Tuesday, June 06, 2006

area code splitting: the true number of the beast



I don't like area code splitting. I think it's the work of the devil. EVIL! EVIL! I have a head for numbers--I remember nearly every phone number I've ever had--and I was pretty good at knowing which major North American cities were served by which area codes. Those days are long-gone.


A few years ago, I saw an article in The Atlantic Monthly explaining the origin and planning of area codes. With rotary-dial phones, the easiest area codes to dial were the ones with the least amount of finger travel. Here is a picture of a phone in my office. According to Peter, I use it for "points emergencies."



The biggest metropolitan areas were given the best codes. So, New York City got 212, the Los Angeles area got 213, Chicago 312...

This of course means that San Francisco (415) was better than Toronto (416), and that Toronto was better than Springfield Missouri (417).*

Eventually, area codes were expanded to include zero as a middle digit. Dialing zero on a rotary dial phone took about an hour. People often died while trying to reach an operator in an emergency.* Thank goodness for touch-tone.

In time, thanks to a lot of poseurs, teenaged girls, and drug dealers, we had about forty trillion cell phones and pagers. Add in the anal-retentive, squatting phone companies, and we soon exhausted our area codes. We incorporated digits 2 through 8 (9 is being reserved for future phone numbers that will be about the same length as pi) into the middle digit of wonky splits and overlays--and we're still running out of numbers. I don't know where the fuck I'm calling anymore. Fuckers.

* just kidding


links:
  • wicked cool animation of the proliferation of area codes
  • area code map of Canada
  • area code map of the U.S.
  • the good ol' days
  • the North American Numbering Plan (NANP)
  • A Tale of Two Springfields
  • 17 comments:

    mistipurple said...

    my phone and i are one.
    i feel so guilty now.

    Timmy said...

    points? as in needles? goodness!

    I feel ya on the area code splitting!

    Poop on that!

    tornwordo said...

    Are they forcing you to dial 10 digits for every call now? That's what's happening here. Want to call the next door neighbor? 10 digits required.

    indygirl said...

    Goddamn it I refuse to push 3 extra buttons.

    Nölff said...

    I have hoes in all those area codes

    Salem said...

    10 digits has been the norm here for about 10 years. I still hate it.

    Phronk said...

    I hear ya. I think they're doing the 10 digit thing here in London, in a few months. At least I'll burn a few more calories dialing those extra digits.

    Adorable Girlfriend said...

    I totally here you. It's the way I felt about Brooklyn and Westchester. First, we were all 212, then the farmed out Brooklyn. Who wants to be a 718? Not me. (See the Seinfeld episode). Then there was Westchester. Fine, we'll take 914, but let those losers in Putnam and Rockland counties have 845. Fuck 'em was the attitude. All I saw was a bunch of uppity ups finding a way to argue for better schools and higher home prices. You know what I think about area codes in the US? It's just another way to keep people down. I blame the patriarchy and the phone company!

    Jason said...

    I don't have a phone.

    your judgemental aunt said...

    I WON'T CALL ANYONE WITH A 647 NUMBER. Proud to say I'm a 416 snob.

    I remember when I was a kid we only needed to dial 5 numbers to make a call within my town.

    Paul said...

    I hope if i ever move back to Toronto I don't get a 647.... I will sleep with someone at Bell to get a 415 or make Mloyd do it...

    teh l4m3 said...

    I remember back when I worked for Pac Bell and they started issuing new area codes. We thought it was the end of the world. And San Mateo Co. wasn't too thrilled with 650...

    Miss Thistle said...

    People with 647 cellphones are so SAD.

    ::grins at shiny 416 cell::

    Salem said...

    Getting angry

    Dead Robot said...

    Looks at his 647 phone...

    Am I not "with it"?

    I'm hip! The ringtone is "I'm with Stupid" from the Pet Shop Boys.

    Butchieboy said...

    Why do people care about area codes? Seriously, I'm asking.

    mistipurple said...

    i'm looking for jason. i know he's not here. still, i'm looking..

    and don't ever leave okay?
    i get attached to you folks too much.