TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: What About Areas Where Alphabet is Not Like Ours?

What About Areas Where Alphabet is Not Like Ours?

Joe Tibiletti (
Wed, 7 Feb 2007 19:12:22 -0600

I raise the question, what does the telephone dial look like in areas
with alphabets different fron our own, such as Cairo, Egypt, or
Beijing, China, or Oslo, Norway? Before the time of dial phones, how
did operators communicate with multi lengual populations?.

I understand that until about 5 years ago there were some crank up
telephones in use -- in West Virginia -- with telephone numbers that
had 4N-1L-2N. Anyone got sharing on this one?

There appears to be a return to two party lines in some areas because
of shortage of lines. e.g . Round Rock, Texas, north of Austin, TX.

Joe Tibiletti

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: In the era 'before the time of dial
phones', most international calls were routed manually through either
White Plains, NY (to Europe) or Oakland, CA (far east and Pacific
Islands) or Miami, FL (South American points) and Montreal, Quebec for
Iceland, Greenland, northern polar points, etc. Your local operator
was _not_ expected to know other languages, but the operators in those
other cities were expected to have at least a smattering of knowledge
about the languages they were dealing with. And when the AT&T operator
said to the European operator (who had probably originally responded
in her own native language) "this is White Plains (or Oakland)
calling", typically the overseas operator would switch (sometimes in
mid-stream) to English instead of whatever she _had_ been
speaking. They would communicate in English with Oakland or White
Plains, then 'toggle back and forth' between languages as they dealt
with other operators in their country. Other country operators did not
expect very much of AT&T in that respect. You notice I did not include
the dozens of dialects of mostly French spoken in Africa. AT&T did not
commect direct with Africa. Those cables were all the property of
France Telecom, which guarded the cables and they only allowed calls
from USA or Canada at certain specified times of day (usually during
the night) and those calls were 'booked' by operators in Paris,
France. AT&T had to hand off the call to the Paris operators.

Now, most international operator-assisted calls are routed through the
Pittsburgh, PA IOC (International Operations Center of AT&T), and it
is a lot the same way: A few operators can speak the most common other
languages (Spanish, German, French) but most of them cannot, so when
foreign city inward answers and hears, "Pittsburgh calling", they
start speaking English when possible.

If there were crank telephones in use five years ago, it is news to
me. I thought all of those vanished at least 20-25 years ago. Perhaps
you are thinking of Nevada's toll stations, which were in use in a few
areas of that state (and some remote areas in Idaho and California
until sometime in the 1990's. PAT]

Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2007 19:12:22 -0600
From: Joe Tibiletti <>
Newsgroups: comp.dcom.telecom
Subject: Telephone Area Codes and Prefixes
Message-ID: <>
Organization: TELECOM Digest
X-Telecom-Digest: Volume 26, Issue 40, Message 8 of 9
Lines: 102

I am a 1960'- 70's firstclass radiotelephone licensee and sole
stockholder of radio station KTXN-FM, 98.7 megahertz and 100 kilowatts
in Victoria, Texas, --on the web as --, which I
started in 1964 while a student -- 21 years old -- in Radio/TV/Film at
the University of Houston, Texas.

I have been fascinated with the field of numbers and mathematics in
combinations and permutations for many years. Thus the use of numbers
in telephone numbers, license plates, etc. has held a particular
fascination for me. If a teacher wants to give extra credit for
elementary computer programmers, they should ask students to go
through the logic of yes and no alternatives in dialing a local call
with seven digits. There are a lot of very interesting stops --
disconnects, non local NXX, etc. -- along the way. I would be happy
to go through it.

I have testified before the Public Utility Commission of Texas -- one of the
last states to have this jurisdiction placed in one organization under state
control. The matter was the breakup of the then 512 area code with
outlying areas to the state capital going to a new code of the N, (2-9), N
-- EVENTUALLY THE SECRET WAS OUT AS 361. They had their minds made up as to
the outcome, but I put in my two cents worth.

Here are my suggestions which are still today applicable.

1. Place all government telephones on their own area code I heard a stuck
pig squeal as they claimed this would be discrimination. In another
comment cell phones are placed upon special area codes in Chicago and NYC.
2. Give a fourth number (digit) behind the present area code three digits
based upon the clock: with 0 being north of center of code area or city
center, 3 to the east, 6 to the south, and 9 to the west.
3. Give an additional digit to all numbers based upon use, e.g. 1 for cell,
2 for fax 3 for internet access, etc.l
4. Add aditional digit behind the present three for uses as listed in
alternative 3.

As to archives and comments of telephone number configurations, the prefix
Zenith was used in the 1950's for non dial telephones in Pacific Palisades
area of LA. Chicago had in the same period a 2L and 6N in some sub-urban
area numbers in the same period. Not all possible combinations were used in
all area codes, while several private NXX -- such as KRypton was used in
Houston, Texas, for the Humble Building, and LT (WITH NO MEANING WAS USED

Use of NXX which are identical to area codes.. this really confused
subscribers, for example 512 the former area code of my home city of
Victoria, Texas, prior to 361, was used as an exchange in the LA area in
Gardena, another use of this knid was 708 (Rochester MN). In Austin, Texas,
my NXX was 310 -- the area code for Beverly Hills. Some side lines to
area codes and radio stations would be We Shield Millions at 650 on the
standard broadcast radio dial in Nashville,TN and the area code for
Nashville 615.

If one is familiar with telephone numbering issuance one can tell when a
telephone number was issued in many cases.

Issuance of numbers woulds be as follows: at time of dial switchover
5N (N-NNNN) then 1L - 4N -- uncertain whether all letters were used or
not the exchanges 2L-4N followed by 2L-5N, or in Chicago 2L-6N. Note
the initial digit in 2L-5N was not a 1 or a 0. then 2L-4N disappeared
and 2L-5N took on 0 or 1 with 4 N, then 7N (except for NXX that were
N(1 or 0) in second position or third position) 624, but not 604 7N
with second digit 1 or 0 being issued with other numbers e.g 510 7N
with NXX including 00 in second and third position. ef.g. 200 break up
of area code.

Some challenges exist where a state line crosses through a town and two
area codes are present and there is a need to dial across the state line
without area code being used as is the case in Texarkana AR and TX.


Joe Tibiletti
President KTXN-FM
2618 FM 1685
Victoria, TX, 77905

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Actually, the _original_ layout of
area codes was not quite like what you say. Phones originally had
rotary dials (especially in the 1950-60's era). Area codes were
assigned so that the larger, metropolitan areas had 'quicker' and
'shorter to dial' area codes, i.e. New York had 212 (=5 pulses to
dial), Chicago had 312 (=6 pulses to dial), Los Angeles had 213 (=6
pulses to dial), Detroit had 313 (=7 pulses to dial) and very few
9xx (= at least a dozen or two dozen pulses to dial) were generally
not assigned. Not in the early days.

When telephone exchanges were name/words, they were often times
assigned based on geographic considerations. For example, Chicago
used to have FRAnklin (372), DEArborn (332), STAte (782), WABash (922),
and others downtown; all names familiar to Chicagoans, as well as
GRAceland (472) and MIChigan (642) on the north side. Now, they still
have those prefixes exactly where they always were, along with dozens
of 'newcomers'; all-number prefixes with no name attached or
associated. They are referred to as ANCs or All Number Calling
prefixes. I cannot imagine telco at this late date setting up what
may seem to be a more logical arrangement of numbers; its much too
late in the game to change the rules that much. PAT]

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