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Old 07-15-2018, 01:22 PM
Mrdeals Mrdeals is offline
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Old Timey Telephone Numbers

There was a parade today, and one of the entrants was a very old tow truck. I donít know much about cars, but Iím thinking 1920-1930.

On the door of the cab was painted advertisement for the (now defunct) company.

ďHillsdale Tow Company

PH. 837Ē

Were telephone numbers really only 3 digits at one time?
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Old 07-15-2018, 01:27 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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Yes.


Quote:
When telephone numbers were first used they were very short, from one to three digits, and were communicated orally to a switchboard operator when initiating a call.
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Old 07-15-2018, 01:28 PM
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It would seem so. From wikipedia:

Quote:
In rural areas with magneto crank telephones connected to party lines, the local phone number consisted of the line number plus the ringing pattern of the subscriber. To dial a number such as "3R122" meant making a request to the operator the third party line (if making a call off your own local one), followed by turning the telephone's crank once, a short pause, then twice and twice again.[6] Also common was a code of long and short rings, so one party's call might be signaled by two longs and another's by two longs followed by a short.[7] It was not uncommon to have over a dozen ring cadences (and subscribers) on one line.
Slightly later, I can still remember as a kid hearing on TV: dial Murray Hill 8-4521 (the numbers are made up). That's a NYC number and the first two numbers of the phone number were MH = 64

Last edited by John Mace; 07-15-2018 at 01:31 PM.
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Old 07-15-2018, 01:36 PM
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The first phone I remember was mounted on the walll, with a crank, a receiver to listen on and a fixed "cup" to talk into. You summoned the operator by cranking a few times. When she answered you told her the number you wanted. Usually we were calling my aunt and uncle whose number was 603.

Once I was in school, if I got home and no one was around, I could crank the phone and when the operator answered I could ask her where my mom was, and she would tell me which neighbor she was visiting.

Why yes, I am old. Thanks for the memories, I guess.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:00 PM
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As long as we're talking old-timey numbers, there was a time when the first two "numbers" of a seven-digit phone number were actually the first two letters of a word, e.g., CApital 3-9471, PErshing 2-4816, DIamond 22-414. It was handy, because the word (what was that word called--anyone know?) told you what part of town the number was in. CApital was downtown, PErshing was in my neighborhood, TAylor was the high-rent part of town, OXford was west part of town, etc.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:04 PM
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I also remember having a three number system when we lived in Juneau. Pick up the phone and an actual person said "Operator". Then you either gave her the local number or you asked for the long-distance operator. For the latter, you told her where you were calling and the number, then hung up and waited for her to call you back. I think we had five numbers in Anchorage (1959 or so), which then morphed to a letter/number system as mentioned above. We had BRoadway and FAirfax and a few others. Party lines were the norm, which meant that people listened in on others' conversations.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by kayT View Post
The first phone I remember was mounted on the walll, with a crank, a receiver to listen on and a fixed "cup" to talk into. You summoned the operator by cranking a few times. When she answered you told her the number you wanted. Usually we were calling my aunt and uncle whose number was 603.

Once I was in school, if I got home and no one was around, I could crank the phone and when the operator answered I could ask her where my mom was, and she would tell me which neighbor she was visiting.

Why yes, I am old. Thanks for the memories, I guess.
Emphasis added. You mean those operators back then could access the GPS on people's cell phones?
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:10 PM
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Those words were called "exchanges." When I was growing up, our exchange was ATlantic; there was also ATwater in the same city, which was confusing.

I am barely old enough to remember party lines, and that we had one. We had to listen for our ring pattern, but there was only us and one other house on the line. I think we got our own line in the mid to late 50s. I don't think I ever experienced a crank phone, or asking the operator to connect to a number, except seeing them in the movies. My grandparents lived in a small town but they had regular dial phone just like we did.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:12 PM
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Emphasis added. You mean those operators back then could access the GPS on people's cell phones?
The operators were a lot more accurate than GPS.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:21 PM
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When I was a kid our number was "766R," and a live operator was there and you told her what number you wanted to call. It was a party line, although you didn't hear anybody else's number ring.

A couple of lives ago I had an aunt and uncle who were dairy farmers and lived way out where everybody was a farmer. They had a party line and everybody had a different ring (two short rings, one short+one long, etc.) and everybody on the line heard everybody else's ring. If you heard yours, then you picked it up.

