A Different Phone Pad Question

In countries that do not employ the standard alphabet of Western civilizationin their written language, do the numbers on a telephone keypad have letters? I live in Southern California, and whenever I see a bus stop ad written in Lao, or Vietnamese, or Arabic, I notice that the telephone numbers use the numerals we are all used to, so I don’t want to extend my question that far…

Excuse me. I believe the word I wanted was Laotian. Lao refers to an individual of the ethnic group, itself, IIRC.

The phones I’ve seen (in Israel, primarily) have used the English alphabet.

When I was in Copenhagen, the phone pads did not have letters. The rows were also reverved, with 123 on bottom.

In Germany, phones never used to have letters on them. I think letters were introduced in the U.S. (and elsewhere?) to make area codes easier to memorize by conforming them to abbreviations of city names etc., and AFAIK this system was never applied here.

However, letters have become common on newer phones in the past few years, and vanity number are beginning to appear in ads etc.

Can’t say about other countries, but in the U.S., phone exchanges originally had names – PEnnsylvania 6-5000 and all that. In my home town, at least, they were often named after the street the telephone building was located on. After dialing replaced operator-connected calls, exchange names hung on until at least the 1960s, when computerized switching came in. There was never any connection between area codes and place names. In fact, as Cecil once explained (sorry I don’t have the link)area codes were originally designed to have a 1 or 0 as the middle number just so they couldn’t be confused with the first three numbers of a standard telephone number.

Okay, so it’s not area codes but exchanges. Sue me. At any rate, the letters were put on the buttons to get mnemonics for phone numbers, right? As I said, many other countries (like Germany) never used to do this. Regarding the OP, my WAG is that cultures with other alphabets may never have picked up the idea at all, or only very recently to conform to Western systems.

Three brief thoughts:

  1. Letters on American phones were originally possibly included as mnemonic devices for exchanges (I lived in the Mowhawk and Jackson exchanges). Or, perhaps they were included, as a hedge by some far-sighted early developer of phone systems, for some future transition to alternate systems that, as with automobile license plates or hexadecimal systems, rely on an alpha-numeric combo to provide a greater number of unique combinations.

  2. Perhaps the inclusion of letters in the U.S. before such in other countries resulted in adoption of the U.S. system as an established standard or adoption of such because of the U.S.’ dominance in some world market systems whenever the need for the extended flexibility of said adaptation reached certain markets - as per the establishment of English as the language of aviation.

  3. As to the bus stop ads; if the local phone system used Zapf Dingbats or Mojo Joe’s Unique Hieroglyph System of Symbolic Communication on their keypad I think that’s what you’d see in the local ads, regardless of the language used.

I suppose if the Romans had had telephones, the keys would have been marked I, V, X, L, C, D, and M. The hard part would have been to build switches that could interpret IIII the same way as IV…