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Carrier Access Codes and cultural detritus, featuring Alf and friends
March 29, 2014 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Carrier Access Codes are a largely dated*, though still functional service to select your long-distance telephone carrier per phone call. In the United States, these "dial-around codes" reached a (commercial) peak in the late 1990s, as seen with ads featuring such semi-notables as Marla Gibbs, Christine Taylor and Reginald VelJohnson, Harry Anderson, John Lithgow, Tony Danza, Doug Flutie, and even Alf and some well-known friends.

If you're at all interested in this sort of telephony, here's a blog post about features in various Carrier Access Codes in Alberta, and then there's Dial Around World, with its 2011 recommendations and extensive collection of dial around codes. And if you're wondering about the shift from 10-XXX to 10-10-XXX, that happened in 1998, due to an increase in long-distance carriers in the previous years.

* The decline of dial around codes (or at least the once ubiquitous nature of their commercials) can likely be attributed to the proliferation of mobile phones, as wireless carriers in the US and Canada are not required to support these codes.
posted by filthy light thief (73 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent post, as per usual, filthy light thief, but the next time you call Harry Anderson or John Lithgow "semi-notable", I'll notify Bull and The Big Giant Head. There will be repercussions.
posted by Optamystic at 5:56 PM on March 29 [27 favorites]


I think international long distance just got a lot cheaper at some point. When I was little, I almost never spoke to my grandparents on the phone. Then came this phone card or that phone card, then the 10-10-XXX numbers, then another phone card-esque service where you loaded an account online and now my mom talks to my grandad for like an hour a week without any of the messing about, and it's cheap enough that Skype isn't appealing.
posted by hoyland at 6:07 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


But, yes, I have a certain amount of nostalgia for those commercials.
posted by hoyland at 6:08 PM on March 29


Thanks, Optamystic, and I'm sorry for besmirching the names of Anderson or Lithgow. I wasn't sure how to classify those actors.

This post was inspired by 2.5 year old son, who is fond of numbers. One day he was counting something and said "ten, ten" and I added without thinking "321!" My wife laughed, because it has been more than a decade since those commercials aired. I never really thought about what they were really selling until recently. Now I know, and you do, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:13 PM on March 29 [11 favorites]


Amusing. In the early 1980's when CAC's were new and direct access to carriers other than AT&T wasn't implemented yet, I worked for a couple of years for a small company that contracted to field install inline computers for businesses that wanted to default to another carrier. The box would detect that you picked up the phone, listen to the number you dialed, then pick up the real line, dial the CAC and the number, and then patch you in. It would've all gone south in a few years once direct access was universal but one of the co-owners absconded with all the money one day.
posted by localroger at 6:14 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


I think international long distance just got a lot cheaper at some point.

Heck even domestic long distance used to be too expensive for my family except on special occasions.
posted by octothorpe at 6:21 PM on March 29 [9 favorites]


It is unbelievably sad to me that the "CulturalDetritus" tag has only been used once here and I hope that everyone who sees this who has a post where it could be used will back-tag as possible.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:22 PM on March 29 [17 favorites]


And Dennis Miller (before he went batshit crazy).
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:26 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Long distance is so cheap today that since 2005 I've had a Knoxville area code for my cell phone even though I live 500 miles away in New Orleans. I had to get it renumbered in the weeks after Katrina so I could receive incoming phone calls (the NOLA area code being underwater) and never really had a reason to change it back.
posted by localroger at 6:27 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I suspect that, in the US at least, all voice communications will be a free service of your data plan within the next 10 or 15 years tops. The idea for paying for audio-only phone calls will be as archaic as paying for long distance now.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:34 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


localroger: Long distance is so cheap today that since 2005 I've had a Knoxville area code for my cell phone even though I live 500 miles away in New Orleans.

Obligatory XKCD -- Structure of a US cell number: first 3 digits - where you lived in 2005; last 7 digits = your random digits (even this is a notion can serve to split the general population into two age brackets: those who agree or even be amused by the notion, and who scratch their heads and wonder what was so important about ~2005).
posted by filthy light thief at 6:46 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


I did switch to a "local" area code when I moved back to Texas, because when you're job-hunting, prospective bosses get alarmed when their desk phones say you're calling from New York. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered.

