I received an email reminder from one of our New York State Senators regarding the new area code they’re piggybacking with our present one. As of today we suppose to have to dial 10 digits (area code + 7 digits) to make local calls. Not really that bad… just a slight nuisance.
Now that I think of it, it make me feel old! This is how telephone dialing was as I remember it:
When I first paid any mind to dialing (as a teenager) there were “private numbers” and “party lines” (with anywhere from 4 to 6 (or 7?) people on them. But those were usually out in the “boondocks” or hill towns. Oh wait! My wife grew up on a party line.
We (in the city) dialed 7 digits (the 3-digit exchange + 4 digits). Way back then the telephone exchanges (the first 3 digits) had “names” that corresponded to the first 2 digits by the use of the letters on the rotary dial (yeah, I’m THAT old!). I think that had to do with a lot of small private companies each having “a piece of the action.” As an example, if your number began with “465” the 4 & 6 was represented as “HO” - which stood for “Hobart.” Each exchange had 10 “main” numbers, so the “465” was read - and printed on letter heads, etc. - as “Hobart 5” or shortened to “HO5” and the last 4 digits. Whenever you would give your telephone number to someone you would say, “Hobart 5-xxxx” and later shortened to just “HO5-xxxx.” It would have been so much simpler to say (and remember), “465-xxxx.” As the “Bell System” or “Ma Bell” grew larger and took over the smaller companies and their exchanges, the letters were dropped in favor of just using numbers. That how it was for a “private line” in the cities and immediate suburbs.
All I can remember about the party lines was that you would pick up the receiver to see if someone was using the line. If it wasn’t urgent, you’d hang up and try again later. If it was urgent, you would excuse yourself for breaking in and ask if you could use the line. It was up to your “telephone neighbor” to be nice and agree to end their call so you could the line. Every person on the party line had their own distinctive ring (or number of rings). One bad thing about party lines was that if a person was nosy, they could listen in on other’s conversations.
A small private, family-run telephone company that’s still in operation today (and the one I use) was set up so that any customer who had the same first three digits (or exchange) didn’t have to dial them. They just had to dial the last four digits. It was this way even after I got married, spent 5 years in the city, then moved into this telephone company’s area. We only had to dial the last 4 digits for the first 10 years here. Then came the time when we had to dial all 7 digits. Oh bother!
At this time, there was no county-wide emergency number such as 911. Even in the cities there was nothing! But this small, family-operated company had its own 911 system in place 10 years before the county began its system. Our 911 system was free, but when the county started their system, every phone number was assessed a small fee of 25 cents per month. (Now I think it’s up to 75 cents per month - I haven’t looked through my bill in quite some time - just as the total amount.) When our local phone company ran their 911 system, calls went directly to our local police/fire/rescue dispatcher. Once the county took over the 911 system, calls went to the county dispatcher who took down all the information, and then connected us to our own local dispatcher - to whom we had to give all the information to again - while the county dispatcher listened in. Several years passed and now the county takes the info and stays on the line with the caller while they contact the local department and give them the info. There are no longer 3 parties on the line which makes it more streamlined and efficient.
Fast-forward to today (literally today)… now instead of dialing 7 digits for local calls, we have to dial 10 digits. Long distance to other area codes - except for the new “piggybacked” one - required dialing a “1” which brings the total to 11 digits. Calling between our current area code and the new “piggybacked” area code is considered a local call and we won’t be billed for it. I’m sure there still a system in place to allow the telephone companies to continue billing for “regional long distance calls” within each area code as these do cover a large area. Numbers in the new piggybacked area code will start being given out in the beginning of September.
Oh, and I still have one of the old black rotary dial phones in our basement - hooked up. My wife uses it to answer the phone when she’s doing laundry. It doesn’t ring any longer, but our kitchen phone is directly above this and we can hear that phone ringing. Boy is that thing heavy!