Topics

The Dark Ages of telephone service


Cathy Christovich <cchristovich@...>
 

Arch Harrison wrote:
Speaking of that old four-digit phone number:
When I had occasion to talk with New York Ad Agencies - not very
successfully I admit - and it came time to give the phone number, the
buyer
couldn't believe we only had four numbers!
This provoked some "Aw. c'mon. you're kidding ?" conversations.
This would have been in the late '60s. I vividly remember visiting a
college friend who lived on Long Island and trying to call home to Orange
"collect." The operator, with all the New York attitude she could muster,
told me "I'm sorry, you do not have enough DIGITS."

I'm happy to report that I am once again receiving the list. Thanks to
some changes in our e-mail system, all you guys and gals are no longer
considered spam. I kept up sporadically, but it was tough to remember to
access Yahoo so I could read the posts.

Thanks also to you all for remembering my mother, Delia Wills. We miss
her, but she was very ill and is now at rest. Her illness distracted me
from attending your reunion, and I'm very sorry to have missed it. I
truly hope I won't have to miss the next one.

Best to you all. I'm glad I'm back in the loop.

Cathy (Wills) Christovich '70-'71


Mark Johnson
 

--- In WJMA@..., "Cathy Christovich" <cchristovich@w...>
wrote:

I vividly remember visiting a
college friend who lived on Long Island and trying to call home to
Orange
"collect." The operator, with all the New York attitude she could
muster,
told me "I'm sorry, you do not have enough DIGITS."
I have never thought about this before as it pertains to only four
digits.

With the present system the first (discounting country codes) three
digits are the "area code" so "540" tells the system that you want a
part of Virginia. Then "672" further tells it that you want
the "Orange Exchange". That narrows it down to 9999 different
possible numbers, from which the last four digits are used to select
as in "1000".

Back in the late 60's Virginia had just one area code, 703. So, 703
got you to Virginia. My question is : How was only four additional
digits enough to complete a call from outside the area? There had to
have been hundreds of exchanges in Virginia even then.

Was there a word code used as well? "Orange 1234" for example?

Mark Johnson
81-84


Mark Johnson
 

--- In WJMA@..., "rmj142" <rmj142@y...> wrote:
That narrows it down to 9999 different
possible numbers,
Of course it does no such thing. It narrows it down to 10,000
possible numbers. I always forget zero, or in this case 0000.

Mark Johnson
81-84


Janet Hague McKay
 

Back in those days you didn't dial the number. You called the operator and
told her you want to make a long distance call to Orange, Virginia. She went
through this and that and finally an Orange operator would answer the phone
and your operator would give her the number you wanted and she would then
connect you! Cumbersome, but personal.

Janet McKay
1986-1987

In a message dated 8/12/2004 10:24:19 AM Eastern Standard Time,
rmj142@... writes:

With the present system the first (discounting country codes) three
digits are the "area code" so "540" tells the system that you want a
part of Virginia. Then "672" further tells it that you want
the "Orange Exchange". That narrows it down to 9999 different
possible numbers, from which the last four digits are used to select
as in "1000".

Back in the late 60's Virginia had just one area code, 703. So, 703
got you to Virginia. My question is : How was only four additional
digits enough to complete a call from outside the area? There had to
have been hundreds of exchanges in Virginia even then.

Was there a word code used as well? "Orange 1234" for example?

Mark Johnson
81-84


Ross Hunter <xhunter@...>
 



Back in the late 60's Virginia had just one area code, 703. So, 703
got you to Virginia. My question is : How was only four additional
digits enough to complete a call from outside the area? There had to
have been hundreds of exchanges in Virginia even then.

Was there a word code used as well? "Orange 1234" for example?

Mark Johnson
81-84
Mark,

I sent your question to a college radio friend who used to work for Illinois Bell. Here's his reply. Does that answer the question?

