The Beginnings Of Your Phone Number

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Telephone Tech History

Area Codes – A New Way To Call


ME-7 5782… WH9-3729… JU6-8700… PL2-9944

interesting phone numbers indeed. And they were once real phone numbers and, what’s more interesting – these numbers could be duplicated. I know these from New York, but someone in say, Oklahoma – could have had either one of them as well.

Hard to believe – all that was true until – those other three digits were added – in what became 10-digit dialing. With those extra three digits – no number was the same. And, it’s when we started to get rid of the exchanges (lettering) and went to a numbers format. And, that’s the world we live in today.

When area codes came out, things pretty much stayed the same for a while. New York City had area code 212, Los Angeles had 213 and so on. It was pretty much tied to population and basically – one phone to a house (sometimes two).

Trivia – the cities with the largest populations – had lower numbers in their area codes – so those old mechanical rotary switches wouldn’t get worked as hard. Big cities mean large phone traffic. Chicago was 312, Philadelphia 215 and so on.   These were the days before digital switching.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s – you couldn’t keep up with the area code additions – all this due to the demand for new phone numbers – coming from all directions such as pagers, additional phones, cell phones, and, anything else.

Today – Los Angeles has – 6 area codes: 213, 626, 310, 425, 562 and 818.

Let’s step back in time  – when – area codes were just beginning. Back then – AT&T was the one and only, long distance company – so – take a look. This is from 1961…

AT&T area code telephone history 1961


Gary West

Historian Gary West built his first website in 1998 with That addressed now forwards to - an amazing pop culture/news database with 25,000 pages, covering the years 1955-2014. He's also the author of - covering consumer technology from 1952 to the present. West has been a contributor to numerous books, radio-TV shows, CNN & USA Today & the History Channel.

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