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I Used to Know All of the Area Codes May 3, 2017

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
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Yup. All 86 of the original telephone area codes.  Give me an area code, I could tell you its geographic region.  617 – eastern Massachusetts; 412 – my home area code in southwestern Pennsylvania.  312 – LA; 415 – oh, please, give me something difficult.

There were rules. Because of the technology used, all area codes had to have a middle digit of 0 or 1.  800 (only) was reserved for toll-free numbers.

Of course, now 30+ years later, the world is a different place.  Most of the area codes added over the last 20 years have been overlays (not all; my childhood home in southwestern PA now sports 724).  An overlay is two or more area codes that share the same geographic region, which is done in Boston, New York, LA, and other metropolitan areas.  There are a variety of different toll-free area codes – 888, 866, 855, and so on.  A residential user can have one if they want family members to be able to call them without charge.

And speaking of the world, I dialed my international number when I was about 30. It was in the UK (country code 44), for tech journalism purposes.  I asked that person what was the US country code.  He chuckled and said, “You’re the United States; your country code is 1, of course.”

Now it is impossible for all but the most photographic memory (mine is close, but not that good) to know the location of a call based on its area code. It was inevitable in an era where mobile phones are ubiquitous that there would be a significant increase in numbers allotted.

From a practical standpoint, it makes it more difficult to identify the physical location of an unknown number. I used to be able to glance at my screen and immediately know where the call was coming from.  Not anymore.  But the number of area codes will only keep expanding.

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