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Historical Contributions

These are contributions which were sent to me for this project, which dealt with the historical background of exchange names. This information forms the basis for many of the conclusions I've drawn about the history of exchanges. Much of this information is very difficult to find, and I am greatly indebted to everyone who's taken the time to send it. Thanks!

Jewel Patten, Sun, 22 Sep 1996

I'm an old lady who retired from the tel. co. about three years ago. I was an operator and manager in the central office at San Rafael and Mill Valley. I remember all of the prefixes in Marin County and a lot in S.F. I also remember a big deal that was started when the Co. went to all digit dialing. It was a kind of grass routes movement that started in Marin County. The late Seashu(sp?) Hiakawa was a professor at Berkley at the time. He was president of the ADDA movement.This was a loosly organized group of Marinites who banded together to try to influence the Co. to discard their plan. There main tactic was to refuse to give the operator their number in digits it is really amusing now but at the time it caused a lot of frustration and concern to people who were just trying to do their job. Anyway it"s a neat story. If you want me to organize my tired old brain to think of the prefixes let me know. Oh! I got so excited I forgot to tell you the name of the group...The "anti digit dialing association".

Anonymous, Sun, 22 Sep 1996

In the earliest days of phone exchanges, the first *three* letters were used, followed by four numbers. The switch to two letters was very early, but with very old exchanges like SPRing --> SPring 7, you can see the pattern.

Richard A. Stanley, Mon, 23 Sep 1996

Named telephone exchanges were introduced in the 1930's and 1940's when 5 digits were no longer sufficient for the number of subscribers. They became mandatory in the 1950's when 7-digit dialing was instituted throughout (most of) the United States. It was believed that a word plus 5 digits would be easier to remember than would 7 digits. Many such words caused endless confusion, however (e.g. MUrray Hill in New York City was frequently dialed as MH). They passed from the scene when it became increasingly difficult to find words to match with all the required exchange codes needed.

Earle D. Miller, Tue, 24 Sep 1996


For your further information, I know that some Paris telephone exchanges used to be identified by name, using three-letter codes. You can still see from time to time there old signs giving the phone number as, for example, ELYsee 12-34 (that was when they used 7-digit numbers. Now they use 8 digits; everything in the city got a '4' prefix.)

As a final note, STD codes in the UK (what they call area codes) are, or were, built on an alphabetical basis. There, as in most of Europe, the bigger the city, the shorter the area code and the longer the local number; the smaller the city, the longer the area code and the shorter the phone number. London was 01; big cities had 3 digit codes of the form 0x1; smaller cities had 4 or more digit codes. Of the 0x1s, 021 was Birmingham; 031 Edinburgh; 041 Glasgow; 051 Liverpool; 061 Manchester. If I remember right, Cardiff was 0222, Belfast was 023something, and so on ... it all corresponded. I remember being tickled pink to discover a list of STD codes in a UK phone directory at the age of 5 or so and make the connection.

Sylvia Gallus, Thu, 26 Sep 1996

Guess what? What you're calling "Exchange Names" are really called "Central Office Names". That info comes straight from Bell Canada's historical division (Lorraine at 514-391-5852, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada). Everybody calls them exchanges anyway.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Central office names first appeared in the March 1901 directory. Your central office switched the calls you made out over a trunk line over to the receiving central office. The names were:

Go to detailed history

If you're interested, I also have the "Chronologial Data" list on the Toronto Central Offices, from 1879 to 1950. It gives the central office name and switch type, address, and opening date. Interesting to note the "Main Exchange" (second one built) was destroyed by fire on May 24, 1884; rebuilt by October 1884, only to be destroyed by fire in April 1886 (rebuilt again by September 1886, then moved in June 1894).

I hope you find this info useful. Amazing what you can discover with one phone call to the right person...

Gee, I'll say!

The Phoneman, Fri, 27 Sep 1996

It was interesting to see your site; more so due to the fact that I am a "phoneman" who works for what once was the Bell System. I noted that you show the DIamond exchange as being in Van Nuys, Calif. The actual "exchange" was in Canoga Park, Calif; a few miles to the west of Van Nuys.

The Bell System built "exchanges" (now known as Central Offices) to serve a certain geographical area. I believe that they named the exchange after the first prefix installed in that office. Hence, the first prefix installed in the Canoga Park exchange was 34 or Diamond. Typically a prefix consists of 3 digits, and in the DIamond exchange it was 347-xxxx. Using just the 347 prefix you can have up to 10,000 different numbers. After those numbers were exhausted, the telephone company would usually add a prefix (348 in the case of the Diamond exchange).

Before the advent of the dial office, calls outside the exchange were connected by operators, and I believe that the name of the exchange was used to assist in locating where the calls were to go.

JThomp9919, Sat, 28 Sep 1996


Most phone numbers assigned from the late '40's on did not have zeroes or ones in the middle because of the North American Dialing plan, which was set up by ATT & other phone companies. That was how switching equipment recognized area codes, which always had zero or one as their second digit. I work in telecommunications & it caused quite a mess a few years ago when Bellcore changed the plan.

Paul Faria, Sat, 28 Sep 1996


One item that you might not be aware of is that exhanges were often names after the street the the local central office was names after. For example, Oakland 03 was (is) on Franklin Street in downtown Oakland. One of the exchange names in that area was (you guessed it) FRanklin. While this is not always the rule it might help you in your quest.

Alan D'Aiello Jr., Sat, 28 Sep 1996


The GAspee exchange name has a signifigance. The area it covers is the historic Pawtuxet Village which was founded in the 1650's. It now straddles 3 cities in RI, Providence (the capital), Cranston, and Warwick. Gaspee is the name of a British battleship which before the Revolution moved on the port of Providence to stop Rum smuggling in May/June 1773. One afternoon it chased a Rum ship up the Narragansett Bay towards Providence. The ship, knowing the area, crossed a sandbar called Conimicuit Reach, knowing that the British ship had a deeper draft than themselves and would run aground. The ship ran aground of course. Later that evening, before the ship could refloat itself with the changing tide, the smugglers from Providence (at that time about 7 miles away--urban sprawl moved the border south by a considerable distance-- and a 45 min. ride by horse)came to the port in Pawtuxet ( at the time it was in competition for the most important trading center in the colony ) and rowed out to the ship anbd set it afire. The ship was destroyed. This is considered by many to be the first open act of agression of the Revolutionary War.

(Later ...)

A quick point of info...Britian used town names as the name of their exchanges...the large cities (London, Edinburgh, Manchester, etc...) used the postal code (SW1 was for a section of London for ex.) for the exchange name. however, Britain does not use exchange codes as we do. Britain's phone numbers, as in the US, are now 11 digits in length, however, the local # in most areas are 6 digits in length, with 5 digit area codes (all codes include 0 as their first digit, our equivilent of the desiginating digit 1.) The major metro areas use a 4 digit area code and 7 digit local # as we do, however, they still write the # differnt...for ex. my friend's # in Edinburgh is writen 0131-229 6990 (area code is always listed). Another friend living in a village outside of Edinburgh writes his # as 01506 412538. Before the numeric system was established after WWII, an operator would place the call (called in British parlance a "trunk call" because it was long distance) by the town, suburb, or location name. My friend's # used to be Livingston 412538, or West Lothian 412538. The numbers were still listed as such untill the early 70's when Britain completed putting the whole country on the dial and opend their exchanges for International Direct Dial from the continent.

R. E. Blair, Sun, 29 Sep 1996

Just read where you weren't sure if other parts of the world used prefixes. The answer is yes. When I was living in Paris in the '50's, all telephone numbers were preceded by a three letter prefix. My exchange was KLEber.

Daniel Trindall, Thu, 03 Oct 1996

Here's a list of Montreal exchanges from my mother's day. She's 74.


Trivia: Many of the original exchange buildings are still around, many have the exchange name in stone above their entrances. Now they are mostly switching stations, without any people on duty. At night, you can hear faint clicking from the buildings.

Several of the above names are location specific...

Bywater was the harbour district.

Willbank was the original farm that was developed after the First World War.

Westmount has always been the rich people's area, up on the western slope of Mt. Royal. Real swanky.

Uptown was obvious.

York was named after the Duke of York. The traditional title of the British Monarck's second son. He was the first Royal to ever visit Canada, and the excahnge was named in his honour.

Mark J Cuccia, Sat, 2 Nov 1996

Here is the New Orleans Exchange History.

Go to detailed history

Mark J Cuccia, Sat, 2 Nov 1996

"WordNumbers" on the Phone

I've seen the "Z" on the "0 (Zero) Operator" in many older advertisements and old telephone directories prior to the mid-1960's.

I always wondered about that. Maybe it had to do with the old "Zenith" toll-free numbers. If a customer actually tried to *DIAL* out "ZE" plus three to five numerical digits, dialing the initial "Z" would really be dialing 0 (zero) or Operator, as the Operator had to manually connect to or dial a "Zenith" number, and manually do a ticket for automatically accepted reverse billing.

I've also been told that older telephone credit cards had a letter at the end. I'm not all that familiar with the old style manually verified telephone cards prior to the later 1970's, but I've been told they had a "check-digit" or "check-letter" which *could* even be a Q or Z. Some local operator systems could do a limited auto verification of telephone cards, and I think they dialed or keyed a "1" for "Q" and a "0" for "Z".

There is a Bell System Technical Journal article on improved 800 service as well as automated calling cards and other "new" services. I think this was dated September 1982. In the article on customer keying of their calling card numbers, there is a picture of a standard Western Electric single-slot payphone with a special instruction card for customer keying of a card number. In the instructions, it told the customer to "enter '1' for 'Q' and '0' for 'Z' ".

In various issues of the Bell System Tech. Journal in the 1970's and early 1980's, there are articles on TSPS improvements. There was usually a sketch showing a layout of a TSPS board. On the dialing keypad, it shows a 'Q' on the '1' and a 'Z' on the '0'.

In the Winter 1959/60 issue of Bell Telephone Magazine, there is an article on area codes, telephone numbering, exchange names and central office code assignments. It mentions that area codes were being used up rather fast, more so than was was predicted in October 1947 when the area code scheme was finalized. It also mentions that Bell might be dropping exchange names and dialing letters altogather, so that 55X, 57X, 95X and 97X could be assigned as regular local exchanges. There aren't any vowels on the 5, 7 and 9 digits in North America, and thus it was difficult to create meaningful and pronounceable names of the non-vowel letters on those digits. Also mentioned was a possibility of simply using two letters for some new central office codes, and not even using a "name" from those first two letters, such as DB3 for 323, and thus letters not making up a name could be used for 55, 57, 95 and 97.

Also, it talked about future N0X and N1X central office codes, but there were usually no letters on the '0'. The article also mentioned the possibility of changing *EVERY* subscriber's instrument in the US and Canada to add a 'Q' to the '1' and a 'Z' to the '0'. But that was considered *WAY* to cumbersome and cost prohibitive, so that option was abandoned!

I've also been told that there were some areas which had limited automatic toll switching but only on a regional basis, dating back to the 1920's, well before "area codes" and the North American Numbering Plan. The operator would actually dial those numbers using special routing codes based on the town name. If a town's name began with a 'Q', the routing code began with a '1' and if it began with a 'Z', the routing code began with a '0'. This was only used here-and-there for regional automated toll switching, and was eventually replaced by the NANP area code format. And if a region had several towns beginning with the letter 'Q', there could be many code conflicts, since most every word or name beginning with 'Q' will also have 'U' as their second letter.