A woman named "Julia" lived in the next farm up the hill, and I can recall one time that her number rang maybe around 9 PM (bedtime for farmers) and my aunt wondering: "Now who would be calling Julia at this time of night?" I'm guessing this was about 60 years ago.

Haha, how times change.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:30 PM
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We lived in a little town in Northern California in the early 60s where we only had to dial four digits because everybody in town was on the same exchange.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:32 PM
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I remember dad telling me his first phone number was two longs and a short.

That was two long rings than one short ring. No numbers.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:46 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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Back in my hometown, one of the local service stations handed out ashtrays with their name and phone number one it. A classmate had a really old one that he showed me a while back. I got a chuckle seeing that the phone number on the ashtray was 420.
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
I remember dad telling me his first phone number was two longs and a short.

That was two long rings than one short ring. No numbers.
But when he answered the phone did he say "Ahoy, hoy"?
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Last edited by GaryM; 07-15-2018 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigene View Post
I remember dad telling me his first phone number was two longs and a short.

That was two long rings than one short ring. No numbers.
Ours was three short rings, three long rings, and then three short rings. Why the police and fire department kept showing up at our house whenever we got a phone call, I'll never know!
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:27 PM
betterlifethroughchemistry betterlifethroughchemistry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kayT View Post
The first phone I remember was mounted on the walll, with a crank, a receiver to listen on and a fixed "cup" to talk into. You summoned the operator by cranking a few times. When she answered you told her the number you wanted. Usually we were calling my aunt and uncle whose number was 603.

Once I was in school, if I got home and no one was around, I could crank the phone and when the operator answered I could ask her where my mom was, and she would tell me which neighbor she was visiting.
That is pretty cool. I'm 55 (+ 11 months), so the earliest phones I remember were the big, clunky rotary phones.

But, as to the subject of how technology has changed exponentially (Moore's Law), I have a funny story of how the times they are a'changing...(my apologies to the OP for the off-topic...)

When my now-24 year old son was a senior in HS and going to his prom, his date and her mom took him shopping to make sure he accessorized correctly with her...the one thing they couldn't find was a matching handkerchief for his tie and cummerbund...they are pretty standard items, but it was up to him to find it...I was working in the garden on a Sunday, I told him I'd drive him but he needed to call around and find a place that had them.

He came out to the garden and said, "One place I called is not open or something, because when I called, I got this strange sound."

me: "What'd it sound like?"
Son: "Wheeeereeewhee..." (Pitch going up and down)
me: "Oh, that's a fax machine"
Son: "What's a 'fax machine'?"
me: "That's how we used to send information over a telephone line back in the day."
Son: "Why didn't you just send an e-mail?"
me: (blank stare)
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:35 PM
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I had all of that growing up in small town Minnesota, and not that long ago (although I am getting old).

We had a live operator until about 1973 (my dad's original law office was actually the next door over from the operator). My dad's office number was 224 and the home phone was a party line with that at 224c2. I remember visiting relatives in Seattle and dad needing to call home to deal with a client on something. He had to be explain to the operator that he needed to be connected to the Redwood County Telephone Co. operator, who could then complete the call. And, no, he couldn't direct dial.

When they upgraded the town (buried phone lines, even), everyone was 4-digit dialing with the local switch (the police/city hall # was 3456 (I guess 911 hadn't rolled out to the sticks yet). They did upgrade again sometime in the last 40 years, and now every has to dial 7-digits. This caused some consternation, apparently.
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:50 PM
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The ten digit layout as (3 digit area code) + (3 digit toll central office code) + (4 digit number) came as part of the "North American Numbering Plan", first conceived of in the late 1940s. One of the things which adherence to the plan facilitated was rollout of DDD (direct distance dialing). Yes, people bitched mightily about needing 7 numbers to dial somebody in the next block, even though they may now have been able to dial Aunt Mary in Chicago without placing the call through the long distance operator.
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Old 07-15-2018, 04:01 PM
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The 5 digit phone number I had growing up is so indelibly etched into my brain as "My Phone number" that I still often instinctively say it when I am asked even today. I get a confused, "uhh can you start over, I didn't get all of them I don't think" several times a year.

