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Understanding Alphanumeric Phone Numbers

Minnesotastan found a delightfully thorough post about alphanumeric phone numbers that were in use through the biggest part of the 20th century. Remember the Glenn Miller song "Pennsylvania 6-5000"? That was a phone number, using a system set up to help callers find and remember ever-longer strings of numbers as the newfangled "telephones" became popular.
The amount of letters at the start of the exchange-name which stood for the exchange’s ID-number, varied from country to country, and even from city to city within a country! The number of letters was usually the first two or first three in any given exchange-name. In the United Kingdom, three letters followed by four numbers (3L-4N) was the rule. So ‘Whitehall 1212? would be “WHItehall 1212?, or 944-1212.In the United States, by comparison, phone-numbers followed the 2L-5N (two letters, five numbers) rule. This meant that the first two letters of the exchange-name stood for numbers. Notable exceptions to this rule were cities of New York, Philidelphia, Boston and Chicago, which followed the British example of 3L-4N. This brought up exchange-names like ‘PENnsylvania’, ‘TREmont’ and ‘ELDorado’. Since the rest of the country did 2L-5N, this could create some understandable confusion to people who weren’t from the US. East Coast. Eventually, these cities conformed with the rest of the nation, altering their phone-numbers so that instead of the above, they had numbers like: ‘PEnnsylvania 65000? or ‘ELdorado 51234, to avoid confusion.

Incidentally, PEnnsylvania 65000 is STILL the phone number of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, as it has been for over 90 years! Link -via TYWKIWDBI

I remember the telephone number from where my family lived in East Saint Louis, Illinois when I was very young. It was DEerfield 21752 (332-1752). My father's aunt and uncle lived in St. Charles, Missouri, and their number was RAndolph 41065 (724-1065).

Don't ask me why or how I remember these, they have just stuck with me all these years!
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When I was a kid, there were less than 10,000 phones in our local calling area, so we only had one exchange. That means we only had to dial four numbers for any local call!
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After we moved from E. St. Louis to a much smaller town in southern Illinois, it was the same way. You could dial 4 digits to call within the local exchange. Also, I recall that when we first moved there, there were no private lines available for us, so for some months we were on a party line. That was a trip!
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All of the phone numbers in my home town still follow this pattern. Mostly because it's a tiny town and, while there are 3 exchanges, they all start with 92. In fact, up until a few years ago some of the older stores around town, the ones that hann't updated their awnings or signage since the 50s, advertised their phone numbers in this manner. Unfortunately, many of them have now closed, so this adorable piece of antiquity was lost.
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I once worked as a receptionist at an old hotel that still had a manual switchboard like that. Every once in a while I even managed to transfer a call to a room.
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WHitehall 1212 was the number of Scotland Yard.

Note that in the pre digital age "dialing" a phone was quite literal in turning a mechanical encoder and watching it slowly turn back generating a series of pulses to count out each digit. The fastest numbers were the lowest so, 1212 was fairly quick.

Yeah, I'm old.
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