I've seen some Private COCOT payphones and some PBX telephones which have 'QZ' on the '1', some which have 'QZ' on the '0', and some which have 'Q' on the '7' with 'PRS' and 'Z' on the '9' with 'WXY', as well as the more common *no* 'Q' or 'Z' at all. Also, some automated voicemail or information retreival systems have various instructions and menus as to how to handle the letters 'Q' and 'Z'.

I've mentioned the old French dial which had both the letters 'O' and 'Q' on the '0' (zero), the old UK dial which had only the letter 'O' on the '0' (zero). Some pre-1960 era UK dials also had the word "Operator" on the zero. When '0' became the STD access prefix in the late 1950's, the British Postal Telephone Co. changed access to the local operator from '0' to '100'. Both the British and French dials had *only* the letters 'MN' on the on the '6' position, while the North American dial has the three letters 'MNO' on the '6'.

Old Danish dials had their own letter scheme on the dials. It used some Scandinavian alphabetical symbols, such as the 'o' with slash through it, and the letters 'a' and 'e' togather as one symbol. I think that the '1' had a single letter, the '0' had two letters, and the '2' thru '9' had three letters each. I'll have to double check some old dial layouts. It seemed to correspond somewhat but *not* exactly to the North American and British or French letters to digits layout.

Old Russian dials had letters and symbols from the Russian alphabet.

Old Australian dials had a *single* Roman alphabet character on each of those digits which did have letters. I have a chart somewhere showing the arrangement, but I'll have to double check it.

Many other countries had their own letters/characters layout on their dials for local exchange name dialing or regional automated toll dialing.

And then, there have been differences between the digit and the number of dialpulses generated! Sweden had the '0' before '1', running up to '9'. The '0' generated one dialpulse, the '1' generated two pulses, all the way up to the '8' generating nine pulses and the '9' generating ten pulses.

New Zealand might have also had letters on their dials years ago, but the rotary dial was 'reversed'. '0' generated ten pulses, '1' generated nine pulses, '2' generated eight pulses, all the way to '8' generating two pulses and '9' generating '1' pulse. I think that this was also the dial used in Oslo NORWAY, although the remainder of Norway used the "standard" layout of ONE through NINE followed by zero at ten dialpulses!

Mark J Cuccia, Sat, 2 Nov 1996

This is one of the articles on "WordNumbers" on the phone dial. It includes some charts of various differences in different countries.

> Is there any reasonably well-accepted standard for the letters on a telephone?

Go to detailed history

Jack Winslade, via Mark J. Cuccia, Sat, 02 Nov 1996

Omaha Exchange Name History

I recently ran across some notes regarding Omaha's conversion from named exchanges to numbered prefixes. The cutover apparently occurred in the fall of 1960. Prior to 1960, Omaha used a 2-4 scheme with the first two letters of the exchange name being used. Omaha went to an all-number scheme in 1960 where the numbered prefixes had no correlation to the former names.

I was quite surprised at the low number of dialable prefixes that were in service at the time. Omaha ain't BosWash, but it currently has well over 100 dialable prefixes in the local calling area. This simply shows how the phone system has grown faster than the human population.

Here's the chart, showing the CO locations and the prefixes after the cut in 1960. The numbered notes are mine, compiled from odd sources. ;-)

(Exchanges added to list)


1. 271 and 281 are kind of enigmatic to local phone buffs. Of the two, only 271 exists today. They were used to service Union Pacific's step DID system. Although any extension could be dialed with either prefix, 281 was listed for the main UP numbers, and 271 was listed for the individual departments. 281 disappeared in the 1980's when UP went to a newer system.

2. ATlantic was Ma Bell's first full-scale panel switch installation. Cutover was in 1921. See story in Telecom Archives.

3. Notice that WEbster and YEllowstone are both dialed with the numerical sequence 93. Yep, same prefix, different name. WEbster served downtown Omaha while YEllowstone served the community of Carter Lake, IA. Carter Lake is geographically on the Nebraska side of the river, but politically in Iowa. In 1960, WEbster was given 346 and YEllowstone was given 347. An occasionally recurring topic here in the Digest is the speculation that the 347 prefix could be dialed for a while using either the 402 or 712 area code.

But wait! There's more! This story has another twist that I recently learned.

In the 1940's, Carter Lake was dialed using LAke. Note that LAke has the same two digits as JAckson, (52) another in the downtown Omaha area. Sometime before 1960, all phones in Carter Lake were apparently switched from JAckson-LAke to WEbster-YEllowstone. The reason for this will be an exercise for the student. ;-) (I have NO idea.)

4. This was the last Omaha area office to be converted from manual to dial service in the late 1950's.

Another note is that Council Bluffs, IA was at the time a toll call and not dialable directly. Calls between Omaha and Council Bluffs finally became toll free in 1971.

Mark J. Cuccia, Sat, 02 Nov 1996

Old Calgary Alberta Exchanges

I recently received a copy of "Singing Wires, the Story of the Telephone in Alberta", published by AGT in 1973. It is now out of print.

There is a picture of an early 1940's AGT public announcement in the book, which has the Automatic Electric version of WECO/NECO's model #302 desk telephone, with and a hand reaching over to lift the handset to place a call. BIG BLOCK LETTERS at the top of the advertisement state "STOP!". Underneath the telephone are "WAR CALLS COME FIRST!".

Text continues stating that while it has become a happy family custom to place telephone calls at Christmas and New Years' to relatives and friends across North America, to please mail or telegram such holiday greetings to relatives and friends *outside* of the province during "the war", as the long-distance circuits are needed for 'important war business purposes'.

It continues to state that if it is an *important* out of province call, AGT's operators will be happy to place the call, as well as *any* type of call *within* the province.

What is unusual about the telephone is the arrangement of *letters* to the numbers on the dialface:

1=A; 2=M; 3=S; 4=W; 5=E; 6=R; 7=H; 8=L

9 and 0 had *no* letters, not even the word "Operator".

I spoke with the author the the book, who told me that this was the old "Calgary" dial. Calgary had started converting its manual office to Step-by-step dial as early as 1912. I don't have the years of introduction of individual Calgary exchanges, nor do I have conversions from manual to dial. But I was told the *names* of each exchange's dial letter. And until sometime in the 1950's, Calgary used 1L-4N local numbers, using this dial arrangement.

M on the 2 was Main

S on the 3 was South

W on the 4 was West

E on the 5 was East

R on the 6 was Riverside

H on the 7 was Hill

L on the 8 was Louise

The author didn't remember what the A on the 1 was used for. And usually, an initial digit of '1' was 'absorbed', due to various technical problems. Of course, service codes of the form 11X were frequently used. The first digit '1' was 'absorbed', while the second digit '1' was switched to 'miscellaneous codes'.

Accroding to the AGT book, Calgary went to North American 'standard' 2L-5N local numbering (seven pulls of the dial) sometime in the 1950's. Also, a 'telephone man' had to visit *all* Calgary businesses and residences to either change out the dialface to a 'standard full-alphabet' one, or change out the telephone entirely to one which already had the standard dialface.

In the late 1950's (circa 1957 or 58), Calgary began to add #5XB local switches, as well as a Crossbar Tandem (XBT) switch to handle full integration into the North American DDD network.

I don't have any info as to *what* the old Calgary exchanges were changed to, other than I do know that in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's, *all* Calgary exchanges began with the digit '2'. AGT began to 'break-out' of that pattern sometime in this decade.

I would hope that there is a reader out there who has further information to fill in some of the gaps here. Thanks.

Mark J. Cuccia, Sat, 02 Nov 1996

Edmonton Alberta EXchange History

The telephone company in Edmonton Alberta had for *DECADES* been owned by the city government. Early last year (1995), Telus, now the parent company of AGT purchased EdTel from the city government of Edmonton.

Edmonton had dial service since about 1910 or so, using Step-by-Step equipment. It was originally supposed to have a "Lorimer" system which was a 'rotary' version of the future panel switch, however the purchase order wasn't fulfilled by the time the telephone company wanted to begin converting some exchanges to dial. The Edmonton District Telephone Company thus purchased Stroger step equipment from Automatic Electric of Chicago.

Originally, Edmonton's dial equipment was 'three-wire'. Ringing was NOT provided by machines, but still by either turning a magneto crank (although power was common battery), or by pressing a button after dialing the local number. Thus it was possible to press or crank out 'coded' rings to identify *who* was calling, which individual at a number was *being* called, or to 'telegraph' out family messages without even having to verbally converse! (Something like what could be done on a 'party line') Eventually, this system was converted to standard two-wire connections, along with central office based automatic 'ringing machines'.

I don't have the years any particular exchange was introduced, nor when an exchange was converted from manual to dial. However, I do have information here regarding Edmonton's conversion to 2L-5N (seven digit) numbers, which occurred in one night, on 15 March 1959.

Edmonton had five and six digit local numbers prior to this. No names had been used, although the exchange was identified by the first digit for five digit local numbers, or first two digits for six digit local numbers.

In 1959, Edmonton began to use *named* exchanges, rather than simply converting to seven numerical digits. AT&T and the other North American telephone companies had been considering eliminating 'names' for exchanges about this time (ANC, All Number Calling), so it does seem ironic that they would have gone from all numbers (although less than seven digits) to *named* exchanges at such a late date when converting to seven dialpulls.

2-xxxx became GArden-2-xxxx (422)

4-xxxx became GArden-4-xxxx (424)

9-xxxx (provincial government offices) became CApital-9 (229)

(Sometime by the late 1960's, 229 for the provincial offices was changed to an "Edmonton" form 4NX exchange, although I don't know what it would be. All Calgary numbers were of the form 2NX by that time)

All other numbers were six digits, with the first digit being converted to a letter:

3x-xxxx became GEneva x-xxxx (43x)

5x-xxxx became GLendale x-xxxx (45x)

6x-xxxx became HOmestead x-xxxx (46x)

7x-xxxx became GRanite x-xxxx (47x)

88-xxxx became HUnter 8-xxxx (488)

89-xxxx became HUdson 9-xxxx (489)

It does seem from the 'numbering arrangement' that Edmonton was still exclusively a "step-by-step" city at the time of conversion to seven dialpulls, although Edmonton Telephones might have begun introducing #5XB offices at the time. Maybe someone has further details to fill in any gaps.

I also want to thank Geoff Capp who supplied me with most of this Edmonton exchange history.

Mark J. Cuccia, Sat, 02 Nov 1996

Philadelphia EXchanges, Circa 1946

In Summer 1946, Philadelphia went from "3L-4N" local numbering to "2L-5N".

This wasn't simply a change of the third letter of the exchange name to a digit. In Philadelphia in 1946, when the third "dialpull" changed from the third letter of the exchange name to a numerical digit, the numerical was *NOT* necessarily the corresponding number on the third letter. *MOST* of Philadelphia's exchanges changed over using a *DIFFERENT* numerical for the third dialpull.

There weren't many other cities in the US which had 3L-4N. Unlike Philadelphia, most of those location changed the third letter of most of their exchange names to the directly corresponding numerical digit.

New York City had 3L-4N numbering until about 1930. Boston also had 3L-4N numbering. And Chicago changed from 3L-4N to 2L-5N around 1948 or so. There might have been one or two other large cities in the US with 3L-4N. I don't think that any large cities in Canada had 3L-4N local numbering. Outside of the US, Paris (France) had 3L-4N, as well as the larger cities in England and Scotland.