I do love that about cell phones. Long-distance was a pain in the ass, especially when you were traveling; good luck having the right payphone change, and calling from your hotel meant stupid expensive fees. I remember using a phone card and realizing how blatantly they would rip you off. The back would say "You are paying X amount per minute" but when you actually kept track of your minutes on the phone and checked your balance after a call, they would be dinging you for much more than they should. And there was fuck-all you could do about it.
posted by emjaybee at 6:55 PM on March 29


And Dennis Miller (before he went batshit crazy).

I thought he was always crazy.
posted by Melismata at 7:00 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I think international long distance just got a lot cheaper at some point.

As mentioned, within the US as well. When I was a kid (1970s and 1980s) long distance calls were a big deal. Now my cell and work phones treat long distance exactly the same as across town. (I no longer have a landline so I don't know how the billing works for those anymore.) But I can remember my parents stressing about important long distance calls, and I can remember not being able to afford calls myself when I was in college.

I had one of those ATT calling cards and probably if I found a pay phone muscle memory could reproduce all of the digits needed to dial a call.

For me it was an abrupt change, in that I left the US needing my calling card and with expensive rates, and came back to find the prices had dropped out and calls were cheap. While I was away there was a change, but I don't know if it was gradual or abrupt, or how people handled it.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:11 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I did switch to a "local" area code when I moved back to Texas, because when you're job-hunting, prospective bosses get alarmed when their desk phones say you're calling from New York. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered.

L.A. is known as a city of many transplants, but I'm surprised when I get someone's call number and it actually *is* an L.A. area code. It's always a fun game to google and find out where they're from originally. (My own number is an L.A. code but it's 310 (Westside) and I live on the eastside. I'm actually not even sure what my area code would be if I got a landline.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:18 PM on March 29


I will give up my 917 area code phone number when you pry it from my cold, dead phone.
posted by griphus at 7:28 PM on March 29


When I was a kid, it was long distance to call my grandmother, who lived about five miles away; she wasn't even in a different area code, just a different exchange. Our small town had several different Southern Bell "areas" that could only mutually call each other without charges if you bought the massive buy-up plan (something like triple the cost).
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:30 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


(Although way back, possibly before 9/11 when cell phones became a Thing, a friend of mine somehow had a 718 cell phone number.)
posted by griphus at 7:30 PM on March 29


Man, I would watch the hell out of American Idol if it was hosted by Alf and Hulk Hogan.

I thought he was always crazy.

The epic hero of Bordello of Blood? Taking out vampires with a Super Soaker filled with holy water before Buffy was even a twinkle in Joss Whedon's eye? Crazy, you bet. Like a Fox. [News anchor]
posted by XMLicious at 7:32 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Yup, as I child long distance calls were a portent of Big Events - birth, death, Christmas and the like. Calls were short because they were crazy expensive.
Heck, phone lines weren't super cheap - you could get a party line for about half the price of a private line.

Now, get off my lawn!
posted by dbmcd at 7:38 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


The impact of VOIP on the cost and culture of long-distance calling contines to boggle my born-before 1970 mind. That said, I'm loving it, and for a very special reason. I have not paid one cent for any phone call in about five years, ever since I bought an ooma under their original contract - the one that promised (or at least ambiguously enough seemed to promise) free phone calls within the United States for life. They have since been held to those terms for anyone who bought one of the early models, before they stopped making the promise. (The issue is that local governments charge various fees and taxes that apparently did not figure into ooma's original business planning, and so they are now stuck paying the City of Chicago about $5 or $10/month on my behalf until I, or the ooma box, kicks the bucket). So, I guess I am just gloating, but yeah; I love not dialing "10-10-123" or whatever.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:39 PM on March 29


The only thing that should come after 10-10 is WINS.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:40 PM on March 29 [12 favorites]


she wasn't even in a different area code, just a different exchange

Zone B! Same area code, but not same enough! Man that burned back in the BBS days. Got a $600 phone bill one month after moving across the lake because of that.
posted by localroger at 7:59 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Ha! I was just thinking about doing an FPP on these!
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


if I found a pay phone

Speaking of cultural detritus...
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:11 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


klangklangston, GET OUT OF MY BRAIN.

You're talking about the 10-10 commercials, right? Or something else?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:15 PM on March 29


Dip Flash: “I no longer have a landline so I don't know how the billing works for those anymore.”
I just looked at it because I was trying to see if I could cut down Dad's phone bill.

For AT&T UVerse at least, it's $25 for 200 minutes. It's $35 for unlimited calling to the U.S., U.S. Territories, and Canada. It's $10 more to get a very small discount on some international calls, which start at 7¢ per minute and run as high as $3.25 per minute, plus a mobile termination fee in some cases. It can be almost $10 a minute if you call shore-to-ship via satellite.