It is, of course, also part of the sequences I use for a password when I need to make one that I know I can't ever afford to forget .
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Old 07-15-2018, 04:15 PM
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Somewhere around here, I have an invoice from Tiedtke's (Toledo store, now defunct), dated 1920-something, which has two phone numbers: Bell phone and Home phone. They were competing systems, if you had a Bell phone you couldn't call anybody with a Home phone, and vice versa. They were both three digit numbers.
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Old 07-15-2018, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Toledo Jim View Post
Somewhere around here, I have an invoice from Tiedtke's (Toledo store, now defunct), dated 1920-something, which has two phone numbers: Bell phone and Home phone. They were competing systems, if you had a Bell phone you couldn't call anybody with a Home phone, and vice versa. They were both three digit numbers.
That's interesting. I had never heard that before.
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Old 07-15-2018, 04:32 PM
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Some of those exchanges have been made famous over time, such as "Butterfield-8," as in John O'Hara.

And, of course, my favorite, AND still today, the phone number for the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OUkNOwpXtc

(Just played this recently too, not only ran down the bass line but triangle solo for the ringer!)
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
As long as we're talking old-timey numbers, there was a time when the first two "numbers" of a seven-digit phone number were actually the first two letters of a word, e.g., CApital 3-9471, PErshing 2-4816, DIamond 22-414. It was handy, because the word (what was that word called--anyone know?) told you what part of town the number was in. CApital was downtown, PErshing was in my neighborhood, TAylor was the high-rent part of town, OXford was west part of town, etc.
You can give people two letters as the start of your number now. The only reason people stopped using letters was that there were more exchanges than reasonable letter combinations. This required no change to equipment.
If I remember my telephone class correctly, exchanges corresponded to central offices and short numbers were calls within the central office. That's just like the way you can call within your pbx system at work using fewer than 7 or 10 digits today. Electronic switches today can handle a lot more than one exchange's worth of numbers, but in the old mechanical days they could only get so big.
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:27 PM
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When I was growing up into the 60s, the town next door to us had, in essence, three-digit numbers.

You also didn't dial direct. You'd call the operator and then give the number. Three digits were fine, and I'm pretty sure one- and two-digit numbers existed. Later, they added zeroes before the existing numbers to make it four-digits.

If you lived there, you'd pick up the phone and get the operator. The phones had no dials, just a blank place in the front. Here's an example.
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:29 PM
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Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in London, famously had the number WHI 1212.

Back in the 60s, I took an Australian girl to a post office so that she could call her parents back home. We queued at a counter and she paid (quite a lot as I recall) for a few minutes. We then sat on a bench for some time until a voice on a loudspeaker called her to a booth where she could pick up a receiver and talk to her mother. The whole performance took the best part of an hour for a two minute call.
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:38 PM
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I seem to remember that Manhattan’s exchange was TUxedo. Mine in the Jersey suburbs was PIgrim.
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:41 PM
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You can give people two letters as the start of your number now. ....
I guess you could, but...
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:55 PM
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In the 1950's-60's, there was only one local exchange here. Although everyone's number was officially 7 digits (area codes were still foreign), since the first 3 were the same for everyone, you only needed to dial the last 5. Dialing "3" let the switch know that the next 4 digits were in the same exchange. So everyone was known only by the last 4 digits.

It got a little complicated in the 1980's, 1990's, when you didn't know if you should dial a "1" plus the local 7, or "1" plus the area code plus the local 7, or the last 5 only, or what? If you used the wrong sequence, you were rudely informed of your error, and what you should have dialed. I never figured out -- if they knew what you should have dialed, why didn't they dial that for you?

To this day, I can go into the local video rental store (yes, we still have one) and rent a movie by giving the last 4 digits of my phone number to look up the account.
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Old 07-15-2018, 06:17 PM
GaryM GaryM is offline
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I live in a rural county where all of the land lines start with the same 3 digits. It's common to give folks your number only using the last 4 digits, particularly at local stores such as "the" tire store.
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Old 07-15-2018, 06:24 PM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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It depends. In small area 2 or 3 numbers depending on how many subscribers. Also depended on how the local phone company designated numbers. Some would assign a number according to when you subscribed. 1st customer was #1 hundredth customer 100. Some companies by area and number of phones in area. Some companies by type of line, line number, and then phone number. When I was a kid our phone number was 23f11. Stood for 23rd phone on the 11th farmers line. And there were 16 families on that line. And if I remember right our ring was 2 shorts and a long.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TubaDiva View Post
Some of those exchanges have been made famous over time, such as "Butterfield-8," as in John O'Hara.

