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Why Are the Numbers on a Dartboard Where They Are?

Date: 03/09/2004 at 01:58:42
From: Ed
Subject: Seemingly random dart board numbering system

The way that the numbers 1 to 20 are arranged on a standard dart board
seems to be random, but apparently this is not the case.  The numbers
are placed in such a way as to encourage accuracy.  The "penalty" for
missing large numbers is hitting small numbers (i.e. 20 is bordered by
1 and 5).  Are these numbers placed in the best possible order to
ensure accuracy is rewarded?  For example, why does 2 not border 19
instead of resting between 15 and 17?

Date: 03/09/2004 at 02:45:40
From: Doctor Korsak
Subject: Re: Seemingly random dart board numbering system

Hello Ed,

I just did a web search and got many hits, of which the first was 

from which I quote an explanation credited to Sven Silow:
  The number system on the board is often blamed on a Brian Gamlin, a 
  carpenter from Bury, Lancashire, who is said to have invented it at 
  the age of 44 in 1896.  This story is much doubted though, and it is 
  even questioned whether he lived at all.

  According to another source, Thomas William Buckle invented the 
  dartboard in 1913.  The source in question is his son, Thomas Edward 
  Buckle, who in 1992 made his statement in Darts World (nr 234).   

  By the way, the dartboard that is used over most of the world today
  is not the only one that exists or has existed.  Boards with other
  number systems/sequences exist as well.  The Manchester board is
  still used and there have been many others (ex. the Grimsby board,
  which has double 14 on top).  Actually, Thomas Edward Buckle says
  that Gamlin could possibly have invented the Manchester board (a bit
  more geographically probable?).

  Without having done any research on the subject, I can't help but 
  believe that darts were played a bit at random in the beginning,
  that a lot of numbering systems were used, and that they probably
  changed from time to time and place to place (hence the many 
  different boards that no longer are in use).  A few systems 
  survived - and especially so the "London board" which we use today
  with few exceptions.

  I don't think that there has been any great thought behind the 
  numbering either.  Low numbers beside high numbers can be done in 
  numerous ways (and probably were).  The number-sequence we have
  today has probably just chance (and that it perhaps was better than
  most of the other used systems) to thank for its survival.  It's not
  extremely special though, and could have been done in other ways not
  less good.

Please contact Dr. Math if you need further help.

- Doctor Korsak, The Math Forum 
Associated Topics:
High School History/Biography

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