Just for comparison, with the $45 a month "International" plan from AT&T, it costs 10¢ per minute to call China. The cheapest phone card with 1 minute billing I found in a limited search was 0.8¢ per minute. (Plus a buck a week, plus 2¢ extra per minute if you have to use the toll-free access number.) There are cheaper ones, but they mostly use 3 minute billing.

Interestingly, I looked at a few phone cards and it seems none of them use a CAC anymore. It's all either local or toll-free access numbers.


I got spoiled growing up, living in the largest toll-free calling zone in the world, so the only long-distance calls we ever made were to my grandparents in New Jersey. One of my prized MST3K tapes does have a 10-10-321 ad on it, so like lots of folks of a certain age, I do have nostalgic memories about the service.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:18 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Wow, I had forgotten all about these ads. And I may have even used one of those codes a few times. (Also, Tony Danza may only be 'semi-notable' since most readers only know him from 'Who's The Boss?' he'll always be full-on notable to those of us who remember him on 'Taxi.')
posted by jonmc at 8:21 PM on March 29


localroger: "...since 2005 I've had a Knoxville area code for my cell phone even though I live 500 miles away in New Orleans."

Yeah but the Knoxville area code is awesome. It's 865, which spells out VOL, and it's not a coincidence.
posted by workerant at 8:35 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]


My Dad was a big fan of these 10-10 codes to the point I remember shopping for a phone with multiple speed dial buttons that would accept more than 10 digits and still pulse dial.

We also had the same area code but still long distance situation. This played out in a weird way because of the history of amalgamation in my town. The town was made up of half a dozen originally independent communities each of which had its own exchange number (the middle part of the phone number).

My town is the major business center for rural areas a couple hundred miles around which were far enough away to be long distance and by historical accident most businesses were located in the largest south side community. The outlying communities would agree to higher base tariff rates in order to be able to call south side exchanges (and therefor businesses/doctors/goverment offices etc.) toll free. Which resulted in communities north of town being able to call people south of town toll free but incurring long distance charges to call the north side of town even though the north side was physically closer.

This situation was a huge disadvantage for north side businesses and therefor perpetuated the south side concentration which had the knock on effect of reducing business property values on the north side of town (something that persists to this day even though the long distance thing is no longer significant).

When my father moved his business from our home on the south side to a cheap business district on the north side he paid about 10% of the business phone bill to redirect the south side number to his north side location thereby preserving the free long distance advantage. BCTel essentially got paid twice to route a call less distance.

It also resulted in the weird situation where my girlfriend could call me toll free but I had to pay long distance. So I'd call collect; she'd refuse the call; and then in the next minute or so I'd, completely coincidentally I'm sure, receive a call from her. I actually received a lecture from the operator one day about the supposed illegality of this sort of out of band signalling.

dbmcd: "as I child long distance calls were a portent of Big Events - birth, death, Christmas and the like. Calls were short because they were crazy expensive."

My grandparents lived three provinces over and with the exception of Christmas and mother's day (and I guess significant deaths though I don't remember any) we never talked them on the phone. Instead we used to mail cassette tapes back and forth.

Also we couldn't direct dial the call; you needed to talk to an operator. And there were two types of long distance: IIRC Station to Station where you would talk to anyone who picked up and person to person which cost more per minute but you only stated paying when that particular person was available.
posted by Mitheral at 8:35 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]


My grandparents still use one of these. And they dial it on their wall-mounted rotary phone. Yay, southeast Missouri.
posted by jferg at 8:42 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Yup, as I child long distance calls were a portent of Big Events - birth, death, Christmas and the like. Calls were short because they were crazy expensive.

One of my very early memories is of my parents staying at some friends of theirs and my father using their phone to make a long distance call (in retrospect, obviously for a job interview) while looking at his watch. I can't imagine answering questions like "Tell us about your experience" at $6 per minute while your family and your hosts listened in the one phone-living room. And that $6/minute figure doesn't capture what a big deal it was -- either because of inflation or us being poor, this was such a huge deal that more than 35 years later I can vividly remember the tension.

I should buy my father a bottle of wine, because that night he deserved it.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:43 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


I suspect that, in the US at least, all voice communications will be a free service of your data plan within the next 10 or 15 years tops. The idea for paying for audio-only phone calls will be as archaic as paying for long distance now.

