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

Re: What About Areas Where Alphabet is Not Like Ours?
8 Feb 2007 07:45:17 -0800

On Feb 7, 8:12 pm, Joe Tibiletti <> wrote:

> 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?

I don't know what the dial looks like in other countries.

As mentioned here, U.S. city telephone numbers consisted of a named
exchange which corresponded to the letters on the dial. This was done
(1) to ease the transition from manual to dial and (2) because it was
felt "MUnicipal 6-1776" would be easier to remember than "686-1776".

After WW II, the telephone company realized that users were confusing
the letter I with the number 1 (and 0 and O) as well as
pronouciation. For example, in Philadelphia there was the BAring 2
exchange, but it was pronounced "BEARING". Philadelphians know that,
but outsiders wouldn't and errors would result. There were numerous
examples of that in many cities. Also, telephone growth was causing
shortages of numbers in some places. Because of those and some other
technical reasons, the Bell System decided to go to "ANC", All Number
Calling. An all number dial would have bigger numbers and be easier
to read, too.

They forsaw overseas dialing as well and realized alphabets were

The transition was gradual, some places were converted in the 1960s,
Philadelphia the last holdout (bastion of tradition) wasn't converted
until 1980.

However, businesses realized they could have an easy to remember
telephone number using the letters on the dial. So the letters
remained for that reason.

Indeed, in the U.S., the letters "Q" and "Z" were added to the dial.

> 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?

A "Crank up" telephone network, known as "local battery" would require
a human telephone operator on duty 24/7 and regular service visits to
replace the batteries in customer phones (a part of hand crank
telephones). All this would be quite expensive and it would likely be
cheaper to upgrade the line to order to accomodate the customers.

> 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.

I find it very hard to believe party lines are being re-introduced.
Modern lines using carrier have plenty of capacity. A party line is
technically obsolete and actually a hindrance in a modern system.
Many states eliminated them completely.

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