And, of course, my favorite, AND still today, the phone number for the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OUkNOwpXtc

(Just played this recently too, not only ran down the bass line but triangle solo for the ringer!)
And another Famous number is "BR 549" Junior Samples from Hee Haa.

I remember the crank telly also called "Who's That?,,,, Box on the wall"!
Although i was to young to know the details then, but our phone on the farm was our emergency call for Fire and any other emergency need that was in some respects much more useful than the present day phone system where in the case of Fire or such one would crank the phone with a long continuous ring thereby alerting all the neighbors who would come a running!!!

Back in the '60's my Dad did some scrapping and got a truck load of those old Wall telly's. He would have had a much nicer retirement had he held on to them instead of scrapping them! must have been more than 400 of them and we had several of those old crank magnetos to play with for years.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThelmaLou View Post
As long as we're talking old-timey numbers, there was a time when the first two "numbers" of a seven-digit phone number were actually the first two letters of a word, e.g., CApital 3-9471, PErshing 2-4816, DIamond 22-414. It was handy, because the word (what was that word called--anyone know?) told you what part of town the number was in. CApital was downtown, PErshing was in my neighborhood, TAylor was the high-rent part of town, OXford was west part of town, etc.
When I was growing up, we lived in FLeetwood, and my grandparents lived in REpublic and BIshop.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:23 PM
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In the early 70s in suburban Boston we had a single exchange in our town. If you were calling local you just had to dial '3' (the last digit in our exchange) and the 4 digit number. That went away sometime around 1980.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:36 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Slightly later, I can still remember as a kid hearing on TV: dial Murray Hill 8-4521 (the numbers are made up). That's a NYC number and the first two numbers of the phone number were MH = 64
That's interesting, in that I don't recall hearing two words used to represent the first two letters in those days. Our phone number was MOhawk 8-4567; meaning MO = 66. The first two letters of the word were used to represent the numbers.

Looking further into this, I see that per wiki's Telephone Exchange Names, most examples cited use the one word/first two letter format I mention above. And while there is a citation for using MUrray Hill, it represents 68, not 64, because the letters MU are the stand-ins for the number, not the letters MH.
Quote:
Originally Posted by wiki telephone exchange numbers
MUrray Hill 5-9975 is another example of the 2L-5N format, one of the Ricardos' numbers on I Love Lucy. The H in Hill, although not dialed, is still capitalized as the first letter of the second word.

Last edited by Qadgop the Mercotan; 07-15-2018 at 07:37 PM.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:46 PM
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I grew up near Rochester, NY, and as I posted earlier our original number was "766R." At some point (early-mid '60s?) we went to the regular 7-digit format, "OS(bourne) 1-2031," which later became 671-2031.

Dang, I didn't think I'd remember all that but I did. I keep pushing back on senility and so far it's working.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:50 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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In the summer of 1957 my girlfriend and I stayed with her parents at their summer cottage in the Poconos. There were some 30 cottages around a lake and a local private phone system. There were two lines only and the doctor had one and the other 29 people shared the other. Each of the 29 had their own ring combo and if you wanted to talk to one of them, you picked up your phone and, assuming it wasn't already occupied, you told the operator (who was also the owner of the system) whom you wanted to talk to and she would ring them. I assume you could also call out, but I never saw that.

In Philly, until some time in the late 40s I think we had numbers like GRAnite 3277 (that was our actual phone number) three letters 4 digits. My grandmother's around the corner was SHE-???? (don't remember). Then the granite exchange was split into GR2, GR4, and GR6, so it was 2 letters, five numbers. Of course GR2 was the same as GRA. Later on, exchanges like TT were introduced that didn't stand for anything. At this point, I no longer associate letters with the numbers and a number like 847-evanston is just a nuisance. That used to be the number of the Holiday Inn in Evanston, IL and when I pointed out that it was one letter too long, they said the phone company just ignored that last letter.

