Telephone exchanges
July 18, 2003 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Retro phone fun. Remember the days when telephone numbers included an exhcange, like BUtterfield 8, MUrray Hill 7, or YUkon 5? Even you young whippersnappers can look up your current phone number and see what it's exchange name used to be. If your number isn't in the database, you can check Ma Bell's list of recommended exchange names. The next time someone asks for your number, use the exchange and watch hilarity ensue.
posted by Oriole Adams (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Heh, I'm TRojan4-xxxx
posted by yesster at 10:59 AM on July 18, 2003

Cool, but it doesn't really work with ten-digit dialling.
posted by timeistight at 11:03 AM on July 18, 2003

I use owls and TCP/IP to communicate. I know nothing about this fellytone business.
posted by azazello at 11:09 AM on July 18, 2003

azazello, is this an upgrade to RFC 1149? Almost everyone I'm aware of uses pigeons.
posted by weston at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2003

ACademy5-0xxx myself.
posted by weston at 11:25 AM on July 18, 2003

Great link. (and OVerland 2, personally)

Seems at least a little bit analogous to how domain names map to IP addresses. So much more personality, memorability, and sense of place.

Let alone that it's just delightfully old-timey. Would go well with answering your phone with "Ahoy!"
posted by merlinmann at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2003

I was fully expecting that to only work for US exchanges, but it does English exchanges too. Well it found Birmingham ones but not Nottingham. SELly Oak-XXXX signing off.
posted by squealy at 11:50 AM on July 18, 2003

when i was little using those name thingies when giving out your # was still common practice in winnipeg manitoba. ours was GRosvenorX-XXXX. you could tell who lived in the best and worst neighborhoods that way, if that sort of thing mattered to you. if we used them today my numbers would be JAckson5-XXXX (abc, 123!) or KEnwood7-XXXX.
posted by t r a c y at 11:51 AM on July 18, 2003

Excellent, thanks.

Glendale 9-xxxx here.
posted by jammer at 11:53 AM on July 18, 2003

ULysses 5. Has a nice ring to it.

posted by widdershins at 11:56 AM on July 18, 2003

I'm old enough that I was taught to memorize my phone number as "Jefferson-6-2-8-0-6" when I was a little kid spending summers in Groton Long Point, Connecticut. Even all these years later - and despite my current inability to remember even my own social security number - I can rattle off that number without pause... Of course, not being a native here, I appreciate a database that tells me that I have a UNiversity-4-n-n-n-n number now that I live in the town that hosts Northwestern University...
posted by JollyWanker at 12:07 PM on July 18, 2003

is this an upgrade to RFC 1149?

Actually, it's a tunnel to use it on different media, since owls have been used a lot for communication. And owls are far superior technically. At least the JKR implementation.
posted by azazello at 12:14 PM on July 18, 2003

Interesting. I never knew about any of this...guess I'm too young.
posted by jeblis at 12:35 PM on July 18, 2003

I grew up at HArrison4-xxxx, but because the city I live in now has grown so much, I have an exchange that is new to the area (like within the last 10 years I believe), so I can't find it in the DB.
posted by turacma at 12:37 PM on July 18, 2003

Remember the days when telephone numbers included an exhcange, like BUtterfield 8, MUrray Hill 7, or YUkon 5?

Strictly speaking, aren't the first 3 numbers of a North American telephone number still the exchange? The "YUkon 5" business was just using applicable letters for the first 2 numbers, is all.

Anyway, doesn't that carpet company in Chicago that advertises on WGN allatime still say their phone number this way?

Call NAtional-2-9000, NAtional-2-9-thooooooouuuu-ou-sand.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:41 PM on July 18, 2003

I think it was to soften the blow of going from 5 to 7 digits. They figured that people would boggle at having to remember 7 digits so they instituted a mnemonic. Quaint, anyway.

Now if the phone services would get with the times and institute a telephony equivalent of the domain name system so we can dispense with this archaic business of needing to know an arbitrary number in order to call somebody.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:54 PM on July 18, 2003

When I was growing up in Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, in the 1970s there was only one exchange for the two towns combined (78X-XXXX), and 5-digit dialing was the norm. It wasn't until the early 80's, if I recall correctly, that additional exchanges were added and 7-digit dialing became necessary.

According to this database, the exchange didn't have a name (presumably it wasn't necessary).
posted by briank at 1:00 PM on July 18, 2003

Anyway, doesn't that carpet company in Chicago that advertises on WGN allatime still say their phone number this way?

