Interesting History & Facts about Telephone Numbers

Telephone Numbers

 Telephone Numbers

Telephone Numbers are the most common form of virtual address for people. While there are other forms or means of contacting people but the telephone call is the most popular one. A telephone number therefore according to Wikipedia definition is a sequence of digits assigned to a fixed line telephone subscriber station. This, in turn, connects to a telephone or to the wireless device for data transmission via PSTN or other public or private networks. The telephone number serves as an address for switching telephone calls using the system of destination call routing.

A person making the phone call types or dials the telephone number on the telephone set on the originating side of the call. While earlier it was not possible to know who the caller is, today, it is possible. The phone number of the caller or rather the caller id is visible to the receiver. Every phone number is country specific as they have codes as prefixes. A telephone numbering plan is a type of numbering scheme which helps in telecommunication. Its purpose is to assign telephone numbers to subscriber telephones. When other signalling code sequences are dialled with a certain number, it helps to access a few other features.



A Brief History 

The first recorded use of telephone number was in 1879 at Lowell, Massachusetts. This was when the callers connecting to the switchboard operators replaced the request for subscriber names. History shows us the changes in contact numbers. Varying lengths, formats and even including alphabets. Alphanumeric numbers were present around the 1960s in areas in and around North America. New York City in December 1930, became the first city in the USA to take up the 2-Letter 5-Number format, a standardised format after World War 2. These alphanumeric numbers were helpful as long as there were few subscribers and also limited exchange names. But with the gradual increase in the number of subscribers and keeping in mind other necessities, the system eventually changed.



The Importance of Phone Numbers

Phone numbers have a wider purpose than just the calling function. They also help to access other devices such as computer modems, pagers and fax machines. However at present, with the oncoming of the digital era, many telephone numbers connect data-only cellular devices. However, the basic functionality of calling is absent with these numbers.

What makes a phone number unique? It is because the number contains the information necessary to identify the intended endpoint or the receiver for the call. These endpoints also have a unique number within the PSTN. Therefore the number of endpoints determine the necessary length of the telephone number. On the other hand, emergency service numbers for most countries are short, usually a 3 digit number. These subscribers have a set of shorter numbers for the endpoints. A common example is 9-1-1, the emergency number of the USA.



Some of the interesting facts about telephone numbers from all around the world are as follows:


  1. Priced at $2.7 million, the golden phone number 666-6666 was sold at a charity event in Qatar. It holds the record for the costliest phone number. Second to this is number 888-8888, sold in China for $280000.


  1. To think of alphanumeric phone numbers in today’s world is a strange thing. The 2L-5N alphanumeric phone numbering system was prevalent in the 1950s. Later due to the increasing number of subscribers this system became obsolete.


  1. Zenith number was a special type of telephony service. This service enabled a calling party to call the number’s owner at no charge. The process was to request the call from a switchboard operator and citing the “Zenith” number. This is the predecessor of today’s toll-free numbers.


  1. Many times in movies we see phone numbers. But what would happen if one dialled those? There are a certain set of numbers and codes available for this purpose. For example the prefix 555.


  1. Phone numbers are also present in various song lyrics. Fun fact is that fans can actually contact the singers at times through these numbers. An example is Glenn Miller’s Pennsylvania 6-5000. The hotel that the song mentions still exists.


  1. Automatic Number Identification (ANI) is that feature that automatically determines the origination of telephone numbers on toll calls for billing purposes.


  1. The first phonebook in history was just 1 page long.


  1. The first telephone call in the history of telephony did not have a number. There were just a pair of 2 phones. Graham Bell made the call from one phone to the other phone kept next door which Mr Watson answered.


  1. The 1945 edition of Who’s Who, published Hitler’s phone number at Berlin: 116191.


  1. When Alexander Graham Bell died in 1922, as a tribute all telephones stopped ringing for one full minute.


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