There is a {Bell Telephone Magazine} article documenting the changeover:

"Philadelphia Goes 2-5", by Harold S. Le Duc, volume 25 (1946), issue 3 (Autumn '46). The article begins on page 175 of v.25 (1946). I will summarize some of what the article contained, including a chart of the EXchanges in Philadelphia at that time:

Bell had mailed fliers, bill inserts, etc. explaining the change, had MANY radio commercials and announcements beforehand (including translations to Yiddish, Polish and Italian for ethnic language local radio programs). There were several newspaper advertisements and announcements in the three dailies, as well as in the thirty-four neighborhood weeklies and the twenty-one ethnic and foreign languague newspapers (German, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Jewish, and Negro) [I am using the identifiers as was printed in the 1946 article]

Some 355,000 Philadelphia (and some 125,000 suburban) customers received letters from Bell, at that time the largest single mailing ever in the Philadelphia area.

The Volunteer Service for the Blind distributed some 3,500 instruction cards printed in Braille.

The Summer 1946 Philadelphia directory was the first to be split into separate Yellow and White pages. The entire directory had to be re-typeset. More than one-million directories were delivered between 3 June and 1 July of 1946. Customers were instructed not to use the new directories until 7:00 a.m. Friday 5 July 1946, the time of the cut.

Tranisition information began an entire year before the cut. All Philadelphia area number cards had to be changed over. Many people were visited by repairmen and installers as well as by temporary employees with Bell of Pennsylvania, i.e. High School boys off for the Summer. Some people were mailed new number cards and according to the article, Bell called up those people with most reporting no problems changing the number card in the center of their dial. There were about 500,000 number cards or lines which had to be changed for the metro area.

Recorded announcement equipment similar to Time and Weather equipment was used to instruct callers using the wrong code to dial the RIGHT code, after the cut took effect.

Between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. on Friday 5 July, 22% of calls were dialed with the wrong code. During the busiest hours (10:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon) only 12% of calls were incorrectly dialed. All calls with a misdialed exchange code were properly intercepted up to 10:00 am, and most could be intercepted between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 Noon. (I assume that callers dialing the wrong code received a re-order or maybe simply 'dead silence'). From 12:00 Noon Friday until 10:00 a.m. Monday 8 July, all calls dialed with the wrong code were intercepted with the recording.

On Monday 8 July, between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 Noon, only 5% of total calls in the area were dialed incorrectly. But due to heavy calling volume, intercept recordings were suspended in three switching offices. After 12:00 Noon on Monday 8 July, *ALL* misdialed codes were able to be properly intercepted with the recording.

After one week, only 3.2% of calls were dialed incorrectly; after two weeks, only 2.5% were dialed with the wrong code; by 24 July, only 1.9%; at the time of writing of the article, only 1.2% (slightly more than 1 in 100 calls).

The initial intercept recording was: "Will you please dial the first *TWO* letters and the *FIVE* figures, as shown in the new directory? Thank you!" Some people were not hanging up and then going offhook for new dialtone before dialing; others would try to 'talk' back to the recording. The recorded message had to be changed to: "Will you please *HANG-UP* and dial the first *TWO* letters and *FIVE* figures, as shown in the new directory? Thank you! *This is a recorded message*"

The woman who recorded the messages was interviewed on radio and in the papers, as she had become a sort of local celebrity. There were even some people deliberately misdialed the exchange code, so as to hear the woman's recorded voice!

The article also includes some photos of "window-scene" promotional displays, in office buildings and department stores (and probably the Bell of Pennsylvania main office building) which included "cute" props of WECO model #202 style telephones with arms and legs, and a head, indicating the old and the new style of number in their dial cards. One of the displays was styled like "construction" scene, with the 202-phone props working a crane on an overhead marquee of a telephone number, popping out the third letter of the exchange, and inserting a digit. Bell also gave "open-house" programs in its offices and in public buildings, describing the change.

A SMALL copy of an exchange dialing changeover/conversion chart is shown in the article. I tried to enlarge it when photocopying, and have transcribed it here. I am not certain of Philadelphia's geography, neither do I have any idea of where the switching offices and buildings are located in Philadelphia, nor which part of town each covers. I do understand that there were various CHANGES in central office names/codes since 1946, as well as new/additional central offices switches and codes.

Go to detailed history

Mark J. Cuccia, Wed, 27 Nov 1996

from your main page:

"Exchange names were in use in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia, but I don't know about the rest of the world."

I know that they were in use in England and France, and Denmark, of course, as there were letter arrangements on their dials quite similar to ours in the US and Canada, of course, as per the earlier emailings I sent you.

I've been told that there were letters/names on the dial in Germany, Switzerland, and probably Sweden/Norway/Finland.

I've also been informed that they were used in many Latin American countries, as well as the English/Dutch speaking Republic of South Africa, back in the old "EXchange-name" days.

In the early 1960's, the border towns in Northwest Mexico were made dialable from the US (and Canada), by using area code 903. Back then, the northwest border towns were NOT part of "Telefonos de Mexico", but rather a company held primarly by American investors, historically dating back to the early years of the telephone, when AT&T tried to own everything telephonic in the whole world.

This company was known by various names as:

"The Northwest Mexico Telephone Company"

"The Mexican Frontier Telephone Company"

"The Mexican Border Telephone Company"

Even today, while "Telemex" (formerly known as "Telefonos de Mexico") owns all of the telephone services in Mexico, these border towns are operated by "Telenord", a *SUBSIDIARY* of "Telemex".

But back in the early 1960's, towns such as Tijuanna, Ensenada, etc. had four or five digit local numbers. For California, Arizona, etc. (and the US/Canada in general, if they had direct long-distance dialing) to dial down there, they dialed (1+)903 plus a MADE-UP EXCHANGE NAME (2 letters) plus the five digit local number (or 2-letters and a digit plus the four digit local number).

I've been told about this, but I don't have a copy of the 1962/3 San Diego directory. However, I was told that the 'made-up' name for Tijuanna was DUpont. (38).

In the 1970's, I saw travel books and catalogs, which listed Tijuanna numbers as (903) 38x-xxxx.

In 1980, this northwest strip of (903 towns in) Mexico was renumbered to conform with Telemex' internal Mexican dialing pattern. All towns in that (now) larger part of northwest Mexico had internal Mexican area codes beginning with '6'. Thus, 903 wasn't needed anymore, but for customer dialing to those towns, and now an even larger part of NW Mexico, AT&T/Bell used area code 706. The third digit, 6, was the first digit of the internal Mexican number for this part of Mexico.

In 1991, area code 706 for access to this part of Mexico was withdrawn, and one had to dial internationally, 011+ Mexico's country code 52, plus the Mexican number. Today, area code 903 is used in northeast Texas, and area code 706 is one of Georgia's several area codes. But if I get a list of these 'made up' exchange names for those Mexican northwest border towns, I'll let you know!

As for 38x DUpont, for Tijuanna, you'd THINK that Bell would have chosen something more 'Spanish', such as DUrango!

I understand that some towns in Alaska (Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau) had EXchange names (probably 1L-4N or 2L-4N, before 2L-5N), but Hawaii did NOT have exchange names, from what I've been able to determine ... Honolulu had six-digit numerical numbers in the 1950's and early 1960's.

I don't think that any Caribbean areas ever used exchange names, neither.

Mark J. Cuccia, Fri, 06 Dec 1996

By the way, you mention on your main page:

"No Area Code Prefixes

Up until very recently, the first digit of a 7 digit phone number could not be 1 or a 0 so that long distance dialing and operator could be reliably identified. Similarly, the second digit could not be either 0 or 1 so that area codes could be identified. I had assumed that this was also true during the period when exchange names were in use, but I discovered phone numbers with 0 as the second digit (this was a phone number which was not written using an exchange name however). I still haven't seen any that have a 1 as the second digit, or that start with a 1 or a 0."

If I may ...

Telephone numbers in the North American network still do NOT begin with a '1' nor a '0' ... no area codes nor exchange begins with a '1' nor '0' (at least not in the US/Canada/Caribbean network). A leading '1' is still used to indicate that the following full ten-digit number 'NXX-NXX-XXXX' is just that ... ten-digits ... or that it is a TOLL call. A leading '1' can also be used to access 'special services'. You might be familiar with the '*-xx' codes, such as *-67 to 'suppress' your number from showing up on the called-party's caller-ID box. Rotary dialers dial '11' instead of the '*'. Actually, even touchtone phones can tap out 11-XX as well. Only cellualar special codes beginning with a '*' must be entered with a '*', but every cellular phone is touchtone, not rotary. '10' indicates that a three-digit carrier code will follow, if you wish to place a toll call via a carrier other than your 'main' long-distance company.

i.e. if you subscribe to MCI, but choose to place a call (on a 'per-call' basis) via AT&T, or if a guest would like to use their AT&T card via AT&T, you would dial 10-288+1 (or 0 if a card/collect/third-pty billed call), followed by the full ten-digit North American Number. Eventually, these 10-XXX carrier prefix codes are going to evolve (and in some areas, they are already evolving) into 101-0XXX. i.e. 10-288 for AT&T is also 101-0288. And notice what 288 spells out: ATT. Many (although not all) of these three-digit carrier codes spell out something! Afterr dialing of existing 10-XXX codes becomes MANDATORY as 101-0XXX, other ranges of 101-XXXX will be assigned. (some already are, 101-5XXX and 101-6XXX).

A leading '0' indicates:

o the local operator (dialed as a single '0' and then either wait five seconds for 'time-out' or then hit the '#' pound button to cut-thru right away

o the long-distance operator (dialed 00)

o 'special billing' (card/collect/3d-pty) as 0+ten-digits

o international as:

011+full-intl.nmbr (for station direct dial) or

01+full-intl.nmbr (for 'special blling' card/collect/3d-pty).

In the US/Canada network, use of N0X and N1X codes for local exchanges really didn't begin until the early-to-mid-70's, in the southern CA (Los Angeles) area, and in the mid-to-late-70's in New York City. MOST (but not all) area codes in the N.American network are now using exhanges of the N0X and N1X format. In the old days, there were some local/suburban access codes of the N-1 or N-0 form, but these weren't named exchnanges.

For local seven-digit numbers with '1' as the second digit (N1X), I would assume that there are such exchanges presently in San Francisco!

Also, I don't know if I'd mentioned in earlier email about the 'Z' on the '0' in North America. There are several possible reasons for this ... Some people might have tried to dial 'ZE' of the word /ZERO/, when dialing the operator. If there wasn't a 'Z' on the dial, they wouldn't know what to dial for the 'Z'. So by adding a 'Z' on the zero (0), you'd always get the operator. (Back then, there wasn't such a thing as 0+ dialing for collect/card/third-pty/person/etc).

Also, back in the old days, there were such toll-free numbers called "Zenith", "Enterprise", and "WX". There still are a bunch of such numbers around, here and there, but those have been grandfathered in. Ideally, these type numbers should have ALL been using Zenith, but will ...

