Wednesday, April 14, 2010


We are doomed to be identified by numbers. Passwords, codes, PINs, addresses, telephones...
it is all a bit overwhelming.

And for us, in the 905 area code it will become just a bit more overwhelming. We will have the dubious honour of becoming the first to have 3 overlapping area codes.

Back in 1993, when numbers ran out for new telephones, the 416 area code, that included Toronto and the vast surrounding area, was split. Anyone whose postal code did not begin with a 'M' had to deal with a new area code of 905. This included the regions north, east and west of the city of Toronto. Why this region wasn't divided into a north/east and west/south split is a mystery, but obviously no-one expected the area to grow so fast. A scant few years later, in 2001, new area codes were introduced along with 10-digit dialling and the annoying voice of Emily to remind you every time you dialled. We now had, in Toronto: 416 and 647, and outside: 905 and 289. Now, the creation of 905 was quite a fuss, but at least the number fell into the usual rules of the area code - that being that the middle number should always be a '1' or a '0'. This new random numbering is not nearly so sexy. Or easy to remember. Or say quickly. Add 365 to the mix and confusion is bound to reign.

To be fair, the last addition wasn't nearly as traumatic and there doesn't seem to be nearly as many people (within my sphere) with the newer area codes and for the most part I don't even say mine as it is assumed to be 905 (or 416 if you are in Toronto) unless you say differently. But, it is forecasted that we will run out of numbers by 2014.

I am old enough to remember the old names with the two letter designation for the exchange - Howard, Oxford and Plymouth were the ones we used most often (that would be 46- 69- and 75- for any of you young 'uns out there). We had a party line for years. And the farm where I spent summers had the 2 long and 1 short ring (or was it 2 short and 1 long? or 1 long and 3 short?) I do remember how everything would stop until the rings finished so you knew if it was yours or not! Then there was the town I lived in where everyone had the same exchange, so you only needed to give out the last four digits of your phone number. You used to be able to tell where a business was located by their exchange number. Now you are lucky if you even get any phone number included in a business ad. Addresses went by the wayside a few years ago, most places giving out only a website for information.

A couple of years ago, I was shopping for a new phone book. I was rather particular - just lines for name and address and telephone. I really don't want or need a place for fax numbers or email addresses. One of my old books has a line for 'car phone' 'bus phone' and 'home phone'. Now I just want to find one that will leave enough space for large writing of 10-digit numbers with the '-' to make it easier to read. My cell phone does not have the dash so I get a too-long-for-one-line display of 6476776746. My brain can't handle that very well.


  1. I never noticed that area codes always had 0 or 1 as the middle digit!! Wow. That's why the new area cods sound so bizarre.

    And it seems we have an new code on the Island of Montreal now, though I've never run across it...

  2. They are threatening to do the same thing here.
    I remember the letters too.
    Mine was Amherst 26055!! LOL

  3. I think we've had random numbers for area codes for a while here. It kind of bugs me to have to dial (dial - ha! now there's an anachronism) area codes even locally on cell phones.

  4. Jazz: the corollary was that the exchange numbers didn't have a 1 or 0 in the middle so that area codes and exchange numbers didn't get mixed up. that all changed about 20 years ago. I stil find it weird to dial 416-406-1111

    SueAnn: makes for a better song title that way, doesn't it?!

    SAW: yeah, we have to do that for all numbers. and if you have a rotary phone, (I still use mine when I let the battery die on my cordless) you have that long wait for the 9-0-5
    I wish there was a way to program the area code so that it pops up automatically unless you override it with another area code by dialling the 1-647

  5. How confusing for me as a foreigner! But I do remember the time we had those telephones with the different ring tones. Ours was one long and two short. Wow that´s a long time ago!!

  6. When I was a child, we lived in a very rural area and we had a party line with 5 other households sharing the same line. That made things very interesting for the snoops in the neighborhood, not that we had anything to hide!

    We're all just a number anyway! We might as well get used to it!

  7. it is all so complicated. So much to remember. You have summarised it beautifully.
    Numbers need to be broken into sets in order be remembered, I find. The only mobile phone number I can remember is my own - I have to look up everyone else's.
    But we still have 8 digit numbers and area codes of 2 digits, so it is all still relatively easy. Ringing international mobile phones is tricky, though.

  8. Betty: so here's another question for you, if you are stuck for a post - what are phones like in Paraguay?

    Susan: for several years we didn't even share our party line, which was a pretty sweet deal. then we had some older woman who talked endlessly - in Greek, I think. not much use snooping there.

    Persiflage: I used to have many numbers memorized and didn't even bother writing down the most used ones. now, with keeping the numbers stored in my cell phone or on call display, I find I don't think about remembering them and I have to repeatedly look them up.

  9. You would not have believed the fuss out here on the Wet Coast when first we went to ten-digit dialing and also when we originally got a second area code for the province! You would have thought phones had been completely outlawed or something! But then we got yet another area code in the Vancouver area 6 or 7 years ago and people kind-of said, "Meh!" Now I don't even think twice about dialing ten digits, whatever they may be.

    And another thing: why do we still call it "dialing" anyway?? Have we not yet come up with a better word to suit our 21st century phones??

  10. Pinklea: yeah, people in the 905 were a little miffed and insulted that they had to change from 416. they felt quite slighted as I recall.

    in the UK they say 'ring' as in "I'll ring you tomorrow" or "ring this number", instead of 'call'. maybe we could eventually resort to that instead of 'dialling'

  11. We've had 10 digit dialing for ages now. When I'm out of town I dial all 10 digits out of habit and always get a recording saying the area code is NOT needed.

    I remember when I was about 9, my friend's phone rang and I was all, "Why aren't you guys answering that?" They said, "That's not for us" or something like that and had to explain how a party line worked.

  12. Geewits: yes, I dial the area code automatically as soon as I pick up the phone, often while looking up the number. I get quite annoyed if I find out it is the wrong area code for the one I want.

  13. Too many 6's and 7's in that number, makes it impossible to remember!!

    Yes, I can remember the days of handy names. I used to work at one of the big, old London Hospitals, and the number was HOP 1234!

  14. Gilly: ha - I thought the 'being all sixes and sevens' was an appropriate metaphor! I hope no-one actually has this number.

  15. I guess when they split us into 416 and 905 they never guessed so many people would one day have cell phones! Who would have thought way back when that every teenager would have his/her on phone?

  16. EGWow: I'm still confused about why the 905 wasn't split when apparently part of the problem is the many different communities all needing their own exchange codes which limits the numbers available.
    but yeah, remember the days of one phone, attached to a wall, and using the closet for privacy?


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