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Old 08-12-2011, 11:00 PM
 
Location: Savannah GA
13,420 posts, read 16,950,133 times
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I was watching that great History Channel show "How the States Got their Shapes" the other night and it made mention of the fact that area codes were originally assigned to cities BASED ON POPULATION AND NUMBER OF PHONE EXCHANGES. I guess I had assumed they were assigned geographically, like ZIP codes, and found this interesting. In the days of rotary phones, the biggest and MOST IMPORTANT cities were assigned area codes with simple LOW digits (so that the rotaries could return to the starting point quickly). Example: NYC was given 212, Chicago 312, LA 213, Detroit 313, etc.

Looking at cities based on their original area code assignments given out in 1947 gives us a pretty good idea of which cities / metro areas were deemed big and important at that time. Of course, with the advent of touch-tone dialing the importance of low-digit rotary area codes went out the window. But it's still interesting to note:
-- which cities that ranked low in importance in 1947 have now risen in population and importance. Places like Houston, Atlanta and Miami.
-- how California at one time got by with just THREE area codes, but why on earth was a state like IOWA also assigned three? Odd indeed!
-- which regions were generally deemed least important by AT&T and got area code assignments with some combination of the higher digists 6-0!
-- which areas appear to be assigned by a draw from the hat!

ORIGINAL AREA CODES assigned in 1947 (the methodology for this is explained at the end) with FASTEST AREA CODES (representing the biggest calling centers) NOTED IN RED.

Alabama 205

Arizona 602

Arkansas 501

California 213 southern (LOS ANGELES)

California 415 central < Borderline fast
California 916 northern < screwed!

Colorado 303

Connecticut 203

Delaware 302

Florida 305

Georgia 404

Idaho 208

Illinois 217 Springfield, East St. Louis (ST. LOUIS)
Illinois 312 Chicago metro region (CHICAGO)
Illinois 618 southern < screwed!
Illinois 815 northern < screwed!

Indiana 317 northern (CHICAGO)
Indiana 812 southern

Iowa 319 eastern < PRETTY FAST FOR NO GOOD REASON
Iowa 515 central < Borderline fast
Iowa 712 western < THREE AREA CODES?!


Kansas 316 southern < What would this be? Kansas City? Topeka? Pretty fast!
Kansas 913 northern

Kentucky 502

Louisiana 504

Massachusetts 413 outside Boston metro region
Massachusetts 617 BOSTON metro region < THE ONLY ONE THAT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME

Maine 207

Maryland 301

Mississippi 601

Montana 406

Missouri 314 eastern (ST. LOUIS)
Missouri 816 western < screwed!

Michigan 313 (DETROIT)
Michigan 517 northeastern
Michigan 616 western < borderline screwed!

Minnesota 218 northern and western
Minnesota 612 southeastern

Nebraska 402

Nevada 702

New Hampshire 603

New Jersey 201 (NYC and PHILLY METROS)

New Mexico 505

New York 212 New York City boroughs (NYC)
New York 315 Syracuse, Binghamton, Elmira, Utica, Watertown
New York 518 northeastern
New York 716 western < screwed!
New York 914 Manhattan suburbs (Long Island, Westchester County, West Point) < screwed!

North Carolina 704

North Dakota 701

Ohio 216 northeastern (CLEVELAND)
Ohio 419 northwestern
Ohio 513 southwestern < Borderline fast
Ohio 614 southeastern

Oklahoma 405

Oregon 503

Pennsylvania 215 PHILADELHIA
Pennsylvania 412 PITTSBURGH
Pennsylvania 717 eastern central < screwed!
Pennsylvania 814 western central < screwed!

Rhode Island 401

South Carolina 803

South Dakota 605

Tennessee 901 (worst state assignment: 9 .... 0 .... 1 .... )

Texas 214 northeastern (DFW)
Texas 512 southern < Borderline fast
Texas 713 southeastern < Borderline fast
Texas 915 western < borderline screwed!

Utah 801

Vermont 802

Virginia 703

Washington 206

Washington DC. 202 (DC)

West Virginia 304

Wisconsin 414 southern (MILWAUKEE)
Wisconsin 715 northern < borderline screwed!

Wyoming 307


METHODOLOGY:
In 1947, states and provinces that had a single area code we assigned three digit codes with 0 as the middle number, such as 203 for Connecticut and 305 for Florida . There were 86 area codes at that time.

States and provinces that had more than one area code distributed to them were given three digit codes with 1 as the middle number, such as 916 and 213 for various sections of California , and 212 and 518 for various sections of New York .

The first and third digits were allotted according to population density in the city or region the area code was going to, with the most populated areas getting the lowest numbers. The New York City area, for example, was assigned 212, while the surrounding suburbs were assigned 914.

The rationale for this "low number/high population" scheme was based on the fact that phones had rotary dials in those days. Lower numbers resulted in shorter "dial pulls" so it was reasoned that the regions with the most people in them should require the least "work" to call.

SOURCE: Area Code History
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Old 08-12-2011, 11:41 PM
 
Location: Seattle Area
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Interesting, so even back then Dallas was considered one of the big boys.
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Old 08-12-2011, 11:48 PM
 
Location: Chicagoland
4,028 posts, read 6,395,450 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newsboy View Post
I was watching that great History Channel show "How the States Got their Shapes" the other night and it made mention of the fact that area codes were originally assigned to cities BASED ON POPULATION AND NUMBER OF PHONE EXCHANGES. I guess I had assumed they were assigned geographically, like ZIP codes, and found this interesting. In the days of rotary phones, the biggest and MOST IMPORTANT cities were assigned area codes with simple LOW digits (so that the rotaries could return to the starting point quickly). Example: NYC was given 212, Chicago 312, LA 213, Detroit 313, etc.
I didn't see it in the article, so would you know why they didn't/don't start area codes with 1?
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Old 08-12-2011, 11:59 PM
 
Location: Savannah GA
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^^^ I belive no numbers start with "1" or "0" because those are the codes for long-distance and operator assistance?
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Old 08-13-2011, 12:08 AM
 
Location: Up on the moon laughing down on you
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newsboy View Post
Texas 214 northeastern (DFW)
Texas 512 southern < Borderline fast
Texas 713 southeastern < Borderline fast
Texas 915 western < borderline screwed!
It is odd how they label these.

