That was my phone number growing UP in Germantown, Ohio.
Of course, the town was so small we only had to dial the last four digits!
We could do that because Germantown’s phone system wasn’t part of the Bell System or General Telephone or any of the other big outfits that ran communications in the nation.
It was an independent telephone company but had to become part of the NANP, or North American Numbering Plan, which went into effect in 1951.
“What’s the big deal?” you might ask.
Well, prior to the NANP, to call across the nation, you had to contact an operator who would then place the call for you.
With the NANP, direct dial long distance came into play.
It’s funny, most people alive today will never know what a telephone exchange is, heck, most people alive today, won’t even know what a land line is!
Cell phones rule and wall phones drool I suppose.
But back in the day, you know when you had no idea who was calling but you answered the phone anyway, and when you had to go home to call someone, and you had to be home to get a call, and there was probably only one phone in the house and it weighed a ton, the NANP was a break through.
From its beginning in 1876 and all through the first part of the 20th Century, the Bell System grew from a local company to a regional telephone system as the boys in New York bought more and more access across the nation.
These systems were connected with tie trunks, and each system had its own numbering plan.
Germantown’s was UL5, or Ulster 5, which equated to 855. They were called exchanges. Dayton had BA2, or Baldwin 2 or 222, just to give you a better picture.
The Baldwin exchange took UP 6 floors of a building on 3rd street in Dayton.
It was a pretty big deal.
The existing, rapidly growing plan resulted in an inefficient operation and the Bell System set out to unify the numbering plans in the 1940s so America could connect.
And so they could make money.
The new numbering plan was approved in October of 1947 and divided the US into 86 numbering plan areas, each one with its own area code.
That’s right, prior to that, you had to call an operator and ask tell them what city you wanted to call and they would connect to an operator in that city and that operator would connect you to the number you wanted and all four of you would be on the line because if one of the operators hung UP, the call was OVER.
It was cumbersome.
All the brains at Bell Labs worked really hard to come UP with the plan.
What did it give us? Well, coast to coast direct dial calling #nooperatorneeded.
It was a technological breakthrough.
And, it was so popular, the Canadians, Bermudans, and West Indies folks wanted in.
Central America and the rest of the Caribbean opted out.
Since the Bell System is gone and AT&T is a company pretending to be AT&T, the NANP is administered by the NANPA, North American Numbering Plan Administration, which is overseen by the FCC.
They took over when the Bell System was destroyed by Judge Green back in the day.
The FCC bids it out, and right now, Lockheed Martin’s spin off, Neustar runs the show.
As cell phones became – some would say – more affordable, and there was an increasing demand for telephone numbers in the late 80s and early 90s, a way to create more numbers was studied.
The NANPA demanded 10 digit dialing even within in an area code because this opened UP more number availability.
See, prior to that, 0 and 1 in the center of a three digit number were reserved for the middle digit in area codes, forcing 10 digit dialing allowed for the 0 and 1 to be used elsewhere and allowed for 2-9 to be used in area codes.
Math people will get this as the changes expanded the number pool by about 25% for each area code.
So now, your phone number in Germantown is no longer just 1234, it morphed to 855-1234 and then to 513-855-1234 and eventually 937-855-1234.
All of this was unheard of and quite frankly, not even considered, back when we had that 20 pound black phone in the dining room.
And all of this made life simpler. That’s right, adding digits made life easier for all of us.
Back in the day if you wanted to call Grandma and Grandma didn’t live in the same county, you picked UP the phone, dialed 0 for the Operator, asked to be connected to the operator in the city you wanted to call and hoped the call went through.
Now, you pick UP the phone and tell Siri to call whomever you want.
And it all started on this date, 66 years ago.