TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: 1960s Long Distance From San Francisco

1960s Long Distance From San Francisco

Anthony Bellanga (
Mon, 24 Oct 2005 12:11:41 -0600

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Mark Roberts wrote in his well documented summary of San Francisco/Oakland
telephone history:

> Long Distance

> There's an odd statement in May 1964 directory in the area code
> listings, "To make a direct Distance call, just dial the Area Code and
> then the telephone number". Does that mean no "1" or "211" was used?

> The 1960 directory gives "211" as the Long Distance number but some
> (not all) locations could be direct dialed.

San Francisco/Oakland was one of a handful of places, just about all
of the largest cities/urban areas of the urban northeast, urban
midwest, and urban areas of California, which had developed with Panel
and #1XB switching from the earliest days of their dial service.

Note that San Francisco/Oakland was using N11 codes in the 1930s
rather than the "step-by-step" format of 11X codes. N11 codes in use
prior to the 1960s is an indication that the location developed with
Panel and/or #1XB rather than SXS switching.

When originating customer DDD became available from Panel/#1XB cities,
there was no need for a 1+ to route the call to the CAMA/XBTandem or
#4A/4M crossbar toll machine. Instead of the dialpulses needing to be
registered at a tandem or toll office, the registers in the local
Panel or #1XB office (similar to a #5XB) could do all of the digit
storage and analysis/translation up front.

Also, at that time, there were no N0X or N1X central office codes in
the 415 area code. This didn't come about until the late 1980s when
415 would begin to have 415-N0X and 415-N1X codes. Thus there was no
ambiguity on how many digits to "expect" when the second digit were
dialed prior to the late 1980s. If the second digit was a '1' or '0',
the local office assumed the call to be a ten-digit call, that the
second digit was that of an area code. But if the second digit dialed
was a '2' through '9', it was assumeed the call would be a seven-digit
call within the 415 area code (whether local or even toll within the
same area code). Thus no 1+ was needed. (and 112+ was something common
to many SXS offices, both Bell and independent, until they began to
standardize on 1+).

The use of 211 was just a three-digit code, used to reach the outward
"Long Distance" Operator. Many cities prior to the 1960s or so had two
separate types of operators, both the local assitance operator (0), and
the long distance operator (211 from Panel and #1XB cities; 110 from SXS
cities). The smaller towns usually dialed just '0' for both local and
toll assistance, which became consolidated for just about all other
cities throughout the 1960s and 70s.

Also, you mentioned some NN0 central office codes. These were highly
discouraged by AT&T for use until the 1960s/70s time period. But there
were uses of NN0 office codes in some places even in the 1930s or
1920s era, even with lettered dialing of Exchange Names. Los Angeles
had mixed 2L-4N and 2L-5N numbering and dialing even as far back as
the 1920s era, and there was even at least one NN0 format 2L-5N office
code back then!

And speaking of Los Angeles and Southern California -- remember that
they developed with dial independent telephone companies in the early
years of the 20th century as well as manual Bell. When these systems
began to be consolidated right after the First World War, there were
all kinds of unique interconnection arrangements established. Southern
California did NOT have Panel (or #1XB) switching, but rather
developed everything as SXS when converting manual offices to
dial. However, because of the growing complexity of growing Southern
California (a major urban area), there were special "kludges"
developed such as Pacific Telephone's SAMA and General Telephone's
SATT. I'm not exactly sure about General Telephone but I do know that
when DDD was first introduced in Bell parts of Southern California,
they did NOT require a 1+ for toll from their SXS offices. Instead,
customers simply dialed just seven-digits for toll calls to any such
toll locations within their home area code (not just 213 but also 714
and 805 are valid area codes in the southern California area), and
just ten-digits for toll calls (or local adjacent calls) to other area
codes, no 1+ required.

- anthony bellanga

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: This is the way it was in Chicago also
in the 1970's at least, and earlier. Just dial 10-D for whatever, or
'211' for long distance. One plus only started _absolutely required_
in the early 1980's when prefixes started looking 'funny'. PAT]

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