Yes, but there will be a service that offers vintage long distance telephone calls on a classic analog exchange, for special occasions and for people who appreciate the analog sound.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:45 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


10-10-636! I got a piece of direct mail from them once, and never heard of them anywhere else. But they were like $0.01/minute or so, and every long distance call I made on my landline after that was through them. The last one of those would've been 10+ years ago, so I assume they're no longer a going concern.
posted by aaronetc at 8:47 PM on March 29


I remember these, but I also remember 1-800-collect, because they absolutely barraged TV with ads in the late 90s (also with celebrities). Was that service different in some way?

I went to college in 1999 and I remember using 1-800-collect to call my parents but when the service asked me to ID myself I would just say as fast as I could "Heymomordadit'smecallmebackok?"
posted by mcmile at 8:54 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


My last living grandparent 3000 miles away keeps calls short. I'm not sure whether that's because she's still in the expensive long-distance mindset or because she just doesn't like me (she likes my wife, though). Also there is very little mobile service in the rural Appalachian foothills where she lives, so maybe there is no cheap long distance available to her.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:57 PM on March 29


Hilarious convergence of nostalgia in this thread. We passed some pay phones on the street today and flipped out and called a bunch of people we know because dude, we're calling from a pay phone! Then I was explaining to one of my friends that when you had an important message to convey long distance but didn't have the cash to call long distance, you'd call collect (remember that?!) and blurt your message into the "person calling" bit so the call would come in as "collect call from: thebabycameouthealthyit'saboyloveyoubye". And now the 10 dialing codes.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:05 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]


I like to think Tony Danza really does keep his phone bill that close at hand.
posted by stltony at 9:13 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


mcmile: "I went to college in 1999 and I remember using 1-800-collect to call my parents but when the service asked me to ID myself I would just say as fast as I could "Heymomordadit'smecallmebackok?""

Hello there, Bob Wehadababyitsaboy.
posted by fireoyster at 9:16 PM on March 29 [9 favorites]


emjaybee: "I did switch to a "local" area code when I moved back to Texas, because when you're job-hunting, prospective bosses get alarmed when their desk phones say you're calling from New York."

I ran into the same "problem" when I moved. My mobile phone is 817 but it really, really, really bothered some people in the Pacific time zone when I gave them a "non-local" area code. Sure, I could have just changed numbers or even gotten a VoIP forwarder but where's the fun in that when Twilio has service in the 206 area code and an SMS API?
posted by fireoyster at 9:19 PM on March 29


My uncle who lives in Ohio called my grandmother in PA, on Sunday's because that was the cheap rate after 8PM back in the 80s.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:22 PM on March 29


I was explaining to one of my friends that when you had an important message to convey long distance but didn't have the cash to call long distance

Heh. Back in the 70s my mom had a job at a Fannie Mae candy store. We only had one car, and the store -- I think they had a WATS line or some such where every single call was recorded and would be scrutinized by corporate bean-counters -- wouldn't permit personal calls. So when she was done with work she would call us with one ring, and we weren't supposed to pick up, meaning no call was recorded/billed. My dad was a museum director and might have a meeting to attend, so when he got home he would call her with one ring. Unfortunately even this one ring signaling would sometimes get messed up, and my mom lived in paranoia of getting a letter in her personnel file.
posted by dhartung at 9:54 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


When my mom went to college it was one phone per dorm floor and all the girls would line up Sunday night and wait to call home, and if you parents needed to reach you they'd have to talk to whoever was in the hallway and answered the phone.

When I was in college it was one phone per dorm room with a blinky light for new voicemail and you had to remember to leave your roommates a note if you listened to messages for them and it turned off the blinky light.

Now it's one cell phone per human and I wonder if my dorm still provides dorm room phones unless you ask for one!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:59 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


It is strange to remember preparing to drive cross-country in 1996; cell phones were still pretty much a luxury item, but we bought a fairly new-fangled long-distance calling card which meant we didn't have to pump gas station payphones full of change when we checked in with our parents.

Driving back six years later, of course, we had cell phones.
posted by usonian at 10:09 PM on March 29


Even The Onion had a little fun: "New 10-10-911 Saves Emergency Victims Up To 30 Percent."
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:25 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I'm old enough to have gone from the era of not calling people long distance because it's expensive to the era of not calling anyone because dude... Talking to people?
posted by wotsac at 10:34 PM on March 29 [16 favorites]


I lived on the road then and I had enormous strings of numbers memorized: two cards, one for national and one for international, the ridiculously 10 digit long pin codes for each card and my cc number so I could recharge them. Pay phones would charge you $1-2 just to connect so it sucked if you got an answering machine. If someone had a motel room with its own phone we'd all crowd in there to use it to avoid the fees.