The numbers were of the form 'Zenith/Enterprise/WX' followed by three, four, or five digits. They were an old version of an '800' number. You were instructed in the directory listing to call the operator and ask for 'Zenith-1234' or 'Enterprise-98765' or 'WX-246', whatever. 'No charge'

(note: the last line is just an 'example'. Over the years, I've seen Zenith numbers with three, four, or five numericals; Enterprise numbers with three, four, or five numericals; 'WX' numbers with five, four, or three numericals.)

The operator would have at her board a list of regional/local or frequently called such numbers, and the 'translation' for them. If she couldn't find it on her list, she'd call up 'Rate & Route', the 'directory assistance' for operator's routing codes and rates to everywhere in the world! She'd give "Rate/Route" the Zenith/WX/Enterprise number, and the city of the calling party. R&R would look up the number in the 'Zenith/Enterprise/WX' section of this BIG BIG BINDER/BOOK, known as the "Rate & Route Guide", or the supervisor would look it up in another BIG binder/book called the "Traffic Routing Guide". If the requested Zenith party 'purchased' toll=free calling from that city, the 'translated' number would be given to the calling operator.

In the later 50's and thru-out the 60's, the 'translated' number could be dialed by the originating/calling operator. Prior to that, she'd have the route to connect to another operator closer to the city of the requested Zenith number, etc. The originating operator would write out a toll billing ticket for the call, but would put the charges for the call to the CALLED party, via their translation 'regular' number, and indicate the Zenith/etc. number as well.

This is an 'auto-collect' call. The originating operator didn't ask the called party if they'd accept the charges collect, as they had the Zenith type number. This is also like 800!

With a 'Z' on the zero (0), any customer thinking they could dial ZE-9876 for Zenith-9876, would really be dialing 039876. The leading '0' would connect them with an operator right away! I wonder how many people with local numbers beginning 36 got calls from people trying to reach an Enterprise number! Same applies to the few people with numbers beginning 99, getting calls from people trying to reach a 'WX' number! That's why Zenith was the best choice over Enterprise and WX!

Many operator keypads for decades had a 'Z' on the zero; a 'Q' on the one. This was for entering calling card numbers into the system. Prior to about 1980, calling cards frequenly had 'letters' in the number, *particularly* the letters 'Q' and 'Z'! It wasn't until about the late-70's and early-80's when customers began to be able to 'key' their own card numbers!

William B. Kelley, Sun, 22 Dec 1996

This is fascinating, and finding it is so coincidental. Just the other day I thought what an interesting project this would be and had fantasies of starting it. Then, tonight when I was looking up a French phone number and found a link to a Yahoo page, the Yahoo page linked to your project! Now I see I couldn't even have scratched the surface--the amount of material you've collected, and even more amazingly the amount of material that people have sent in, is mind-boggling.

Anyhow, a few reflections:


Just as what one correspondent says was true of Honolulu, Memphis didn't convert all its lines to exchange names until around 1960. Before that, during a transition period, many lines still had six- (and I think even five-) digit numbers; earlier yet, say until the early-to-mid-1950s, all of them had five- or six-digit numbers. I remember, as a small-town boy about 1957 visiting Memphis (which by then had several hundred thousand residents), how interesting it was to dial a number like 33-2687 (there actually was a 33 exchange there, I believe). The late-arriving Memphis exchange names lasted just a few years, until all-number dialing came into play. I wonder how many other fairly big U.S. cities followed the Memphis pattern of keeping old all-number systems (i.e., five- and six-digit numbers) almost until the advent of new all-number dialing.


In my small hometown of Kennett, Missouri, dial phones first arrived in the early 1950s, when all the old manual numbers such as 536J (my grandparents') were dropped and everyone got a new number in the form 8-xxxx. Since all Kennett numbers had the 8-, people didn't actually have to dial it, so nearly everyone just dialed only the final four digits. Later, around 1960 or so, the 8-xxxx numbers became TUxedo 8-xxxx, in preparation for customer direct-dialing (which didn't come to Kennett customers until a few years later). After TUxedo 8 arrived, people could still dial just the last four digits for a while, but later it became necessary to dial at least the 8 and eventually all seven digits.

Somewhere around the time of Kennett's dial conversion, the even smaller nearby town of Senath--whose manual switchboard and, later, dial switch were actually 12 miles away in Kennett--went from two- or three-digit manual numbers to REgent 8-xxxx numbers. I think the manual Senath numbers survived well after the Kennett numbers went to dial, so that for a while a Kennett customer would have to dial zero in order to be connected manually to a Senath number, even though the same local operators served both towns. Anyhow, Kennett went through a transition from manual to 8-xxxx to TUxedo 8-xxxx, whereas I believe Senath jumped straight from manual to REgent 8-xxxx.

When TUxedo 8 came to Kennett, people commented on how strange it was for such a citified exchange name to be foisted on such a rural cotton town where no one wore tuxedoes. Some people suggested that TUrner 8 (apparently another option) would have sounded more natural. But the Bell authorities made the decision on the basis of Their Guidelines.


In Chicago, numbers such as LAKeview 4321 and CENtral 2345 (three letters + four digits) were in place until the mid-to-late 1940s. They were then converted to LAkeview 5-4321, CEntral 6-2345, etc., besides adding other exchanges that didn't correspond numerically to old three-letter exchanges (for instance, LAkeview 8). Even well into the 1970s or later, I remember seeing old painted signs on buildings showing the 3L-4D form of number.

This may also have been true of the old suburb of Evanston, since some of its old exchanges (DAvis 8, UNiversity 4, for instance) match up with a 3L-4D form.

Michael Daniels, 26 Dec 1996

Thought you'd be interested in the unusual history of phones on Santa Catalina Island (Avalon) off the Southern California coast. Until the late 1970's, Catalina had only a central operator switchboard system. No dial phones. The phone numbers were listed as "Avalon 25," or "Avalon 39." Finally, around 1977 or 1978, Pacific Bell decided to bring Catalina into the 20th Century and the island became one of the first exchanges in California to be entirely touch-tone. In deference to local tradition, PacBell, allowed all Catalina customers to use their old number with the new prefix (510). Therefore, "Avalon 25" became 510-0025. Islanders still use their old numbers in conversation with other locals. If somebody tells you their number is "25," you know you must dial the entire seven-digit number. But you only need to remember the two or three digits at the end. It's the best of the old and the new.

Mark J. Cuccia, Fri, 03 Jan 1997

Another contributor asked:

"... I know this because I was there. But before 7 digits, there were 5 digits. Mine was 557M2 and the kid across the street was 1070W. I always wondered whether there was a rhyme or reason to these alphanumeric sets. Do you have any idea?"

Mark replied:

These miscellaneous letters are most likely 'party-line' letters.

In a non-dial manual ("Number Please" or "Hello Operator, I want to call") exchange situation, all of the subscribers on the same multi-party line had the same 'line' number, as they all shared the same lamp and jack that the operator would plug in to. But they were distinguished from each other by a letter tacked on to the 'line' number.

Sometimes, it was an added *digit*, such as 2368-2 and 2368-5. Both numbers were really sharing the same party line, 2368, but each party sharing 2368 would be identified by the extra digit.

When the operator would place a call *to* the particular party-line number, you would quote the full number, including the party line letter. She would manually ring that number in a 'coded' way, such as two-short rings, or a long-short-long ring, etc.

Sometimes, EVERYONE on the party line had their phones ring, but the one who the call was for knew 'their' ring. Of course, the snoopy neighbers also sharing that party line would always listen in! Sometimes, only half of the parties sharing the line would have their phones ring, while the other half's phones would be silent; but if the call was for them, the first half's phones would be silent!

FREQUENTLY, the letters W, J, M, R would be the party line letters. On partylines with two subscribers sharing the line, one would have W and the other J. On 4-parties to a line, each would have one of the four letters, W, J, M, R

There were even 8-party lines and even more than that (such as 10 or 20 parties in more rural remote spread-out areas). I don't remember what the additional four letters were for 8-party situations.

For the most part, party line letters were used ONLY in a manual exchange. When the exchange went dial, everyone had their own unique last four digits, even though there were party line pairs, groups of four, and groups of eight (or more), as well as 'individual/private' lines.

The W/J/M/R letters were the most common used in the 1930's-on. Each of those four letters uniquely corresponds to a different digit on the dial, when a local customer in a nearby dial exchange could dial to numbers served by a manual office, which COULD BE DONE! The operator in a manual exchange at her switchboard had a display board, for this. Someone in a dial exchange in another part of town could actually dial the entire number of a subscriber served by a manual office. The operator in the manual office would see that there was an incoming call from a nearby dial office light up one of the little lamps on her board. She would plug in, and an electrical signal would cause the display board to light up with the number which was dialed, including any possible party line letter. She wouldn't have to talk to the incoming dialing customer, as the 'miracle of the telephone and electricity' allowed the customer to actually dial the number, which caused it to be displayed. She would see the dialed number and then grab a plug and look for the jack for that number which was dialed, plug in and ring it.

Manual Office Party line letters could be used with exchange names in a telephone number:



There might have been a lot of non-standardized (local arrangements) of party line letters before any dial offices existed, but when dial began to come around and CO-EXIST with manual offices, you needed a standard, where each possible party line letter was really a distinct and unique digit to be dialed from a nearby local dial office.

Leslie Kern, Mon, 6 Jan 97

When I was growing up, the last 4 digits was all that was required to dial within the town (pop. 1,300 or so). The switching station was a small one-storey cinderblock building near where we played, which was only occasionally manned by someone driving an Army green Plymouth Valiant or van with the tannish-gold Bell Telephone logo on the door. They arrived silently, disappeared into the building, and were never seen to emerge -- only the vehicle would be gone the next day. The incessant clicking noises inside the building were an additional source of fascination, as was the fact that the cinderblock radiated heat year round.

Then AT&T took over, Ma Bell became New England Telephone, the old switching station was updated, and our phone numbers were changed. The exchange stayed the same -- 456 -- but the first digit of our last 4 was changed, town-wide, from 3 to 8. My dear old GLadstone 6-3466 became numeralized as 456-8466, and you had to dial all the numbers. Soon, you no longer needed an operator to dial long-distance, and eventually one stopped coming onto the line to get your phone number when you dialed outside the town. If you ever placed a person-to-person or collect call and asked for "GLadstone 6- ..." you received the audio equivalent of a blank stare.

Jim Huffman, Sun, 12 Jan 1997

My son and I traveled in Mongolia in 1995, and found the phone numbers interesting there. In Ulaanbaatar (capital and largest city -- population around 600,000) the numbers have 5 digits, but they are beginning to enlarge that by adding a "3" to all existing numbers. (This gives you some idea about the increase in phone numbers; the US is not the only place running out!)

We spent several days out in the middle of the Gobi desert, in a village (I would guess the population was around 2,000) named Dalzandadgad. There, the phone numbers had only 3 digits. My son (then 13) joked that this must be where "911" originated.

Thanks for an interesting site.

Randall Geisick, Wed, 15 Jan 1997

I just read through your section on the history. I can remember how my Dad, who is now 78 years old would tell us of his childhood phone number. He grew up on the farm just outside of Greeley Colorado. He has told us that their phone number on the farm was RED5R2. I don't know if there is much to the story, but I was told that Greeley had two phone companies. The "RED" company and the "BELL" company. The 5R2, we are supposing would tell the operator to connect the call to trunk number 5 in the country (rural) and phone number 2. This was all many years before equipment was installed to let you dial the call yourself.

