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The Evolution of Our Phone Number Systems

We take worldwide communications for granted these days, but where did it all start? You could say the telegram, but the first time we had access to an instant means of communicating with someone directly was with the invention of the telephone. One of the earliest problems that arose with the telephone, however, was how to identify each individual phone. Hence the birth of the telephone number!

What Was the First Number Dialled?

Well, the first phone call (made by inventor Alexander Graham Bell) did not need a telephone number. Instead, he was using it as more of a paging system. According to legend, the first words used on a telephone were, “Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you,” as he called his assistant in another room.

  • Originally, Bell’s company wanted to make money by renting equipment.
  • Later, a subscription service like we have today was decided upon.

After less than a decade, the number of telephone users (much like the advent of the mobile phone) increased dramatically. However, this did not mean you could dial directly to a number in most cases. Instead, you needed to dial the number and wait to be transferred, or speak to the operator, who would forward your call. It wasn’t until at least the 1920s when direct dialling became more common.

Phone Home!

Calling someone within your own area was pretty straight forward; however, if you wanted to call out of your city or town, you would need to almost have a complete address. This is because the call would be forwarded through a number of operators or “Hello Girls” as they were known in America. It wasn’t until after 1910 that automatic call forwarders started to become common.

American phone numbers were originally alphanumeric (both letters and numbers) to make the long number easier to manage. But the problem of having enough phone numbers soon became a problem and so more numbers were added, as well as area codes, in order to create enough free numbers.

Business Phones

The original business phone systems were made up of a network within a network. To save on numbers, people would call a switchboard within the company and be directed from there. How far have business numbers come! Now businesses can have a 1300 number, a free-call number and even a number to match their business name.

Phone Numbers in Movies

Ever tried to call a phone number from a movie? If you have, you probably got an error message. You might know that almost all American movies utilise numbers starting with ‘555’; this is because these were reserved for telephone company use as well as directory assistance. The ‘555’ numbers were otherwise known as ‘Klondike-5’, as all American numbers begin with a two-letter prefix.

The Future of Telephone Numbers

Fixed-line numbers used to be very important, but with the rise of mobile communication it is fading in popularity. Due to the number of people with telephones, it is unlikely that telephone numbers will die out. Instead, our numbers may merely be migrated into new technology. One thing is for sure, the dialling will continue, without any dials of course!

Author Bio:- Kushal Tomar is a freelance writer and journalist. He writes extensively in Australia, Canada, Europe, and the US. He’s published more than 500 articles about various topics including business phone systems and 1300 number.

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