Those truck stop and dockside pay phones were so heavily used the numbers were worn off half of them.
posted by fshgrl at 10:48 PM on March 29


When my mom went to college it was one phone per dorm floor and all the girls would line up Sunday night and wait to call home, and if you parents needed to reach you they'd have to talk to whoever was in the hallway and answered the phone.

Yeah, it was a pay phone at the end of the hall at my dorm at U of A in '84. and Mike from LonGUYland (hey, that's how I learned to say it) was the guy in the room by the phone so he'd always answer it. And so you'd come talk on the phone, and if it was a girl, you'd have to have describe her breast size to Mike afterwards, or else he'd never leave you alone about it :(

As far as I remember it, the deal with collect calls was that there were only a few years in there where that was a thing, because you'd used to have to actually have an operator connect you. Maybe the introduction of the automated version was at different times regionally?
posted by hap_hazard at 10:48 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


We used to use collect calls as code. Call and say it was "Chris" and we'd refuse the call but know we had to go pick someone up at the station.
posted by fshgrl at 10:53 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I miss long talks on the phone with people, catching up, discussing life. Now when I see something that makes me think of an old friend, I just post it on their facebook wall. Which is to say, I should call people more.

Also, is there a term for when new businesses are created to circumvent price-gouging monopolies, and then the monopolies respond by stopping their price gouging, thus ending the need for their competitor companies?
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:13 PM on March 29


Ok 10-10-xxx/washed up celebrities/long distance service/carrier access codes. The real lede to this post was buried in the 'similar videos' column from the Alf and some well known friends link:

CARNITAS "ALF"

Somebody please tell me what's going on.
posted by item at 11:31 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]


Oh look this one is played over 'Kung-Fu Fighting'.
posted by item at 11:35 PM on March 29


Long distance is so cheap today ...

Sure. LD is subsidized by the relatively huge costs of local calls, SMS charges, and the other countless obscenities customers have swallowed in their rush to put on their eartags.

Not much of a deal for those who have little need for LD. Missing here is a comparison of the relative costs of landlines and cellphones. The telcos finally got what they always wanted: metered service for all. I guess its just impolite to mention the enormous screwing consumers have gotten ever since ... including huge penalties just to choose a different vendor. Pretty astonishing turn of events.
posted by Twang at 11:39 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


"You're talking about the 10-10 commercials, right? Or something else?"

Yeah, I had friends going to see Carrottop in Vegas, and it got me thinking about how that was his big catapult to mainstream d-list fame.
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I will never miss the days before ubiquitous free wifi. Ever. May the telcos die slow.

(Yes I realize they control the fiber and the towers but seriously bill me like a utility and STFU you slimy greedy ugh ugh UGH)
posted by saysthis at 12:12 AM on March 30


We will only get that through legislation and enforcement.
posted by clarknova at 12:56 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Calls might be cheaper but is it just me or does call quality suck now though
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:56 AM on March 30


Compared to analog over copper? Cell calls are an order of magnitude worse. No contest.
posted by clarknova at 1:00 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]


There's no way that's Christine Taylor.
posted by scrowdid at 1:37 AM on March 30


Hah, I used 10-10-321 until the end of 2012 when my ISP took over service on my landline. Always meant to research whether there were any better ones to use, but I only called long-distance a few times a month. I still find it difficult *not* to dial it.
posted by rhizome at 1:53 AM on March 30


When I was in college, there was a black market in long distance calling card numbers. Big market because I went to school in South Florida and everyone was from somewhere else, pretty much.
posted by Mister_A at 6:05 AM on March 30


In 1993 I had a co-op job in Northern Saskatchewan in the dead of winter; my gf had just broken up with me, it was the furthest I had ever been from home, and I was very, very lonely.

My share of the first month's phone bill was C$500 or so, which I remember as being damn close to half my pay.

____________________

I was telling some juniors in the office that when I was in grad school in 95-97 we had one shared rotary phone for 20 people in a huge partitioned room, and that the easiest way to find someone was to "finger" them on the unix server except there was only one computer for every three people and no one had their own computer at the school, much less a laptop. I might as well have been describing trying to kill a sabre tooth tiger by throwing rocks at it.