Steve Carter, Fri, 24 Jan 1997

Sir: I just scanned you most interesting Web Page, but was not successful in getting hypertext response. I note that you begin the story fairly late in US telco history, after the older scheme of the 2L|4N (mine was HOpkins 6834, in Providence, R.I.) was expanded to SEVEN dialed characters by inserting a new number between the exchange digraph and the four number subscriber terminal identifier. This was as tramatic a moment in the long, painful march down the road of popular technology advancement as the later additions of Area Codes and postal Zip Codes. Adding the seventh digit was one of the first major public communications technology paradigm shifts, and I still remember it. God clearly created modern phone numbers as the initial two letters of an easily pronounced/remembered word (itself a vestige of the pre-rotary self-dialing days when you had to announce that word out loud to the operator at your Central Exchange to get connected) plus four numbers unique to your specific phone line. Your story begins after the notorious fifth digit/seventh character was foisted on the American Public, and guys like Glenn Miller were conned into writing romantic songs about it, as if seven-character dialing was right, proper and natural. It's been straight downhill, to Hell in a Hack, ever since. In two months I get to dial a full ten-digit number to phone across the street. We should have stopped Ma Bell and Glenn Miller when we had the chance. Thank heaven for the Internet.

Chris Parrott, Tue, 28 Jan 1997

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I've enjoyed your Web site, listing all of the exchange names in use in different parts of the country! Here in the Dallas area, Southwestern Bell still publishes exchange maps for both the Dallas and Fort Worth metro calling areas, with the exchange names labeled for the exchanges in the inner zones of Dallas and Fort Worth. Along with the exchange names, the corresponding prefixes in use in that exchange are also listed. I noticed that your Web page is missing quite a few exchanges from south Dallas and all of Fort Worth, so I thought I would take a few moments to contribute the missing parts, along with the prefixes in use which correspond to these names (though these are not necessarily _all_ of the prefixes in use for these exchanges):

(Entries added to lists)

A couple of interesting notes about Fort Worth:

1. Within the last year or so, the ATlas exchange in Fort Worth was moved into the Fort Worth inner zone. Prior to the change, the area was just labeled "Richland Hills" (a small bedroom comunity adjacent to Fort Worth) on the exchange maps. The 284 prefix appears to have been used in this area all along, but only recently has the exchange been labeled ATlas (as part of the Fort Worth inner zone) rather than Richland Hills on the maps.

2. The MArket exchange in Fort Worth serves the area including and surrounding the famous Fort Worth Stockyards.

Tom Walls, Fri, 31 Jan 1997

... By the PEnnsylvania6-5000 is still in use at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York. If you dial the number you will hear the Glen Miller tune in the background as the phone mail menu is recited. As you probably know, the Pennsylvania comes from Penn (i.e., Pennsylvania) Station, which is across the street and was named in turn for the Pennsylvania Railroad. This was the number Glen Miller gave his wife to reach him during his first big gig in New York.

The hotel has been bought and sold several times since Miller's day and had many name changes, but has retained the immortal phone number.

Bill, Wednesday, 5 February 1997

Fascinating subject and its one that I have been interested in for years.

Observations: Since you refer to SYycamore and the fact that your parents have had the same number since 1945, and you also referred to Pasadena in your example, I'm inferring that you grew up in that area. I grew up and lived in Rosemead and Pasadena for years.

Background: I am a 27 year employee of Pacific Bell, Pacific Telephone, and AT&T. While I am now in our San Ramon Valley Administrative Center outside San Francisco, I spent the bulk of my career in Marketing in Los Angeles and have a lot of first hand or observation knowledge of the company in that area during that period. However, Pacific Telephone in the '70's still had a lot of old time telephone "men" (women were still mostly operators and service representatives) and I learned a lot from them.

Input for your project:

Old time telephone people, myself included, still refer to portions of the city of Los Angeles by their central office names. CApitol, CLinton, WEbster, DUnkirk, NOrmandy, RIchmond, ADams, AX (Axminister) mean very distinct areas to me and countless others although only the older residents would have any idea of what those names mean. Outside of the city of Los Angeles this use of exchange names is not as prevalent as offices tend to be located in a community and other names are used as I describe below.

Most telephone people with "outside" jobs (technicians, splicers, construction, marketing, engineering, etc.) refer to areas in and around the Southern California area by the central office or exchange name (those terms can be, but are not always, synonymous) such as DUnkirk, or by the CLLI code or community name, which are often the same or pretty close. The CLLI code is a common language location identifier which is something like LSANCA07. That happens to be the Airport central office out near LAX and telephone people shorthand it to LA07, or, some of us still call it Airport even though it used the ORchard prefix. . Occasionally telephone people will also refer to a central office building by the name of the street. Often the street is part of the internal company name--the Pasadena central office at Green and Madison is referred to internally as Pasadena Green, or just Green. The other central office in Pasadena, Pasadena Lake is also shortened to Lake. But, I've heard Alhambra referred to as 1st Street or 2nd Street as that is where the office is but the street names 1st Street/2nd Street in Alhambra are not part of the official office name we use internally.

Unique central office buildings also sometimes have a name not related to any official company name or designation. Two prime examples are the central office located immediately outside JPL and which is dedicated solely to the JPL campus, commonly referred to as JPL but the company name is LACNCA11 (La Canada 11), and the "Complex" in downtown Los Angeles, also known as the Madison Complex. This latter is actually three interconnected buildings with a vast number of electronic switches including at least one 4E belonging to AT&T. In reality this is the Madison Central Office but it rates the use of the word "Complex" due to the amount of equipment it houses. There are only two or three other buildings in the United States with this concentration of equipment.

The Atlantic exchange 28x you show for Alhambra and San Marino is comprised of three central offices:

Alhambra Main ALHAM ALHMCA11
located in downtown Alhambra just south of Main Street between First and Second.

Alhambra East ALHAE SNGBCA01
located in San Gabriel on the west side of San Gabriel Blvd., just north of Las Tunas.

Alhambra South ALHAS ROSMCA11
located on the south side of Garvey Blvd. near Del Mar Blvd?
(Sorry--my memory is fading and I grew up in that area--O well)

Also assigned to this office (Alhambra Main) was the prefix 283, commonly known as CUmberland. This was Los Angeles Rate Area foreign exchange for Alhambra. What this means is that there were so many requests from businesses (and some residences) for a Los Angeles Foreign Exchange number, the company simply served those requests directly from the office with the 283 prefix and billed it as though it was actually part of one of the District Areas in the Los Angeles Exchange. It saved a lot of inter office facilities and work in provisioning for those requests.

Since the exchange and central office (wire center) boundaries are not contiguous with the political boundaries, i.e., town or city limits, these three offices serve portions of a number of today's communities:

Alhambra, San Gabriel, San Marino, Rosemead, Temple City, Monterey Park, Arcadia, and unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County with San Gabriel and Temple City mailing addresses (and perhaps San Marino and Arcadia unincorporated territory mailing addresses as well, if there are any).

Old communities once served now part of the above include South San Gabriel, Wilmar, Lamanda Park, and probably others.

Without looking at the boundary maps, I think that small portions of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Montebello, Arcadia, El Monte, South El Monte, and Los Angeles ( East LA and El Sereno) may also be served by these central offices.

The Alhambra exchange boundaries are roughly:

East: Rosemead Blvd.

South: The hills between the San Bernardino and Pomona Freeways (I-10 and CA60)

West: The Los Angeles City line

North: Huntington Drive

Remember, these are rough approximations. For example, portions of Arcadia and Temple City east of Rosemead Blvd. are served by the San Gabriel central office.


Exchange and Central Office boundary maps are available internally of course but I believe they are public record. I will check on that for you.

CLLI codes are an industry standard naming convention and are used to designate many telephone company buildings, not just central offices. What they also often include are the central office switching equipment designator such as LSANCA07CGO which identifies a Western Electric (now Lucent Technologies) 1ESS or 1AES located in that CO.

Pete Carah, Wed, 12 Feb 1997

In addition to EXbrook (Santa Monica), the 390,1,7,8 exchanges (which had different toll charges too) were called EXmont. I think that the official exchange city name was Mar Vista but that also refers to some areas further east. This was a GTE area - Marina del Rey is now part of that exchange area; it didn't exist at all until 1962 or 1963. 392, 396 and 399 were classified as Santa Monica but served from the Ocean Park exchange. (392 *may* have been Mar Vista?) The Santa Monica prefixes in the 1960's were 393, 394, 395; that got expanded with 45x and 82x during the 1960's and 1970's.

RichPl, Thu, 13 Feb 1997

Subject: Chicago-non bell

The area of Northwest suburban Chicago has an independant company. Originally it was the Middle States Telephone company and then it was changed to Central Telephone (CENTEL). Two years ago it was bought by SPRINT.

Anyway, on to the numbering.... The original areas served by Middle States were Park Ridge and Des Plaines, this also covered the area which is now O'Hare Field.

The Des Plaines exchange was Vanderbilt and the Park Ridge exchange was Talcott. eventually they became TAlcott 3, VAnderbilt 4, whith TA 5 and VA 7 added later as they grew. The Park Ridge exchanges were shared by the West half of Niles (East half is IBT Ameritec) and the North half of Rosemont. DesPlaines shares with a largly unicorporated area to the North.

Service is also provided to an area of Chicago (773 area code now) along the Kennedy Expressway and Cumberland and O'Hare All Number exchanges= 380, 399, 693, 714, 694 (O'Hare AP)

Present Park Ridge exchanges are= 292, 318,518, 692, 696, 698, 723, 823, 825

DesPlaines Exchanges are= 296, 297, 298, 299, 390, 391, 635, 699, 803, 824, 827

The Village of Rosemont shares a ZIP code with Des Plaines and a telephone exchange with Park Ridge. Several years ago the Mayor of Rosemont negotiated an aggreement with Ameritec, (which served the Southern half of the village) and they traded some areas with Centel, allowing the then village hall to have only one phone company instead of being split in two . (It was a mess when you wanted to call an office on the South end of the building, had to travel some 35 miles thru two phone companies and the exchanges were different. One city employee even went so far as to run a line under the street so they wouldn't have to pay the toll charges just to call the fire station.

Nickolas Seibel, Tue, 18 Mar 1997

Names from Grant Co., NM

Wow! So great to find you...

I'm 19, and sort of a history buff... One day, while in freshman (high school) journalism class, I was looking through the morgue and noticed the phone numbers change in the middle of the 1959-60 school year, with not a word of explanation. I sort of knew the basics of phone history in Grant County, NM, but this spurred a real research project.

The exchange names are listed at the end if you don't want to read all this!

Silver City was one of the first towns in NM to have phones, owing to our mining boomtown status at the time. These, of course, had operators switching all the calls. The office moved several times, ending up in the '30s on Broadway in a great deco building which housed the operators... still there, by the way; it houses a title company.

People began moaning for an upgrade after WWII. At the time, operators at the exchange in Silver City switched calls for all towns in the "Mining District" - about 10 small towns within a 20 mile radius of Silver City, total population about 6,000. Because of war shortages, coupled with the fact that we are in the middle of nowhere, the telephone company didn't get around to doing anything about it until 1954, when the mining district was split off into it's own two exchanges, with (gasp) DIAL switching. These exchanges were JEfferson 7 for Bayard, Central (now Santa Clara) and Hurley, and LEhigh 4 for Hanover, Fierro, and Santa Rita (now home to a giant open pit mine).

