History of Area Codes

Area codes were assigned to different provinces and areas so that categorization was possible, and there was an ease in communication. By seeing the area code, we can comprehend, to which region a particular phone number belongs to.

‘The area code system was first developed by AT&T and Bell Laboratories, in the 1940s and went into effect in 1947. It was called the North American Number Plan ( NANP ) and included the United States and Canada.’ States and provinces which had a particular area code, they were assigned with numbers with a 0 in the middle, like 309,202, etc. Areas or provinces which had more that one area code, they were given codes with a 1 in the middle like 213, 312, etc. in various parts of California and New York. The first and the last digits were allotted according to the density of the population and the places having a higher number of people were assigned with the lowest amounts.

However, the length of the digits for area codes differ from country to country. Such an idea was set up by the National Telecommunications authorities to avoid merging of different area codes. For example, in Brazil, two digits are followed, in Australia and New Zealand, one digit. Infact, ‘ variable length formats exist in multiple countries including, Argentina, Austria ( 1 to 4), Germany ( 2 to 5 ), Japan (1 to 5), Mexico, (2 or 3),Peru (1 or 2), Syria (1 or 2), and United Kingdom.’ So, in various countries and various provinces, the allocation of the digits differ to avoid merging or clashing with one another.

A number in London, for example, is 020 7896 6985, so a person calling in that number from London itself can dial the eight digits, 7896 6985 and the code, 020 is not required. But a person calling from another country has to dial the area codes along with the eight digits. Hardly the 0 before 20 can be omitted. So, in some cases, depending upon, from where, which geographical location the call is made, the omission of the area codes can be done.

The emergence of the area codes was not at all an easy task. There was a strong conflict between the Bell systems and the Anti-Digits Dialing League. Earlier, the phone numbers were alphabetical. Like, for example, Flowers 5108, Artist 9960, etc. Bell and the team put forward the fact that due to the innovation and technological advancement the new systems of applying digits as telephone numbers should be adopted because there were many flaws with the alphabetical order of dialling. There were confusions between I and O as 1 and 0, and so on. So, this alphabetic system was to be removed, although it was easier to remember. But, the ADDL group, profoundly opposed to it, they said that ‘Phones are for people.’ But, going by the advancing technology and computer facilities, adopting a numerical system for dialling numbers was much more technical and advanced. The computers could recognize and translate the codes into geographical areas and also, distinguished between local area numbers and long distance area code.

Thus, the requirements of the area codes are of utmost importance. In recent days, in some area codes, new overlaying area codes are also added. But, the history of area codes, definitely gives a vivid idea about the digits, alphabets and the telephones and coding system.

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