There used to be until some time in the 40s a second phone company in Philly called Keystone. Their claim to fame was unlimited service for businesses. Homes could have unlimited service for a fee, but businesses had to pay for every call. So most businesses had a Bell phone and a Keystone phone. It was worth it only for businesses. Some time during (or maybe before the war--I never knew this until my father told me years later), Bell bought them out and closed them down.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:58 PM
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Fun fact - The switching system that made dialing possible is was invented by an undertaker. The story is that he believed the local operator was patching his calls to his competitors.

http://www.phworld.org/switch/sxs.htm

I have actually operated a few ‘cord boards’, as late as the early 1980’s. It was in the Air Force, and, like all items that hooked to the telephone system, belonged to the phone company (we only rented it). Solid, bomb proof (well, drop off the back of a truck proof, anyway), easy to set up and use. See http://ka2wft.net/phones/555big.jpg and also it big brother, the 559.
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:12 PM
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I also remember having a three number system when we lived in Juneau. Pick up the phone and an actual person said "Operator". Then you either gave her the local number or you asked for the long-distance operator. For the latter, you told her where you were calling and the number, then hung up and waited for her to call you back. I think we had five numbers in Anchorage (1959 or so), which then morphed to a letter/number system as mentioned above. We had BRoadway and FAirfax and a few others. Party lines were the norm, which meant that people listened in on others' conversations.
My Grandfather was a shipping manager. Back in the day, telephone trunk lines followed Railway trunk lines, along the rail-line clearance, originally on the railway telegraph poles. (Hence, South Pacific Railway Internal Network Telecommunications, SPRINT, last I heard trying to merge with T-Mobile).

The telephone lines were (then as now again) managed by independent companies. and long-distance calls had to pay each individual leg. This was managed by using standard routing, using standard rates, so that users could be billed using standard rates, and so that operators new how to forward.

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We then sat on a bench for some time until a voice on a loudspeaker called her to a booth where she could pick up a receiver and talk to her mother. The whole performance took the best part of an hour for a two minute call.
When the trunk lines were busy, you had to wait for a free line. When the lines were very busy, they told you to try again some other time.

My grandfather, who knew all rail lines all across the USA in the 1930's, would talk to the operators and branch around the blockage. You asked each operator to connect to the next operator in a different direction, and worked your way along the back lines. At Christmas, my Grandfather would work his way across the mid-west to Texas, to talk to his brother.
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:21 PM
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When I was in electronics school, Ontario was digitizing its phone system. But in obscure corners of the province, older systems hung on. My friend's parents lived in the hamlet of Gilmour, which apparently had the oldest phone exchange in Ontario. The same friend's sister and her family lived at the end of the road beyond Gilmour, running the marina at a cottage resort on Weslemkoon Lake. Even in the eighties, they had a party line! This was the only time I have ever encountered one.
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:26 PM
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Fun thread.

When I was a kid, maybe around 5-6, our phone number began EMpire-4. That's all I remember. And I do remember it was a party line. This was in Salt Lake City, early 60s.
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:27 PM
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You can give people two letters as the start of your number now. The only reason people stopped using letters was that there were more exchanges than reasonable letter combinations. This required no change to equipment.
If I remember my telephone class correctly, exchanges corresponded to central offices and short numbers were calls within the central office. That's just like the way you can call within your pbx system at work using fewer than 7 or 10 digits today. Electronic switches today can handle a lot more than one exchange's worth of numbers, but in the old mechanical days they could only get so big.
At a store where I worked several years ago, we had a customer who gave his entire number out as seven letters. His number was 326-6339. The phone number was printed on his checks as DAMN FEW.
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:33 PM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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I seem to remember that Manhattanís exchange was TUxedo. Mine in the Jersey suburbs was PIgrim.
so was Detroit's; back in the day Detroit phone numbers all started "88x" a/k/a TUxedo. we lived in the suburb just north, which was PRescott (77x.)
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:45 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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I remember SWift, SHerwood and POrter where I grew up. Ours was SWift. You'd've thought it was End Times when they did away with that.
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  #44  
Old 07-15-2018, 08:55 PM
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In St. Louis a lot of the exchanges were named for the streets the switching stations were located on. The building and equipment for EVergreen actually was located on EVergreen, ADams was on Adams, etc.

Of course, there was also AXminster. The phone company just couldn't let 29*-**** go to waste.
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Old 07-15-2018, 09:00 PM
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You can give people two letters as the start of your number now. The only reason people stopped using letters was that there were more exchanges than reasonable letter combinations.
Maybe you can, but my phone number has a 1 as its second digit. That specifically became possible in 1995 when area codes started having a digit between 2 and 9 as a second digit, but something similar was happening in 1982 in greater Los Angeles -- one of my neighbors in Glendale had a 500-xxxx number.