Silver City itself had to make do with operators until spring 1960, when the company built a new yellow brick exchange on Pope Street which included dial switches. The prefix for this exchange was 53 8 - no name! At the same time names were eliminated from the older two exchanges as well, so that all numbers in the county began with 53-. A special edition of the local paper commemorating the new system included an article which explained the change -- it seems studies had shown that the number-name system, invented because the company feared seven numbers would be too many to remember, actually made numbers harder to keep in your head. The article also gave the name that had been planned but not used for the Silver City exchange... KEystone 8.

In the late '70s a new prefix (388) was added for Silver City, for an interesting reason. Of course, by this time, names were long gone, but you still could make a call in Grant County by dialing only 5 digits... formerly the five that came after the name. 388 was chosen because it harmonized with this system - to dial a Bayard number, you could dial 7-2402, to call a Silver City number you could dial 8-0565, and to call a "new" Silver City number you could dial 88-3151. At the same time, the company installed some sort of magic device that allowed people to have touch-tone phones. I still remeber this -- You could dial a call with touch-tones, but then you had to sit and listen to the rotary pulses while the magic box at the exchange converted the tones so that the old switches could do their stuff. Didn't save you any time, but it lessened the wear-and-tear on your dialing finger.

The 534 prefix was eliminated in the early 1980s, because the population in the area served by that exchange after Santa Rita was dug up for a mine was about 100 people (really!). People with 534 numbers were assigned new ones in the 537 prefix.

The phone company (by this time, USWest) finally got around to upgrading us for a third time in 1990, when they put in new digital switches in all the exchanges in the county. At the same time fiber optic cable was laid into town for long-distance calls. I remember waiting up all night, dialing the time-and-temperature number over and over just to see when the switched over the system. Calls went through so fast, and they sounded much better, too.

Maybe someone will know the reason why the new digital system requires you to dial all seven numbers to make a local call. It seems like if the old mechanical switches could do it, someone could program the computerized ones to do it too. Is this only for the sake of standardization? I still mess newbies up by giving my telephone number with only five digits.

Just this year, USWest gave Silver City a third prefix, the 534 one that used to be in Santa Rita.

So there's the history of telephones in Grant County as I know it. There are two other exchanges in the outlying areas of the county served by a rural co-op -- 535 and 536, but I don't know the names associated with them or the history. I suppose I could ask around some more...

Those exchanges again so you don't have to read all the above:

JEfferson 7- Bayard, Central, and Hurley, New Mexico
LEhigh 4- formerly Santa Rita, Hanover and Fierro, NM; now Silver City, NM
KEystone 8- Silver City, NM

One more unrelated exchange name... my mom tells me that when she grew up in Artesia, NM in the '50s, the exchange name was SHerwood 6. One more for the list.

Bob Bison, Mon, 31 Mar 97

I just browsed your net site on telephones today for the first time. And I would like to add my 2 cents worth.

I looked up KEarny and WYman in your matrix. For northern NJ, WYman was there but KEarny was not. WYman was listed as being in Kearny, NJ. Actually both were - but sequentially - KEarny first and WYman second. One of your other correspondents mentioned that he remembers his exchange being forced to change around 1960. KE2 and KE3 (North Arlington as well as Kearny, NJ) were changed to WY1 and WY8 around the same time, but I think earlier. These were done in anticipation of Area Codes. ATT had to insure that there was only one of each exchange inside what was to become one Area Code. Since there were 2 locations with KE2 and/or KE3 in northern New Jersey's soon-to-be 201 Area Code, one had to be changed. It did not matter when you dialed the operator and told her in what city the number was.

To be technically correct, you will have to have 2 exchange matrices, one for before the pre-Area Code changes and one for post-Area Code!!!!!!

When the Area Codes went into effect, I believe that there were no exchanges with the second digit as 1 or 0. If there were any, they were changed before the introduction of Area Codes. Or they remained in old central offices which did not offer DDD (Direct Distance Dialing). The stepping switches and crossbars in most of the 'modern' offices would key off this to anticipate whether there would be 7 digits or 10 digits in the number being dialed.

In addition, the numbers dialed were 'held' in your local office until all the digits were dialed. After the digits were received, then an ATT Long Line would be accessed and the number was repeated down this line to get from your local exchange out to the receiving exchange. This 'store-and-forward' method has some significant effects.

1) It required all DDD numbers to be 7 digits. Even after the DDD era started, many places let you make local calls with only 3, 4, or 5 digits, but you had to have a 7 digit number to give out to your distant friends.

2) It determined how Area Codes were given out. ATT statistically determined which future Area Codes had the most INCOMING calls. If they gave the lowest sum of digits to the Area Codes with the most incoming calls, then the time spent forwarding these pulses (remember pulses?) would be minimized and the hardware usage would be optimized. With a 0 being 10 pulses, 212, 213, 312 were the lowest pulse totals and 909, 908, and 809 were the most pulses. This is why New York City got 212, LA 213, Chicago 312, etc.. They had the most incoming calls!!!!

3) Many foreign countries did not have store-and-forward systems because their telephone numbers had variable lengths. This required time between dialing their equivalent of the area code, exchange, and number. After dialing the area code, the phone company had to connect you to the equipment in that area code because only that equipment knew where the break was between the exchange and the number, and only the exchange knew the length of the number. In the days of old rotary phone equipment, this was no problem. But some countries had problems when they first introduced modern home telephones with tone dialing. If the number was dialed as fast as possible, the proper connections were not made before the next digit came down the wire. This resulted in many wrong connections or no-dial situations. Most 'natives' knew this and knew the area codes and exchanges and left short pauses in their dialing sequences. But I did not until I was told that I must dial slower.

And I have one question for you, if you don't mind? When did DDD and Area Codes first go into effect?

AndrewBender, Fri, 11 Apr 97

Phone numbers were routed by an area by an internal area code (used by a long distance operator on a "toll tandem" (a sort of collection of long distance trunks) first. The combination of area codes and tandem was called a "route" so Penfield PA from Philadelphia PA might have been routed "2 Tandem + 814 + 0 +rural" which would be a way of routing calls to an area that was "manual" (no dial phones). Sometimes even a dial area had "rural" lines. Plymouth meeting PA, (TAylor -8) had several rural lines contacted by a rural operator. When you dialed the 2 letters plus the five digits an operator would be notified and by asking you the J or R designator after the number (they would list the number as TAylor 8 2543-R-2 as an example) after you gave the letters and numbers they would ring the line manually and complete your call. Party lines on manual systems could be two party or four party lines, or "rural lines" could be up to 16 parties. party letters were J R M and W. all ringing equipment was polarized. You heard only your ring on a two party line but you could hear the polarized relay in your "bell box" clicking when your other party was getting called. J and R were opposite parties, M and W were opposite. J could hear M's rining but the pattern was usually two short rings and J's was a single ring. The same with M and W. On 16 party lines you heard 1/2 the rings. Your ring was the number after the party letter: R12 one long ring two short rings, J1 - one regular (long) ring. R22 two longs, two shorts and so on.

In Pennsylvania the Bell System did not subscribe totally to AT&T's sanitized, generic names. Names were more geographically based: WElsh valley for the area of Suburban Philadelphia.

Pat McGee, Thu, 3 Jul 1997

Thanks for the TEN page. I enjoyed it, and the ones I remembered were all already in there.

Anyway, the joke:

A guy calls a friend, and the friends young child answers. Probably a little young to be answering the phone, but... The guy asks the kid to write down the phone number and ask his father to call back. The kid agrees and finds pencil and paper. The guy then gives the number "Capital 7-4203". Dead silence on the other end. After a while, the guy asks "Did you get that written down?"

The kid, sounding totally baffled, finally answers: "How do you make a capital seven?"

Jim Moran, Fri, 4 Jul 1997

I remember in the late 1950s, the telephone exchange for Marcus Hook in extreme southeastern pennsylvania was "GYpsy". Marcus Hook is a gritty blue collar, industrial town and the people there felt that GYpsy was an insulting exchange name. They felt the phone company slurred them on purpose because of their low socio-economic status. So they complained vociferously and the phone company changed it, although I don't know what the new name was.

Ron, Sun, 29 Jun 1997

Thanks for the quick reply. Glad you found the info useful.

For your questions, yes, you've got the concept of the LAFX lines. Using Pasadena as an example, from a 793 exchange, you could call Eagle Rock, which is a 25X Los Angeles exchange, and it would be a local call, but if you wanted to call into Hollywood, a 46X exchange, it would be a toll charge.

So, if you were going to make a lot of calls to Los Angeles exchanges, instead a of 793 number, you'd ask for a 681 to be assigned. That way, you'd be able to call ALL of LA as a local call. The tricky part, though, was that if you lived in Pasadena with a 681 number, and called in Pasadena to a 793 number, I believe it would be a toll charge!

That was why you would often know of people to have one of each, a local number and an LAFX.

When I was living in Pasadena, I didn't know anyone *there*, but I knew a bunch of folks living in Beverly Hills Adjacent, so I had a 681 instead of a 793. (As long as they had an LA exchange, it was local call for me. BH was toll from 681.)

It all worked the same in reverse. Call 793 from 469, and it's toll. Call 681 from 469, and it's local. Makes sense? :)

Now then, when I was doing number assignments, Exchange Names were no longer used for purposes of dialing, but we did have to use CO and EX names to be able to assign the number for the address where it would work.

So, while working in Pasadena, we'd call to get a number assignment for either "PAS PG" (Pasadena Green), "PAS LK" (Pasadena Lake), or "PAS PM" (Pasadena Mission). Same thing for other exchanges where there was more than one CO. North Hollywood had "NH MG" (Magnolia) and "NH LA" (Lankershim). Burbank was "BRB BU" (Main) or "BRB SL" (Sun Valley). Some places only had one CO per exchange, like Culver City.

There ya go. It's nice to talk shop again. :)

Richard_Boylan, Sun, 29 Jun 1997

I just came across your exchange name pages, courtesy of a link in Yahoo. For the same perverse reasons as you, in 1990 I tried to assemble a list of exchange names for the old 617 (eastern Massachusetts) area code. After a burst of enthusiasm and a visit to the Boston Public Library, I left off. I hereby will you as much as I did on it.

[Historical footnote: 262 and 267, while both in Boston, had different names. This is in deference to the Congress and Copley hotels, neither of whom wished to be in an exchange with the other's name.]

Alan D'Aiello Jr., Sun, 29 Jun 1997

Sorry I haven't responded in a while, sorta been trying to do the college thing. Noticed you corrected a mistake I made, that being giving you the name of CHurch for Barrington and Warren RI. I found out soon afterwards that it was CHerry and that the person who told me it was CHurch was quite confused. Anyways, here is another one for you:

STuart2,3&9 Wakefield&Narraganset, RI

There is some history on this one too. Apparently, these exchanges cut over to the dial in April of 1959 on a Saturday afternoon when the operators "hung up their coils." Most of the predominantly rural "South County" cut over on the same day with the opening of the central office on Main Street in Wakefield, and another in nearby Carolinia village in Richmond, serving the Hope Valley district. This brought South Kingstown and Charlestown onto the dial with limited DDD service. SK and Charlestown had the "dial the last 5" system with "6" being reserved for local interexchange dialing and "1-NNx-xxxx" being the instate long distance protocol and "0" for all else (including calls to the semi-automatic Block Island exchange via a 10 circuit cable). The local telephone numbers were listed as 2-xxxx, 3-xxxx, etc. Thus, I am not totally sure if the STuart name caught on in Wakefield, because for a local call it wasn't really needed. I hae seen advertisments with it listed however, so I know it was used. This left U. of Rhode Island in a lurch because it had a key system based on the campus which needed to dial out using all 7 figures +9 and it apparently caused a lot of confusion when it first was instituted due to unfamiliarity with the system.