Ross
============================

I had to dig back quite a way to get an answer for you - and it may only
have applied in Illinois. In the very early 70s (and before), a few tiny
communities in Illinois were served by what was called "community dial
service". These were all small, rural towns. The central office (CO)13 served
either 1 or a group of small communities. The CO had only 1 office code.
Sorry - there is an Area Code (NPA), a central office code (NXX) and the 4
digit individual number associated with each telephone number. This was true
then as well as now. Since the CO had only 1 NXX, it was easy to have LOCAL
CALLING (from one number to another in the same CO) be the last 4 digits of
the telephone number. This is how today's Centrex systems work. If the CO
has 2 NXXs, this was no longer possible since each NXX could have the same
last 4 digits and create code conflicts. In the community dial service, if
you wanted to make a call outside of your home CO, either to another CO in
your NPA or a long distance call, you had to dial an access code to inform
the switch you were not making a local call. Usually, the access code was
"9", just like making an outside call from many of today's company business
telephone systems.

Given the fact that an access code was required to go outside the CO, and
the fact that at that time touch tone was NOT widely used so that eliminated
the # and * as an access code, "9" was the choice, at least in Illinois.
That meant that the CO had a maximum capacity of 9000 numbers to be used for
subscribers. Using 9 as an access code eliminated 1000 usable numbers from
the CO.

When calling into the community dial service, the outside party, if in the
same NPA dialed the full 7 digit telephone number. Callers from a different
NPA dialed 10 digits. The 4 digit calling ONLY applied to calls within the
local community dial CO. Hence that person's problem if he only gave the LD
operator 7 digits (most likely the NPA and the last 4 digits).

That is the way it worked in Illinois. It could have been a different setup
in Orange, but I would suspect it would have to have been similar.


JWhitten@...
 

Good Question

I think that it would have been ORange2-1234. As a former Daniel resident, I made-up my own as a child: UKraine4.

Anyone know what it was really?

It's amazing where those old exchange names pop-up. Older residents here in Jersey City still use them, and it's confusing to many others.

In Manhattan, there's a restaurant - very chic, very expensive - named after its old exchange name, which still matches its telephone number.

In the age of the cell phone, I fear that this piece of Americana will be lost, especially in Manhattan where two area codes are geographically mixed. (Residents fought actually over keeping their 212, which is the “status” code.)

Let's start a nostalgic, exchange-name Website!!

Joe Whitten

-----Original Message-----
From: xhunter@... Sent: Friday, August 13, 2004 8:21 PM
To: WJMA@...; WJMA@...
Subject: [WJMA] Re: The Dark Ages of telephone service



Back in the late 60's Virginia had just one area code, 703. So, 703
got you to Virginia. My question is : How was only four additional
digits enough to complete a call from outside the area? There had to
have been hundreds of exchanges in Virginia even then.

Was there a word code used as well? "Orange 1234" for example?

Mark Johnson
81-84
Mark,

I sent your question to a college radio friend who used to work for Illinois Bell. Here's his reply. Does that answer the question?

Ross
============================

I had to dig back quite a way to get an answer for you - and it may only
have applied in Illinois. In the very early 70s (and before), a few tiny
communities in Illinois were served by what was called "community dial
service". These were all small, rural towns. The central office (CO)13 served
either 1 or a group of small communities. The CO had only 1 office code.
Sorry - there is an Area Code (NPA), a central office code (NXX) and the 4
digit individual number associated with each telephone number. This was true
then as well as now. Since the CO had only 1 NXX, it was easy to have LOCAL
CALLING (from one number to another in the same CO) be the last 4 digits of
the telephone number. This is how today's Centrex systems work. If the CO
has 2 NXXs, this was no longer possible since each NXX could have the same
last 4 digits and create code conflicts. In the community dial service, if
you wanted to make a call outside of your home CO, either to another CO in
your NPA or a long distance call, you had to dial an access code to inform
the switch you were not making a local call. Usually, the access code was
"9", just like making an outside call from many of today's company business
telephone systems.

Given the fact that an access code was required to go outside the CO, and
the fact that at that time touch tone was NOT widely used so that eliminated
the # and * as an access code, "9" was the choice, at least in Illinois.
That meant that the CO had a maximum capacity of 9000 numbers to be used for
subscribers. Using 9 as an access code eliminated 1000 usable numbers from
the CO.

When calling into the community dial service, the outside party, if in the
same NPA dialed the full 7 digit telephone number. Callers from a different
NPA dialed 10 digits. The 4 digit calling ONLY applied to calls within the
local community dial CO. Hence that person's problem if he only gave the LD
operator 7 digits (most likely the NPA and the last 4 digits).

That is the way it worked in Illinois. It could have been a different setup
in Orange, but I would suspect it would have to have been similar.


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