TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: First 1-900 Number? Question on Millionaire Show

Re: First 1-900 Number? Question on Millionaire Show

Anthony Bellanga (anthonybellanga@withheld)
Tue, 28 Dec 2004 21:57:57 -0700

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Carl Moore wrote:

> On ABC-TV "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" show which aired last Friday
> (Dec. 24), there was a question about the 1st 1-900 number (in 1980?).
> The answer given was that it was used for Reagan-Carter debate (in
> U.S. presidential campaign that year). What about the 1-900-242-1611
> used for Carter's call-in in 1977? Notice that BOTH of these involved
> President Carter.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The correct answer **should have been**
> the 1977 call-in program. Someone should notify the producer of the
> show and challenge his 'correct answer'. PAT]

I seem to remember that the 1980 1-900 number for the Reagan-Carter
might have been the first widespread or known use of 900 for the new
"Dial-IT" pay-per-call function, these calls with their own special
rates. This 1980 activity was probably a "call to submit your vote or
opinion as to who won the debate".

The 1977 Carter radio call-in program hosted by CBS newsman Walter
Cronkite was still using the older "choke" or "mass calling" network
function of 1-900. AT&T had actually begun the "choke" or "mass call"
900 network back in 1970, and I understand that there were sporadic
uses throughout the 1970s, but apparantly they weren't as publicly
known or widespread.

The 1977 President Carter radio call-in special with 1-900-242-1611
was actually set to be FREE to the calling party, with either the
White House or CBS News picking up the tab from AT&T.

But except for that 1977 Carter radio call-in, the 1970s "mass
calling" 900 choke network was billed at regular tariffed
distance-based rates, based on the NPA-NXX code of the calling party
with respect to the 900-NNX code of the dialed number.

When AT&T changed 900 to "Dial-It" (pay-per-call) in 1980, they
totally re-vamped the 900-NXX codes in use, this time with specific
pay-per-call charges associated with specific (new) 900-NXX codes.

Initially (early 1980s), AT&T's "Dial-It" 900 was only 50-c per call,
or at most 50-c the first minute with 35-c each additional minute, but
by the mid-1980s, AT&T had all kinds of Dial-It 900 rates, each rate
based on the specific 900-NXX code of the dialed number, rates ranging
from either free (900-200 and 900-555 numbers at that time), or 25-c
per-call or per-minute, to as much as ten dollars a call, all rates
associated with specific 900-NXX codes.

Then by the late 1980s (post-divestiture), other competitive companies
began to provide their own pay-per-call 900 services (the use of the
term "Dial-It" is a trademark or servicemark of AT&T), specific
900-NXX codes also dedicated to specific service providers. And these
"other" service providers could have almost any kind of rates that
they chose.

Presently, AT&T has completely vacated the "900" business. They
vacated 500 "personal numbering" a few years ago as well. Other
"major" carriers have also eliminated 500 and/or 900 in recent years
too, the only remaining providers of 500 and 900 being mostly "sleaze"
companies (or in the case of 500, there is quite a bit of GPS or
"on-star" type carriers and access numbers).

But as for the "first" 900 numbers in use -- it is probably even
earlier than 1977, but the 1977 Carter radio call-in 900-242-1611 is
the first one that was made known nationally or widespread for most

Anthony Bellanga

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