Charles Burch, Sun, 13 Jul 1997

I was about 12 or 13 years old , living in the San Francisco Bay Area, when they did away with digit dialing. Jewel Patton certainly gets most of it right.

I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that S.I. Hiyakawa was a Professor of Semantics at San Francisco State, and the name of the organization he headed way the Anti Digit Dialing League. (People don't seem to form leagues anymore, unless they're involved in sports).

David Racko, Sun, 29 Jun 1997

I see you've had some added information for Pittsburgh, PA. I didn't remember all the exchanges, but when I gave you my list, it was for all the metro calling area under the general heading of "Pittsburgh". I say this because I see for BRandywine, you've added Braddock, PA. This is essentially correct, but Braddock was part of the calling area. With so many small communities sharing exchanges in that area, it would be hard to name all the separate communities. You also added SYcamore, and listed Plum, PA as the area it served. Again, correct, but again part of the Pittsburgh calling area. For example, the exchange (VAlley) for my small community was shared by nearly a dozen other communities (East Pittsburgh, Turtle Creek (where the switch was located), Monroeville, East McKeesport, Wilmerding, Wall, Trafford, Pitcairn, Irwin, Penn Hills, Penn Township and North Versailles Township). Unless you want to list all of those communities for the VAlley (82) exchange!!!!! And parts of Irwin were served by PLymouth, a McKeesport exchange and UNderhill, the Irwin exchange, in addition to the VAlley exchange. All depended on where you lived!!!! The telco boundaries never follow the USPS boundaries. Maybe the post office should run the telephones, like in England and have the switch and post office in the same building, and the same boundaries for both!!!

rpherst, Wed, 2 Jul 1997


Kevin Murphy, Tue, 1 Jul 1997

I note in your phone name list that you have LYtell as a Palo Alto exchange. I know LYtell 1 and LYtell 3 were San Carlos/Belmont exchanges. I grew up there (and my dad was a telephone man back then). 592 was added in the 60's and 595 came still later in the early 80's. Other 59?'s were added until they finally were pushed into using a 63? exchange recently. And soon they will toss us out of the 415 area code. There are no 59?'s in Palo Alto. And Palo Alto is not San Carlos.

I have no idea what LYtell is all about. Perhaps it's a pun on what people often do on the phone. Anyhow, thanks for the interesting web site.

Rod Stites, Mon, 14 Jul 1997

Fascinated by your page. I'm 48, so I remember the time when all phones had alpha prefixes.

Prior to the advent of customer-dialed long distance (Direct Distance Dialing, or DDD) in the early 1960s, one was required to call a number to reach the long-distance operator. In Kansas City, for example, you dialed 211. The operator answered "Long Distance," and you would say "I want to call Tulsa, Oklahoma, MAdison 6-5536." You sat there and listened as the call was set up, hearing the Tulsa operator answer and then the Kansas City operator asking her for the Tulsa number.

In the late 50s, in preparation for DDD, the country was divided up into area codes, and as a result, there were duplicated exchange names in many of the larger areas. Consequently, many, many telephone numbers were changed to different prefixes/exchanges. I remember, for example, that my grandmother's number changed from MAdison 6-5536 to WEbster 6-5536 because of a duplicate exchange name in a small town served by GTE in the same area code.

Also, prior to 1955, some small towns had only 4 or 5 digit numbers, and larger ones (like Kansas City) had only 6 digit numbers. In preparation for DDD, all numbers were standardized to 7 digits. As a result, I remember my own telephone number changing from HEdrick 2161 in 1951 to NIagara 2161, and then in 1955 to NIagara 2-2161.

Also, though you cannot show it on your table, before the advent of DDD and 1-800 numbers, there was an exchange called ZEnith. A number in a distant city that could be called toll-free was listed as ZEnith x-xxxx. You called operator, asked for the ZEnith number, and the operator looked it up to find the corresponding "real" number, then called it, automatically reversing the charges.

You've probably heard all this stuff before, but thought I'd pass this along.

James W. Prather, Mon, 21 Jul 1997

Exchange names were once used to describe the district areas of downtown Los Angeles. They were Madison 01, Normandy 02, Clinton 03, Capitol 04, Angeles 05, Ludlow 06, Richmond 07, Adams 08, Pleasant 09, Dunkirk 10, Republic 11, Axminister 12, Webster 13, and Hollywood 14. In San Francisco they were Central 1, Montrose/Evergreen 2 and Juniper 3.

(and later, in a separate message ...)

District areas were created by the phone company to sub divide an exchange, particularly big ones like Los Angeles. The main purpose for doing this is to make milage distances shorter for real adjacent areas and longer for not so adjacent areas. This gave the user the ability to make local calls to phones nearby in a large exchange. In a situation where the borders of a small exchange abutt a large exchange, calls between exchanges would cost more if the large exchange were not sub divided. This is because the milage between the exchanges would be great enough to put the call in a higher rate zone as compared with two adjacent small exchanges. In a metropolitan area such as Los Angeles it would be obsurd if one had to pay for a call across the street where as a call a mile the other direction would be free. Milage is calculated between the geographical centers of the exchanges by triangulation on a nation wide coordinate system. An exchange that has been sub divided uses district area milage to nearby exchanges that fall within a forty mile radius of the exchange center, exchanges outside the radius use the exchange center as the calculating point....Jim

WillVDV, Sun, 29 Jun 1997

I found your telephone prefix Web site fascinating. I live in Chicago, and several years ago I sought such information for the Chicago area. I found that a good way to learn such information is to go to a library and look at old newspapers on microfilm. Just look at the ads, display and classified, and look at the phone numbers. Here is some additional information, not included on you Web site, which I obtained several years ago from old newspapers and other sources.

Chicago went to 2 letters for prefix names in 1948. Prior to then, phone numbers had an prefix name and 4 digits. I believe that Evanston was the only suburb at the time using the same system as Chicago. One of the first 2 letter prefixes was the "Gladstone" exchange in River Grove/Franklin Park.

Prior to the introduction of 911 in 1976, Chicago's emergency numbers were FI7-1313 and PO5-1313, using the first 2 letters of "Fire" and "Police". The recorded weather forecast number used to be WE4-1212, later WE6-1212, before making it a "976" number.

Here are prefix names not included in your list, which I have found in the "old" 312 area, which since 1989 has been split five ways. Included are "recommended" and other prefix names. For Chicago locations, I have included the actual central office names. Nearly every central office had a "flagship" prefix named for that central office.

(Chicago entries)

The above central offices are the only ones remaining in area code 312.

The following remaining central offices within Chicago are now in the new 773 area code.

NORTH - Lakeview, Edgewater, Rogers Park, Irving

NORTHWEST - Humboldt, Merrimac, Kildare, Newcastle

WEST - Kedzie, Lawndale, Austin

SOUTHWEST - Lafayette, Prospect, Portsmouth

SOUTH - Oakland, Dorchester, Stewart, South Chicago

FAR SOUTH - Beverly, Pullman, Mitchell

The entire "old" 312 area was served by Illinois Bell (now Ameritech), except a portion of the far northwest side, Park Ridge, and Des Plaines, which are served by Centel. I hope

Lois Fundis, Sun, 29 Jun 1997

I ran across your site while searching something else and really appreciate this. I have been interested in this since I was a kid. When I was about 8 or so our telephone number went from the old pick-up-the-phone-and-talk-to-the- operator system to dialing, so our phone number changed from Trafford 620R to DR2-9218. (Gosh, I had to think about that. My dad died a year and a half ago and so I haven't had to call home lately.)

In the 60s of course when they went to all-digit-dialing -- which my mom, a former operator, thought was awful -- it became 372- and they added 373- and later 374- to the exchange to create more numbers. I can understand why: Drexel included part of Monroeville, a then very rapidly-growing suburb of Pittsburgh. For that matter it was hard to see why they chose Drexel, my mom complained, since Drexel is a name associated with eastern Pa., near Philadelphia. (Valley, later 283 or whatever, was also in the Monroeville area, on the other side toward Turtle Creek. If you look at a map of the Pgh. area you can see this. Monroeville was a sleepy rural area until the Pa. Turnpike was built through it and the Parkway East built from downtown Pittsburgh to meet it there. Then the shopping centers started to take off! (In 1956 when I started first grade is the first visit I remember to the Miracle Mile Shopping Center, then a BIG deal, what would now be called a "strip mall.")

On the other side of Drexel was Underhill in Irwin, which was our schools' phone numbers; but I see that's already on your list.

When I went to the University of Pittsburgh, and told Mom my number at the dorm, she said, "683- That's Museum." And when I got a part-time job Downtown: "282- That's Atlantic." She still knew all of them by heart. If she was still around, she'd REALLY enjoy your information! My aunts, too, probably, since both Mom's sisters were also operators. So this is sort of a family history thing for me. If I think of any more I'll write back. Good luck!

Bill Price, Wed, 30 Jul 1997

93 WEbster Kannapolis, NC

I grew up there in the 1950's. Originally, in 1951 (when we moved to NC from DC), it was manual, with 4-digit numbers. By the time I was old enough to actually use the 'phone, the Concord Telephone Company had added some 5-digit numbers, all starting with 2; none of the 4-digit numbers started with 2, of course.

Some time after that, we got dials, and SxS strowger switching, and 7-digit numbers: the 5-digit 2-wxyz numbers became WE2-wxyz; the 4-digit numbers became WE3-wxyz. In 1957 or so, I was allowed to visit the switch, in beautiful downtown Kannaolis, and spent an afternoon under the watchful eye of some Concord 'phone techs. They explained, in great detail, how the Strowger switches worked: how they dropped the leading 93, so that customers could still use their 4- and 5-digit numbers (with a leading 3 for the 4-digit ones); how some numbers had to be stored and regenerated for calls to Concord, just down the highway; and lots more stuff that was interesting then but beyond recall right now.

Before I left, in 1958, we had DDD, but no TouchTone(tm).

Jeff Vorzimmer, Thu, 31 Jul 1997

If I may, let me point an error of fact on your web page. An exchange name is not a way "to represent the first two letters of a telephone number," but rather a way of dialing an exchange, which is what you do when you dial the first three numbers of any telephone number. The exchange is your local telephone office. To refer to the them as exchange names is actually redundant in that all exchanges have names, they did before we dialed them and they still do to this day.

I've looked through the historical contributions on the site and I see that no one has given you a comprehensive overview and history of exchanges. Such information is scarce, actually, outside of a few books on the history of telephones, telephone collectors clubs, TELECOM Digest and 2600. So, let me give you some background.

Back in the dark ages of telephony, before 1921, before phones even had dials on them, one had to pick up the receiver and tap on the switch hook a few times to get the operator's attention. When she got on the line you would give her the number you wanted to call, along with the name of the exchange, such as Spring 3456 or Pennsylvania 5000, and she would connect you.

