[rollei_list] Re: old phone numbers

  • From: "Richard Knoppow" <dickburk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <rollei_list@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2009 10:16:55 -0800

----- Original Message ----- From: Peter K.
To: rollei_list@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2009 8:26 AM
Subject: [rollei_list] Re: old phone numbers

They changed from 6 to 7 digits to accommodate growth. Use of names were common in various parts of the world but the study I referred to was for North America. The Direct Distance dialing started in NJ in 1951. But it was slow to grow as the equipment in the tel offices around the country were mechanical and had to be upgraded or replaced to accommodate DDD.

Area codes were interesting the way they were assigned. You may know but the reason LA and NY had 212 and 213 is that the numbers were originally assigned by population. The middle digit is the most noticeable as 1 was for populated cities or states, and 0 for less populated like NJ 201 or Washington DC 202. So when you dialed on a rotary phone (the patent of which was owned by GT&E and a major reason Bell developed touch tone) it was shorter to dial the area code for NY which was 212 than say South Dakota 605 or New Mexico 505.

But all this is history and the understanding of which is long gone.

Peter K

I just looked at the 1927 film on how to dial a phone. The phone numbers are all numerals and the dials shown do not have letters on them. I am not sure when exchange names came into use for dial phones. All dial central offices used mechanical switching until the introduction of electronic switches about twenty years ago. The Hollywood CO used the same Stroger step-by-step switches until they were replaced by an electronic switch around 1990. There were never any cross-bar switches there. It was either the first, or one of the earliest dial central offices in Los Angeles. AT&T used tone dialing internally for LD for some years before direct dialing was offered to private subscribers. I don't think it was the switches but rather other aspects of the system that had to be made uniform before direct dialing long distance could be implemented. There are a number of patents on telephone dials and on dial central systems. GTE did not exist when dial phones were introduced but its predecessors did. I am not sure who patented the first practical dial system but attempts go back to the 1880's, that is, nearly to the beginning of commercial telephone service. Early dial offices used mostly the Stroger system but there were others. For instance, in Europe, the Erickson company built some very early dial machines. I think tone dialing was mostly developed to increase accuracy and decrease operator fatigue. The BSTJ or Bell Labs Record would have most of the history but I have no easy access to them. There may even be articles on the web, I haven't looked. Tone dialing has been around long enough that some young people may not know how to work a dial phone, maybe the old movies will be of use again after some eighty years.

Richard Knoppow
Los Angeles, CA, USA

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