Did you know: Area Codes

Q. Why was New York City’s original area code 212?

A. Because it was easy to dial.

When area codes were introduced to speed the calling of long-distance numbers, telephones had rotary dials. The nearest digit to the dialing stopper, and thus the digit that could be dialed the quickest, was 1. Next came 2, and then 3.

It would seem the original numbering plan in 1947 assigned the fewest necessary clicks on the rotary dial to the most populous area codes, with New York City’s topping the list. Originally, operators used the area codes, which preceded by many years the actual direct dialing of long-distance numbers by much of the public.

There were also a few other rules. The original North American numbering plan apparently had only 0 or 1 as the middle numeral, with 0 meaning a whole state using the same area code, and 1 meaning a state that had several area codes within it. Another rule was that there shouldn’t be two of the same digit in a row. Since New York State had several area codes, the middle digit needed to be 1. The first and third digits were the fastest remaining option, 2.

By the same system of minimizing the clicks, Los Angeles had 213 and Chicago had 312.

Read this via the New York Times this morning and found it quite interesting. Then, I wondered how other area codes were distributed, so I looked up a list. While upper/central Michigan would have had the short end of the stick in the rotary phone days with 989, at least one can now dial these digits conveniently in the same row on most mobile devices.

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