Once dials started appearing on phones, a caller could dial the number himself by first dialing the first three letters of the exchange and then the number. For example the caller would dial the S-P-R in Spring and then the 3456 or the P-E-N in Pennsylvania 5000. In those days phone numbers were written with the dialed letters capitalized such as SPRing 3456 and PENnsylvania 5000, as a mnemonic device.

By the 1930s, large cities were dropping the third letter from the dialing routine and replacing it with a number, in order to increase the available numbers for each exchange. So numbers such as SPRing 3456 would become SPring 7-3456 and PENsylvania 5000 would become PEnnsylvania 6-5000. This simple change added 80,000 new numbers to existing exchanges.

For forty years, Americans dialed exchanges when making calls, but in the late 50s Bell Telephone decided to phase the names out for various reasons such as the fact that they could be confusing or difficult to spell and for the fact that European phones didn't have letters on the dials, so it would make direct dialing from there difficult, if not impossible.

Bell started to eliminate the names in 1960 and actually met some resistance, although they had proven that people had no trouble remembering seven digits. Apparently people had developed an attachment to the names in that these names revealed to others what neighborhood they lived in, since the exchanges were actually named after the neighborhood or a major street or landmark within it.

In San Francisco opponents even organized the Anti-Digit-Dialing League. In Washington a movement called The Committee of Ten Million to Oppose All-Number Calling signed petitions and organized rallies to stop the change. By 1966, Bell gave up in exasperation trying to force the issue, hoping to just grandfather the change by not assigning new numbers exchange names. But by then most cities had already made the change, although exchange names lasted right through the 70s in cities such as San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Michael Dawber, Fri, 01 Aug 1997

(Discussing Exchange Names from York County, Ontario)

I have no explanation as to how Woodbridge, Thornhill, Malton, and West Hill can all be 28, unless the entire suburban ring around Toronto was all placed on a single exchange at one point. Malton is on the city's west side, Woodbridge and Thornhill on the north, and West Hill on the east. Again, these names are mostly Bell-Canada-approved, except RUssell, which was given in honor of an early Canadian governor, Lord Peter Russell. There are about half a dozen locations in Toronto named for him (Russell Creek, Russell Hill, etc., etc.) The transition from 6-character to 7-character must have been chaotic for a while...the potential mix-ups between WAlnut and WAverly must have been legion. I tracked the transition with one person I know (Mrs. Rae Luckock, first woman elected to the Ontario Legislature (1943)). In 1947, her number was LOmbard 5121 -- in 1958, it was LEnnox 6-5121. My great-grandparents went from a MIdway number (I think) to OXford 1-6536.

And a piece of telephone trivia I found while researching another book: the world's smallest telephone company was the Methodist Episcopal Corporation of Kingston, Ontario. This company had exactly one subscriber: the Methodist church in Carmanville, Ontario. Sometime in the '40s, the minister there got sick of having to drive home to Enterprise (a fair distance) to use the telephone. So, he had a simple switch built in the church, ran some poles and line out to the nearest Bell connection, and had a phone installed in the church. This odd little arrangement apparently continued until 1970 (!) when the Methodist Episcopal Corporation was bought by Bell. How's that for a mega-merger?!

Don Ritchie, Fri, 01 Aug 1997

When I started with Ma in 1964 it was on the frames at the GLenville C.O. Back then the office ( named after an area of town ) had five "units". A battery cut-off panel office with two units the [451] glenville and the [761] potomic and a two unit ground cut-off office, the [681] mullberry and the [541] liberity and a number 1 crossbar office called the [851] ulster. (later a second unit [268] was added to the ulster, just after we changed to ANC (All Number Calling) so it was never really given a name but we all called it the "COwshit".

I then worked in the next two offices to the east, the KEnmore had 531 and 481 [Ivenhoe] number 1 crossbar and a number 5 office which was the 486 { IVenhoe 6) the second unit of which was one of the first centrex CO in Cleveland and maybe in the US - GE used 266 ( still does) and TRW used 383 Most of which are now released to anybody.

The next office East is the Redwood which has Redwood 1 and 2 and the 261 [Andrews] half of the redwood 2 was 943 and about a third of the andrews was 944. I hope to go into this a little more later.

Bill Meacham, Sun, 3 Aug 1997

I'm 44 yrs old now and was an "investigator" at 10-15 yrs. old trying to learn all about this. I even got into trouble for stealing the number discs off of pay-phones wherever I went. I had some real "collectibles". My grandma was a Bell operator. I still remember the changes to touchtone phones in my childhood town in about '62. (They never fully implemented dial phones). I remember granny saying that the CRestview 6 thing was only temporary and they were going to soon change to 7 numbers only. Before that time we still made local calls through "Central Operators". Then we moved to the city (Charlotte). I can still remember all the available prefixes(20)...that was in 1959! Now there's 120+ with new ones appearing daily!

A few oddities...

Many cities had "time-of-day" service at 846(TIM)-any number. Some used 844-

Also weather at 932-any #.

577 also did something but I forget what.

In Charlotte, 596 was issued during the transition (1962), and was listed only as LY, with no corresponding exchange "word". We also had 545 (a small rural exchange) before then which was never even given letters, much less a name.

For some reason, we could access 523 also as 522 and 588 as 587 in the mid-sixties in Charlotte.

In Charlotte all of the old original 5-digit numbers dating back to the early 40s, were prefixed 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-. They became EDison 2,3,4 and FRanklin 5,6,7 and EXpress 9 was added. This was about 1953. 8- was the interconnect to surrounding towns which became TAlmadge 5, VAlley 7, VIctory 7, 889 (never merited a name), TWinOaks 2 and TRinity 5.

Many other big cities that already had 6-digit systems (Ohio Bell, SW Bell) had numbers like JAckson 4711 which went to JAckson 1-4711 when the 7-digit scheme was implemented. Some cities had changed from a JAckson 4711 to 5-digit system and went back again to the original names with the onset of 7-digit dialling.

I guess you know that there was a single 555 number "authorized" by Bell for ads depicting a phone where the # was visible. I forget exactly what it was, something like 555-3261. Look at an old phone book'll see the number. In many places if you dialled that number you would reach the phone co!

I guess you're also aware of the number preference given to heavy traffic areas when DDD area codes were introduced in about 61-63. This was because mechanical "stepping" relays were used. NYC got the primo 212, only 5 clicks total(the minimum since 211 wasn't valid), LA got 213, Chicago 312, etc. Eastern NC got 919!

Here in the Caribbean where I live, all of the tiny islands are getting their own area codes. 809 ran out of prefixes a long time ago. Here in Dominican Republic for instance, we've had numbers for pagers which duplicated numbers or area codes in other locations for a long time. These obviously had limited access. For instance 801-xxxx may be assigned to a pager both here and Jamaica. Dialling 1-801 for Jamaica (same area code) would get me Utah!, although incomplete.

Unfortunately, the island phone companies aren't keeping up with the changes. I keep losing access to various places from here. Jamaica (now 876) was working for a while but for the past week 876 gets a "misdialled" recording from the local wire-twisters. Even the operators can't get through. Many new area codes suffer the same from this location.

Ron Tevonian, Wed, 31 Dec 1997

I just stumbled on your project; how wonderfull! After 40 years of service in pieces of what once was the Bell System, I retired last year as a Director in Bell Labs - so I share your interests - at many levels.

One comment about restricting the use of zero or one as the first digit in exchange names: You are right about an initial "zero" being reserved for calls to the Operator.

The "one" was restricted because of potential problems in the way early dial switching equipment responded to the pulses generated by rotary telephone dials. Sometimes, when a caller was lifting the handset, the hook on which it rested would be jiggled in such a way as to generate a brief interruption in the flow of current. This would look to the switching equipment like a dialed digit "one" ...and would make the following six digits look like a (wrong) number. To avoid this, leading "ones" were discarded as noise.

It also is interesting to note how area codes were first assigned: Direct distance dialing (DDD) was introduced while rotary dials still were predominant. It was important to minimize the amount of time between required to get all ten digits dialed - since some very expensive central office equipment was tied up during this interval. The areas most likely to be called, because of concentrations of business numbers, received the area codes requiring the fewest number of dial pulses to be sent (thus shortening the interval). This resulted in 212 for New York - followed by 213 for LosAngeles and 312 for Chicago. You can imagine how that makes the folks in area 909 (an in-land region in southern California) feel!

For my final trivia... Have you noticed that the numbers in a ten-key calculator - or the numeric keypad on your PC keyboard ARE NOT in the same positions as the numeric keys on your touch-tone phone? Do you know why? If you're interested, e-mail me. Then I'll know you read this!

Ron Tevonian, Thu, 01 Jan 1998

Thanks for your quick response. OK, here goes:

When the Bell Labs Human Factors people were considering the introduction of "push-button dialing" (later marketed under the service mark "Touch Tone") they were concerned about public acceptance and error rates. One early proposal was to capitalize on the public familiarity with the ten holes in the rotary dial by placing ten buttons in a circle in exactly the same locations as the corresponding holes. The argument was that the "public fingers" would naturally go to the right places. Remember that adding machines, and other keyboard devices, hadn't yet made it into the average household.

Studies demonstrated, however, that after a few tries the average person could learn and use just about any arrangement that included a semblence of order - so the ball was tossed back to the engineers and manufacturers. The manufacturers argued that a rectangular array would be MUCH easier to make than a circle or any other arced configuration. The dial engineers - who viewed this as a close replacement to the rotary dial, called the shot. So ...finally, here is the answer...

To a telephone dial, zero is the next larger number than nine. To an adding machine, zero is the next smaller number than one.

Since, for emotional reasons, both had the zero on the bottom (and the digits had to be in order) the rest of the arrangement came as we see it.

Incidentally, there was quite an argument about whether the keypad should have ten buttons or twelve (as we do now). There also was a proposal for a four-by-four (sixteen-button) plan - with the respective frequencies assigned to each row and column already determined. But the dark clouds of Justice Department attacks on the Bell monopoly already were gathering - and a few key AT&T people were concerned that adding any more buttons would make the dial look like a data entry device (duh!!) which would provoke the young data industry. It was felt that two extra buttons could be justified as "call control and feature buttons" - but adding another four would stretch the credibility of the argument that the Bell System was strictly sticking to the voice common carrier business. (Note that the word "modem" hadn't yet been introduced - and the introduction of data as tones on the network was forbidden by the tariffs. If you want to send data, go to Western Union!)

Jim Douglass, Thu, 1 Jan 1998

I recently retired from almost 30 years in the telephone industry... Have read your site several times, and don't seem to find the correct explanation of an "exchange". Yes, we think of PLaza 2 , but an "Exchange" actually means a geographic area, not the first two letters.

The 2 letters are the "Central Office". The Hackensack, New Jersey exchange had 5 central offices: DIamond 2&3 and HUbbard 7-8 & 9. Maybe this can be clarified in future updates. I still have my 1977 Manhattan White Pages, the last year in which names were listed. There was a progression. Originally, TRaflgar was written as TRflgr, then they went to TR and finally 87. You could tell how long a person had the number, by the format of the listing.

I also have my membership card from the ADDL (Anti-Digit Dialing League) which tried to prevent ANC (All-Number Calling), albeit that I was a telephone employee. I remember one of the protest posters: "Give Me LIberty, Or Take The Damn Phone Out", noting that LI was capitalized... Thanks for listenting to my ramblings...... "Doug"

last update: 4 January 1998