Friday 26 July 2013

Phone Numbers

    One of the most important bits of information tied to our lives is our phone number.  As a young child, it is the most vital thing  you need to know, next to knowing your name. 
    Young people today, probably wonder why letters appear with the numbers on the phone.  Back when I was a kid, letters were part of our phone number.  At that time, my home phone number was “UN-75555”, then later, the phone company eliminated the letters, and chose to divide the digits into a 3-4 format, and our phone number became “867-5555”.
    In 1977, when Joan and I moved to McBride, it was the smallest “Village” in BC.  Because it was so small, if you wanted to make a local telephone call, you only needed to dial 4 numbers.  Even though most of North America had “push-button” phones at the time, residents of McBride were still using the old technology and could only use rotary dial phones.  It sometimes became a problem when you made a call to civilization and got a recorded message telling you to “press ‘1’ for this” and “press ‘2’ for that”.  Our phones wouldn’t allow us to “press” any number because they didn’t use a tone.
    Despite all the wear and tear on the old index finger caused by using the rotary dial, it was easy to make a call back then.  Later, civilization came to McBride and the phone company made us dial 7 digits to make a local call.
    Then few years ago, even though McBride didn’t get any bigger, (in fact, it’s population had shrunk) the telephone company made our lives even more complex.  Now, every time we want to make a local call, we are forced to also use the area code, so we end up having to dial 9 digits:  (555) 555-5555, just to call someone next door.  Making phone calls has become a real pain.
    While I am on the subject of phone numbers, I thought I would mention some trivia about area codes.  Way back when they were being developed, everyone had rotary dial phones.  The designers of area codes, tried to create area codes using number found at the beginning of the dial, because they would use up less dialing time, than using numbers toward the end of the dial, and if you consider how many phones there were in North America and the total amount of time it would take for all that dialing, it probably made a lot of sense.  Of course, now with buttons that make tones, it doesn’t really matter what numbers are used in area codes since all numbers use up the same amount of time.
    As I touched on earlier, here in North America we use a 3-4 number format.  That is because it was found that the 3-4 format phone numbers were easier for North Americans to remember.  It is easier for us to remember a group of 3 numbers, followed by a group of 4 numbers, than it is to remember a sequence of 7 numbers all in a row.  Of course, you can dial all 7 numbers without a pause just as well.  I read that if someone asks you for your phone number, and you want to mess with their heads, you can write down your number in a 4-3 format or a 5-2 format.

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