Come to that, I was explaining to my daughter last night that I fell out of touch with a very close friend for about 5 years and she said "couldn't you just find him on facebook?" thus giving me the opportunity to pontificate on the dark days before social media.
posted by hearthpig at 6:22 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]


Cell quality is worse for business reasons: the carriers configure the phones to use as little bandwidth as possible so they can have more customers sharing the network. In the past you could actually configure this on some phones but that's been locked down by now. Similar games were played in the switch to digital trunking for cheap landline service – hold music used to be listenable.

The contrast is obvious if you can use something like Skype or FaceTime over the data network – a newer codec and slightly higher data rates sounds like a call did in the 90s.
posted by adamsc at 6:46 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


CACs and dial-arounds are a more recent phenomenon in Japan, but like in the US few people use them these days. I learned a bit (and had some nostalgic flashbacks) thanks to your post, though, FLT. Thanks!
posted by armage at 7:50 AM on March 30


Holy cow -- that Harry Anderson one has a website across the bottom: 10-10-321.com is still active, claiming to have last been updated in 2005 and looking like it was designed when those commercials came out. The privacy link at the bottom sends you to Verizon. Update: 10-10-220.com works too.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:09 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


when the service asked me to ID myself I would just say as fast as I could "Heymomordadit'smecallmebackok?

We used to get collect calls from HEYMANPLAYSOMEMETALLICA at the college radio station on Friday nights.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:09 AM on March 30 [12 favorites]


Anyone with better knowledge of the industry than me know how/if any of this (rise of 10-10, fall of LD prices) coincides with the rise of packet switching for long distance calls? Or what the current status of packet switching vs. circuit switching is for "legacy" telcos?
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:12 AM on March 30


I'll just add my little anecdote about long-distance telephony in the pre-cell days.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:17 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I just remembered that AT&T had to change their 1-800-COLLECT competitor from 1-800-OPERATOR to 1-800-CALL-ATT because people kept dialing 1-800-OPERATER instead.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:30 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]


We will only get that through legislation and enforcement.
Some theories going around seem to suggest that Google Fiber is really less about undercutting the competition and more about destroying the cable companies through a war of contrition. If and when the unstoppable armies of Google penetrate the great legislative wall constructed by the mighty Cable Company League, they may simply raze the ISP industry to the ground and allow public wifi to take off rather than try to maintain the current entrenched position, which must be costly to maintain (those lobbyists don't hire themselves). Google makes all its money off ad impressions anyway, so increasing access to the web for lower income people would only feed more into its primary revenue stream. Makes sense to me.
posted by deathpanels at 12:30 PM on March 30


I don't think there was ever much consumer demand for dial-around codes on cellphones, because most cell carriers offered free unlimited long-distance from the beginning, albeit with the significant tradeoff of airtime charges.

My second-generation (so, not a lead-acid bagphone, but one of the more compact NiMH "pocketphones") analog cellphone from Bell Atlantic Mobile had airtime charges of something like 50c/minute in southern New England, and god-knows-how-much while roaming, but you could call anyone you wanted on it without LD charges as far as I remember.

I'm not sure where they would have charged or determined the long-distance area from, anyway. My phone's number came from an exchange that was dedicated just to Bell Atlantic Mobile's cellphone operations. (The Connecticut "559" exchange.) It wasn't a "real" geographic exchange. Sometimes I wish they had kept doing that, giving cellphones distinct numbers from landlines, because it made it easy to tell when someone was calling you from a cellphone as opposed to a landline, and it maintained the geographic utility of landline exchanges. I guess they just never had enough numbers, and didn't want to go the European route of giving out separate area codes for cellphones, though. And now exchanges are useless for determining where a call is coming from.

But with cellphones in their own non-geographic exchange like that, how would you have determined what constitutes "long distance", particularly for intra-area-code LD calls? It makes sense that they just decided to punt on the whole question and build it into the base airtime charge. Easier to get customers to stomach those ridiculous airtime charges in the early years, too.

Thankfully we don't have to worry about all that today, thanks to email and text messages.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:31 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


destroying the cable companies through a war of contrition

Google: "That's right, tell me you're sorry! Tell me!"
Comcast: "I ... I'm so, so sorry..."
Google: [cuts Comcast's throat anyway] "Yeah, you are."

Finis.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:34 PM on March 30 [7 favorites]


In the 80s I remember I applying for a scholarship program on the East Coast and for some reason needing to call them to clarify an issue with my application. Since we were in California and their offices were on EST, my parents made me wake up early to call them in the off hours because it was so much cheaper. It's really crazy how cheap and easy communication has become.
posted by aspo at 6:28 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


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