I haven't heard the National-2-9000 in a long time, usually when people talk about carpet ads on WGN they're thinking of Empire "588-2300 Empiiiiiiiire" Carpets. Although now there's also Luna Carpets which also attempts to use a catchy phone number jingle.

When I was growing up in Kansas City we had ads for "Standard (bum-ba-bum-ba-bum) Improvment Company! At Westport-1-7100!" (I still hear the song in my head to this day.)

I may start giving out my phone number as LAkeview-5-XXXX now. Heh.
posted by dnash at 1:01 PM on July 18, 2003

When I was a kid in Oklahoma City, I knew that my dad's store was downtown (in the "center" of the city) and that the phone number there was CEntral-2-xxxx, so I assumed that "central" was actually a place designation. I didn't realize the word referred to the numbers 2 and 3 until much later.
posted by yhbc at 1:09 PM on July 18, 2003

my dad had the house built in 1960, when i was 7. i don't know why, but before moving there i had no truck with the telephone or numbers. we lived in a rented house, and i can't even recall having a phone, though im sure we did. we moved into the new house, more sibs were born and years passed and i grew up and left, and the number changed for some reason at some point, but i'll never forget good old Empire 3-1279.
posted by quonsar at 1:11 PM on July 18, 2003

Speaking of jingles, I'm not sure if Detroit TV still plays the Belvedere Construction ads, with the cranky-sounding guy always ending with, "TYler 87100... WE. DO. GOOD. WORK." (yes, he said it like he meant it, by golly) But they were still playing when I moved in 2000. He was giving his schpiel at least as long as I've been around (mid-seventies) Probably a lot longer than that.

My grandmother still gives Pontiac-area numbers as FEderal, godblesser.
posted by marzenie99 at 2:02 PM on July 18, 2003

When I was a kid my mom always gave our number as "SKyline two eighty-one eighteen."
posted by ukamikanasi at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2003

Briank -- If you pull up the entire listing for the state of Maine, Lewiston-Auburn comes up as STate. (I'm MAyfair, in Augusta.)
posted by JanetLand at 2:33 PM on July 18, 2003

MErcury 7-XXXX. Kinda cool.
posted by cameldrv at 2:37 PM on July 18, 2003

EVergreen 8-xxxx. Love this stuff. ;-)
posted by Skygazer at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2003

I don't need to look my old phone number up 'cos I remember it! FREmantle 6332, aka 373 6332. Central London (near Gloucester Road tube station) in 1968, when I was four!

On the other hand, the database doesn't seem to include Mars 247. I'll try again next year... next year... next year....
posted by gdav at 4:32 PM on July 18, 2003

Jackson 2-0255 - call me if you dare.
posted by oh posey at 5:02 PM on July 18, 2003

Although my phone exchange is a new one, it was instituted only about 6 years ago when I first moved here, it does actually work with my relatively new phone number:

I'm at TAylor 8- ninety three forty four...
posted by Jade Dragon at 7:08 PM on July 18, 2003

Pennsylvania 6-5000 will get you Glenn Miller...
posted by bwg at 7:24 PM on July 18, 2003

We were doing 5-digit dialing well into the 1990's in Bayfield and La Pointe, Wisconsin. It still takes me a moment to come up with the first numbers of the phone number...
posted by whatzit at 9:21 PM on July 18, 2003

You know, I used to enjoy the fact that my phone number spelled out a Rude Phrase Referring To Vaginas. I'll feel so much classier telling people to dial "CHerry 4 xxxx"...
posted by arto at 1:58 AM on July 19, 2003

Pennsylvania 6-5000 will get you Glenn Miller...

Funny you should say that, bwg. (Randall -- love your site!) PEnnsylvania 6-5000 was -- and still is today -- the phone number for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York. They've had the same phone number (now 212-736-5000) since 1919. Glenn Miller (along with Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and many more luminaries) used to play the hotel's ballroom regularly.
posted by Vidiot at 11:09 PM on July 19, 2003

Thanks Vidiot.

I didn't know all that about Miller or the Hotel Penn. Cool.
posted by bwg at 6:12 AM on July 21, 2003

WIndsor twenty-seven XXX which I find amusing because despite my youth of denial, here in Texas we're about as far removed from the Queen of England as one can culturally get without actually picking lice off each other. Well, some of us anyway. They might still do the exchange mnemonic in some rural areas, but timeistight was right - with ten plus digit dialing, trying to bring back this antiquated system for nostalgia sake is like trying to hook a manual typewriter up to an Apple Mac. Ma Bell's old exhange mnemonic is just not qwerty.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:54 AM on July 21, 2003

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