512 didn't really cover South Texas, it covered San Antonio and the Hill Country(including Austin). 210 later was broken away from 512 for San Antonio.

214 didn't only cover NE Texas it covered the NE part out to the Panhandle and clear across the State passed lubbock almost to West Texas.

areas that broke off from 214 include:

In 1953:
Denton County, Hood County, Johnson County, Parker County, and Tarrant County.

In 1957:
Armstrong County, Bailey County, Briscoe County, Carson County, Castro County, Cochran County, Collingsworth County, Cottle County, Crosby County, Dallam County, Dawson County, Deaf Smith County, Dickens County, Donley County, Floyd County, Gaines County, Garza County, Gray County, Hale County, Hall County, Hansford County, Hartley County, Hemphill County, Hockley County, Hutchinson County, Kent County, King County, Lamb County, Lipscomb County, Lubbock County, Lynn County, Moore County, Motley County, Ochiltree County, Oldham County, Parmer County, Potter County, Randall County, Roberts County, Sherman County, Swisher County, Terry County, Wheeler County, and Yoakum County.

In 1987:
Bell, Bosque, Brown, Callahan, Comanche, Coryell, Eastland, Erath, Falls, Foard, Freestone, Grayson, Hamilton, Hardeman, Hill, Hood, Limestone, McLennan, Milam, Navarro, Robertson, Somervell, Stephens, and Williamson.




Area Code 713 covered the Galveston, Houston and Beaumont areas.

these broke off in 82
Chambers County, Galveston County, Hardin County, Jasper County, Jefferson County, Newton County, Orange County, Sabine County, and Tyler County.

I dunno how the articles are calling it metro areas when some of it includes whole states or huge chunks of states. In terms of Texas the lower number didn't go to denser areas but to larger swarths of the state which added up to more people.

214 was the entire nothern portion including the panhandle.- Largest in size
512 was Central Texas down to the valley- second largest in size
713 was South East Texas to the Brazos Valley and - smallest in size but largest in population
915 was Western Texas- the smallest in population
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Old 08-13-2011, 12:12 AM
 
Location: Up on the moon laughing down on you
18,509 posts, read 28,157,104 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dtownboogie View Post
Interesting, so even back then Dallas was considered one of the big boys.
214 was not only for Dallas. It was for the northern half of the state.

the more important metro areas had their own numbers.
no metro in Texas had their own so there was no big boy in Texas yet. Houston shared its number with the rest of SE texas. Chicago for example got 312, and all the numbers that broke from it were still in the metro. 708 for example handled Cook and Dupage counties

as the metros became bigger the more important ones kept the original number while others broke off.

Houston, Dallas and Austin kept theirs, the rest of the metros broke off and got newer numbers.
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Old 08-13-2011, 12:19 AM
 
Location: Chicagoland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Newsboy View Post
^^^ I belive no numbers start with "1" or "0" because those are the codes for long-distance and operator assistance?
According to this link you are correct:

The Telephone EXchange Name Project

It makes sense.
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Old 08-13-2011, 12:37 AM
 
Location: Up on the moon laughing down on you
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this site gives the history of all the area codes. Area Code 212

currently the lowest number is NJ 201
The best number for rotary phones is NYC 212
and the worst is Michigan at 989
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Old 08-13-2011, 02:13 AM
 
Location: Savannah GA
13,420 posts, read 16,950,133 times
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HERE'S ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT THIS: As the methodology explains, the number "0" was reserved for 3-number sequences assigned to entire states -- 404 for Georgia, 305 for Florida, 205 for Alabama, etc. When multiple area codes were assigned to one state, the base middle number was "1" with the corresponding first and third number based on a hierarchy identifying that area's population / rank in the calling system. As somebody already pointed out, "0" and "1" were reserved for operator assistance and long-distance sequences. Therefore, the lowest number that ANY area code could start with is ... "2". Thus New York's 2-1-2 is effectively the lowest, or fastest, area code possible. It is No. 1. The largest city in the nation is the fastest call -- five clicks on a rotary dial. Next comes Los Angeles and Chicago -- each with six clicks, and so on. See the pattern? Thus, in 1947, these areas had the highest concentration of phone users according to AT&T:

1. 5 clicks -- 212 New York
2. 6 clicks -- 213 Los Angeles, 312 Chicago
3. 7 clicks -- 214 North Texas, 313 Detroit, 412 Pittsburgh
4. 8 clicks -- 215 Philadelphia, 314 St. Louis 512 South Texas 413 — Massachussets outside Boston metro (don't know why this was not assigned to Boston proper?)
5. 9 clicks -- 612 Minneappolis, 315 Syracuse, 216 Cleveland, 513 Cincinatti, 414 Milwaukee

I didn't bother going beyond 10 clicks ... but 415 San Francisco is 10 clicks

Last edited by Newsboy; 08-13-2011 at 02:30 AM..
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Old 08-13-2011, 05:32 AM
 
3,008 posts, read 4,325,968 times
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You forgot the original 219 area code which was the entire northern 1/3 of Indiana
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