When I was growing up our house had one telephone. It was conveniently mounted on a wall in the kitchen to be accessible to everyone. We had a 7-digit number that was easy to remember. Little did we …
When I was growing up our house had one telephone. It was conveniently mounted on a wall in the kitchen to be accessible to everyone. We had a 7-digit number that was easy to remember. Little did we realize that within a few years the telephone company would complicate things by imposing a system of area codes nationwide. Well, buckle up my friends. If you have not heard about it, those area codes are about to get more complicated.
Beginning sometime in 2023, Sullivan and neighboring counties such as Ulster, Delaware, Orange, Greene, Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Columbia and Westchester will be assigned a new area code. So, thanks to the New York State Public Service Commission it might be goodbye 845 and hello 329.
I remember in 2000 when the Commission decided to replace our 914 area code with 845 and the confusion it created. It took months before relatives, friends and businesses adjusted to the change without being told to redial with the new area code. Now, over 20 years later adjusting to a different area code is even more problematic. Most of us rely on our smart phones and the “Contact List” to make calls. In fact, unlike years ago when we had friend’s phone numbers memorized, I now just click on their name and the call is made. I only have a handful of actual phone numbers memorized.
To ease the transition to the new 329 area code, I recommend preparing a list of numbers that must be changed. Trust me, when you begin to make the list, you will be surprised how many times that soon-to-be outdated 845 area code comes into play. A partial list of equipment and services that will have to recognize and use the 329 area code is mind-boggling. My growing list so far includes my cell phone contact lists, security and alarm systems, Internet dial-up connections, speed dialers and bank card systems. Besides those systems, you will need the new area code on your business cards, stationery, online services such as Amazon, Netflix and Google.
To understand the “why and how” of the coming change, we should briefly examine the history and development of area codes. In the first part of the 20th century, long distance calls required the assistance of switchboard operators. That is how Deputy Barney Fife connected with Thelma Lou when calling from Mayberry to let her know that Aunt Bee is bringing a cherry pie to Andy’s surprise party. In 1947, AT&T developed a nationwide numbering plan that divided North America into eighty-six plan areas, each with an assigned 3 digit “area code.” The plan allowed for customer direct dialing eliminating the need for an operator.
The first call by a customer using an area code was made from Englewood, New Jersey to Alameda, California in 1951. Unfortunately, it was also the first incorrectly dialed number. The caller from New Jersey was trying to reach his cousin, Al Ameda who had moved to California. Instead, he accidentally reached the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda and learned they had the hard-to-find Gottlieb Bowlette machine.
Many people are very protective of their area codes. I remember years ago when it was decided that a new area code,646, would be added to the traditional 212 associated with Manhattan. Panic ensued when denizens of Manhattan thought they would lose the snob-appeal of 212 that separated them from the 718 area code folks who lived in neighboring Brooklyn and Queens.
Cooler heads prevailed and it was decided that, at first, only new phone customers in Manhattan would be assigned the 646 area code. That made those with the 212 area code feel like members of the gilded age. However, when cell phones began overtaking landlines, people accepted the newly assigned 917 area code because it meant they had entered the mobile phone lifestyle.
When mobile phone companies allowed users to transfer phone numbers, many switched their soon to be discarded 212 landline number to their cell phones, thereby maintaining their perceived status symbol.
The exponential growth of systems that require use of phone numbers necessitates the ever-evolving changes to area codes. Maybe someday we will be able to download an app that automatically switches to a new area code on your most frequently used contacts and systems. If so, be advised that I have already taken steps to register the name “Code Reload.”
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