Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10 - Transcontinental Direct-Dial Long Distance

On November 10, 1951, the first U.S. direct-dial transcontinental telephone call was made by the mayor of Englewood, NJ, who dialed a 10-digit number on a black rotary phone in an AT&T switching station. He was flanked by nine men in business suits from AT&T and its Bell Laboratories subsidiary. Eighteen seconds later, he reached the mayor of Alameda, CA, near San Francisco. The connection speed was blisteringly fast compared with that of 1915, when early attempts at transcontinental calls from San Francisco to New York required as many as five operators nationwide, each asking “Number, please?” – taking 23 minutes to complete. Direct-dialing was made possible via the Bell System’s use of expensive automated switching systems and the North American Numbering Plan, which assigned three-digit area codes to the continent in 1947. States needing multiple area codes had codes with a middle digit of 1; the rest had a middle digit of 0. The most populous regions received codes that took the shortest time to dial on rotary phones. Today the U.S. has nearly 300 area codes.

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