TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Telephone Dialing in Old Movies

Re: Telephone Dialing in Old Movies

Timothy Lange (
Mon, 21 May 2007 15:07:29 -0400

Not just old movies, when I started here at Purdue we had two
'exchanges' serving campus, the 749- and the 494-. If your number
started with 749 then anyone on campus could call you dialing only the
last four digits. If you had a 494 number then the last five had to
be used. The exchange was/is on campus, but run by GTE (now Verizon).


[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Ah, so you must be a newcomer around
West Lafayette, then. Back in the 1950-60's, Lafayette and West
Lafayette had just gone dial and to reach Purdue University there were
two ways to do it: From any phone in the Lafayette or West Lafayette
area one dialed '90' from any (off campus) phone to reach the Purdue
operator, or you dialed '92' plus five digits if you knew the
extension you wanted. Furthermore, because the town was GTE rather
than Bell System, with the advent of 'area codes' the area was not in
the (logical) 317 area code. Instead, (in Chicago area at least) to
reach someone on Purdue campus we dialed the long distance operator
('211' in those days) and asked our operator for 'Lafayette 90' or
'Lafayette 92-xxxxx', or Lafayette seven whatever digits for a non-
campus place.

When I went to West Lafayette once in 1956-57 or thereabouts for a
debate tournament I promised my mother I would call home when I was
there. I went into the student union at Purdue to use a payphone and
when I dialed the operator to ask for Chicago, Area Code 312, xxx-xxxx
the operator rudely cut me off after hearing the 'area code 312' part
of my request to inform me, "We do not go by area codes here, just the
number in Chicago is all." Inward must have been really busy that
day, because I heard ringing (of the inward operator) at least 25
times for close to five minutes when the Lafayette operator cut the
connection and said to me, "I am sorry sir, but Chicago is not
answering right now ... would you try again later, please." PAT]

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