Dial 211 for long distance (and other Telephone questions)

I was watching Rear Window where James Stewart sees Raymond Burr dial 211 for “long distance”. I tried to call 211 and nothing happened (as expected).

I remember LD direct dialing starting (early 60’s?), but when did “211” go away? Related questions: Do they still do person-to-person calls anymore? Are there any communities in the US that don’t have dial and there is an operator there to say “number, please”? In rural areas, do party lines still exist?

Well, I’ve been sitting here puttering around on Google for a while. I don’t have any definite answers (life’s too short), but my WAGs are as follows:

  1. Nobody in the U.S. has party lines anymore.

  2. Yes, there is still person-to-person and collect calling. It’s called “Operator assisted calls”.

  3. Nobody in the U.S. has an actual operator sitting there to put through your local call. Everybody has direct dial.

And this finally came up under “telephone history 211 311 411 511 611 711 811 911”


I’ll let you wade through the rest of it. Apparently the 211 codes are a hot property in some circles. But I have no idea when 211 stopped meaning “Information Please”.

There are indeed some very, very remote locations in the US that still do not have direct-dial. Parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and isolated areas in the midwest. They’re called “toll stations” nowadays and account for maybe a couple thousand people at the most. It’s less expensive to have an operator run a manual switch than to upgrade to direct dial equipment at those locations.