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

Re: What About Areas Where Alphabet is Not Like Ours?
Fri, 9 Feb 2007 20:48:29 EST

In a message dated 8 Feb 2007 07:45:17 -0800,

> Exchange names go back far before dial operation -- probably before
> the turn of the 20th century. In Oklahoma City, for example, Walnut
> and Maple (manual exchanges) went back to the 1910s, when the city
> needed more than 10,000 (considered as about the reach in the manual
> multiple jacks for an operator's arm).

Depending on the size of the city, and its history of numbering plans,
exchange names had been dropped in many cities with a need for only a
few exchange, four-, five- or six- digit. Exchange names were
reintroced later only when the demand for numbers became confusing, by
the standards of the day. (Tulsa at one time in the 1940s and 1950s
had Four-, five- and six-digit numbers all at the same time. Before
DDD there was no requirement that the length of numbers had to be
uniform, even in the same city.)

And the requirement for two- or three-letter prefixes was not uniform.
About the time mentioned for Tulsa, Dallas had numbers that started
with one letter only.

With requirement for a uniform numbering plan, various plans were
followed. Some exchange names from the manual area were clearly not
candidates--one that was often cited as impossible because only local
Philadelphia customers would be able to pronounce it, let along spell
it, was Bala-Cynwyd.

Some places the locality name or old exchange name (often the same)
were adapted to be dial prefixes, other places which did not have a
history of exchange names adopted a rule that no locality name would
be used as a prefix. There was no standard. The individual Bell
companies (or in some cases the independent operating company) usually
followed the reommended list put out by Bell Labs, but there were
amusing anecdotes.

When Waco, Texas, was converted to 2L-5N, the Chevrolet dealer
objected to the assignment of PLymouth to the downdown area. It was
changed to PLaza, also on the approved.

City fathers in Anadarko, Oklahoma (location of "Indian City, USA",
what now is considered a theme or educational park). realized that the
prefix assigned to the city which started with 24x (I don't now
remember what name was originally assigned) could be rendered as
CHieftain (not on the approved list). There appeared to be no real
problem with this, and so the prefix was published as CHieftain.

> 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.

You leave out the objections from Prof. S. I. Hiyakawa, who formed the
Anti-Digit Dialing League (ADDL) and attracted quite a few adherents.
Prof. Hiyalawa was later elected to the U.S. Senate from California.

Ed Clark, president of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, finally
agreed to allow Wichita Falls, Texas, to be used as a guinea pig and
converted to all-number calling. While it wasn't converted back,
Clark declared there would be no more ANC conversions while he was
president of SWBT, and there weren't. (The title president then mean
the Chief Executive Officer, before it became customary for CEOs to be
called "chairman.") Other SWBT exchanges were converted to ANC only
after Clark retired.

Wes Leatherock

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