other places will be littered with eights. A price of fruit, for example, might be $1.88 or 88 cents. Further, the Beijing Olympics started on August 8, 2008 (8/8/08) at 8:00pm. Coincidence? I can say as well that 8 has been a lucky number for me, although not necessarily 88.

Aside from playing the piano, I'm also a Mathematician and Computer Scientist. There are some interesting qualities of the number 88 in mathematics. Some of which are listed below:

I have always enjoyed palindromes. I don't know why, but when I first learned about them in elementary school, I would sit at my desk, and think up as many palindromes as I could. "NOON", "MOM", "DAD", and "TENET" were some of the words I came up with at that age. Then, of course, I would do the same with palindromic numbers as well. 88 was especially cool, because I could write in in the fancy "S" where you drew two rows of three lines, and connected them with diagonals. Remember that? Of course you do. You thought it was cool then too.

Primitive Semiperfect
A semiperfect number in mathematics is where all or some of the factors of the number sum up to the number itself. For example, the factors of the number 6 are 1, 2, 3 and 6. Adding those factors results in 6. Another semiperfect number is 20, where its factors are 1, 2, 4, 5, 10 and 20. 10+5+4+1=20. 88 is semiperfect. Its factors are 1, 2, 4, 8, 11, 22, 44 and 88. 44+22+11+8+2+1=88.

So, what is a primitive semiperfect number? This is a number where it is not divisible by any other smaller semiperfect number. Knowing the factors of 88, you can see this is the case, as the smaller semiperfect numbers in sequential order are: 6, 12, 18, 20, 24, 28, 30, 36, 40, 42, 48, 54, 56, 60, 66, 72, 78, 80 and 84, none of which are a factor of 88. As a result, 88 is primitive semiperfect.

A refactorable number is an integer where the count of its factors is divisible by that integer. For example, 9 is refactorable. It's factors are 1,3 and 9. There are three factors, and three itself is a factor of 9. Another refactorable number is 40. Its factors are 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20 and 40. There are 8 factors of 40, including 40 itself, and 8 is a factor of 40. There are also 8 factors of 88, and guess what? 8 is a factor of 88. 88 is refactorable.

An untouchable number is a positive number that cannot be written as the sum of all the divisors of any other number excluding its greatest factor. For example, the number 4 is not untouchable, because the factors of 9 are 1 and 3 (excluding 9 itself), which sum to 4. 5 however is untouchable, as there is no number where all of the factors add strictly to 5. 88 falls in this category.

Many numbers can be thought of shapes using dots or pebbles arranged in the shape of a polygon. For example, the number 6 is triangular, as six pebbles can be arranged to form an equilateral triangle. 10 is the next triangular number. 9 on the other hand is rectangular, arranging the pebbles in a square. What is hexadecagon? It's a 16-sided polygon with 16 vertices. So, this means 88 pebbles can be arranged into an equilateral hexadecagon.

I hope you can see that there are many interesting facts about the number 88, including Nazism. 88 has cultural significance in many cultures, of which I only mention two. It has many interesting mathematical properties, and even has astronomical significance. For example, it takes eightyeight days for Mercury to complete its orbit around the Sun. So, now that you've read this post, I hope you walk away a bit more informed, a bit more knowledgeable, and less judgmental. 88 is a great number, and I can recognize it for its unique and interesting qualities. Can you?

{ 15 } Comments

  1. Anonymous | February 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    s/skinhead/bonehead/ - they are completely different.

  2. Rusty | February 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    While it may not have a lot to do with your reasons for choosing 88, it is also the number that Ham operators use as the term Goodby in a variety of communications. This is different from 73 which is used more often, but really means Best Wishes, or Best Regards.

    73 de KC0VCU

  3. DAvid | February 1, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    HH stands for Heil Hitler? I thought it stood for Hoary Hedgehog...

  4. ethana2 | February 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    You know what I always just assumed it stood for?


    I'm slightly dissapointed.

  5. ethana2 | February 1, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Uh oh, Google Chrome isn't identifying ubuntu in my useragent 🙁 Somebody get it into the software center so all us Chrome users aren't being ambiguous with our platforms..

  6. sjansen | February 2, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    "For the uncultured, there are eightyeight keys on a standard piano, and guess what? I play the piano."

    For the inconsiderate, knowing trivia like the number of keys on a piano is a strange way to measure how "cultured" someone is. Perhaps it takes one to know one, but you're acting like a jerk, insulting everyone who hasn't memorized said trivia.

  7. nnonix | February 2, 2010 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    We've failed the cultured test, unlike these fine gentlemen.

  8. Fabian | February 2, 2010 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    "For the uncultured, there are eightyeight keys on a standard piano, and guess what? "

    Oh, yes, please go on...

    "So, now that you’ve read this post, I hope you walk away a bit more cultured, a bit more knowledgeable, and less judgmental. "

    Thank you so much for enlightening me.

  9. Aaron | February 2, 2010 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    @ethana2 Yeah, I thought about that and the flux capacitor when writing the post. Figured it wasn't fitting enough to add. Also, I'm not sure why it's not showing the platform. Rather unfortunate.

    @Fabian You're welcome.

  10. Aaron | February 2, 2010 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Rather than argue for the sake of argument, which I know will abound here in the comments, and probably elsewhere in my online life, I've updated the post. I've replaced "uncultured" with "uninitiated" and "cultured" with "informed".

  11. chuck | February 2, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    So your use of 88 is nothing to do with your favorite Nascar driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr?

  12. Mackenzie | February 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink


    Because SHARPs (SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice) *do* exist. And trad(itional) skins (the kind that were around before the stupid white-power skinheads happened... trads were early football hooligans). But bonehead very specifically means the white-power type of skinhead. Ok, really... it's the insulting name for a white-power skinhead--the name SHARPs use to refer to them.

  13. Aaron | February 3, 2010 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    @chuck Nascar? Gee Cletus, how did you knew? Besides, isn't he just the number 8?

  14. Aaron | February 3, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    @Mackenzie @Anonymous when i was in school, they were "skinheads", and they were the white power pride morons. Of course, we had the term "boneheads" as well, but it referred to people who weren't very intelligent.

  15. Phil | April 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I've also heard of 88 being used to mean "bye-bye" since the Mandarin word for 8 sounds a bit like "bai".

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.