Also, even until 1980 or so, my grandparents had 5-digit dialing to each other in Kingsport, TN. (Kingsport was served by GTE instead of Southeastern Bell, so that could be part of the reason why that was possible.) I think Kingsport's main (only?) prefix was CIrcle (for Church Circle, the original center of the town).
  #46  
Old 07-15-2018, 09:38 PM
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I seem to remember that Manhattanís exchange was TUxedo. Mine in the Jersey suburbs was PIgrim.
Manhattan had lots of exchanges, here are a couple of sites that list some of them
http://forgotten-ny.com/2008/02/runn...one-exchanges/
http://www.scoutingny.com/telephone-...number-in-nyc/

The last time I remember actually hearing someone use the 2 letter exchange was in 1990 when I sublet a Manhattan apartment and the primary tenant, an older woman who had lived there 25 years, told me that the phone number was UNiversity-6. I hadn't heard the system used for many years before that and it felt like we were back in a time warp.
  #47  
Old 07-15-2018, 10:42 PM
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Exchanges were originally thought of as buildings, with specific locations, rather than mere groupings of telephone numbers. So exchange names were often geographically meaningful (such as the neighborhood, or street they were located on), so long as they could easily be distinguished when heard.

When subscriber dialing was introduced in the 1920s, the users dialed the first three letters of the exchange name using the letters on the phone dial, followed by the four numbers for the specific line to ring. So the three-digit numbers represented by the names now had to be distinctive. That still left some room for creativity, but new exchanges in growing areas often needed to use letters that didn't suggest anything very local. When Chicago's North Shore suburbs were given 257, for example, that doesn't spell much except ALPine.

In 1948, Chicago shifted to "2 + 5" dialing, already in use in some other big cities and becoming a Bell System standard. To make the conversion easy, the third digit was kept the same wherever possible. So if your number had previously been HARrison 7186, now it was HA7-7186, since the R dials 7 anyway. In some places this wasn't possible, and more importantly, new third digits could be introduced to expand capacity.

Eventually that system also reached its limits: you can't spell anything for a number beginning with 95. All-number dialing was the standard for new phone numbers by the 1970s, but since the phone book only reset entries that needed to be changed, the Chicago phone book still listed old-style numbers until the early 1980s.
  #48  
Old 07-15-2018, 10:58 PM
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Back when I was in the college band, on one of our trips (playing for a basketball tournament), we were staying in the Hotel Pennsylvania. Several band members were excited to realize that they already knew the phone number: Pennsylvania 6-5000. Until they tried to actually call it in the wee hours after a night on the town, and discovered that that was abbreviated as 736 (PE), not 726 (PA).
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Old 07-15-2018, 11:16 PM
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Word (or rather the word's first two letters) followed by 5 digits was the norm throughout my youth. IBM's photo-digital storage system had the code name 'Cypress' because CYpress (CY) was the word associated with IBM San Jose telephone numbers.

We had a private line, I think; but I remember being scolded at my grandparents' house when I picked up the phone on the other party's ring.

I also still remember the phone number of my youth, though that was fifty years ago. The only other California number I remember was the one where I changed all the digits (not just the first two) into letters and memorized the resulting pseudo-word. I once got a phone call from a girl wanting a date only because, lacking pen and paper, she'd memorized the pseudo-word I'd told her.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Kitchen View Post
We lived in a little town in Northern California in the early 60s where we only had to dial four digits because everybody in town was on the same exchange.
In our medium-sized town in Northern California, we had to dial the last five digits of the number IIRC.

ETA: And back in the day, click-counts were still used for phone numbers instead of tones. To dial 411, you could just tap the hang-up bar: Click-click-click-click Pause Click Pause Click. You had to have quick fingers to "dial" a number with an 8, 9 or 0 (actually ten) this way.
.

Last edited by septimus; 07-15-2018 at 11:20 PM.
  #50  
Old 07-16-2018, 12:54 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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In the early 70s in suburban Boston we had a single exchange in our town. If you were calling local you just had to dial '3' (the last digit in our exchange) and the 4 digit number. That went away sometime around 1980.
Went far far away a few years back in San Jose. to call my neighbor it is a 1 plus the 10 digit phone number.
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