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A telephone exchange name or central office name was a distinguishing and memorable name ased to a central office.
It identified the switching system to which a telephone was connected. Each central office served a maximum of 10, subscriber lines identified by the last four digits of the telephone. Areas or cities with more subscribers were served by multiple central offices, possibly hosted in the same building. The leading letters of a central office name were used as the leading components of the telephone representation, so that each telephone in an area was unique.
These letters were mapped to digits, which was indicated visibly on a dial telephone. Several systematic telephone ing plans existed in various communities, typically evolving over time as the subscriber base outgrew older ing schemes. A widely used ing plan was a system of using two letters from the central office name with four or five digits, which was deated as 2L-4N or 2L-5Nor simply 2—4 and 2—5respectively, but some large cities initially selected plans with three letters 3L-4N.
InW. Telephone directories or other telephone displays, such as in advertising, typically listed the telephone showing the ificant letters of the central office name in bold capital letters, followed by the digits that identified the subscriber line. On the card of the telephone instrument, the name was typically shown in full, but only the ificant letters to be dialed were capitalized, while the rest of the name was shown in lower case.
Telephone exchange names were used in many countries, but were phased out for numeric systems by the s. In the United States, the demand for telephone service outpaced the scalability of the alphanumeric system and after introduction of area codes for direct-distance dialing, all- calling became necessary.
Similar developments followed around the world, such as the British all-figure dialling. In the United States, the most-populous cities, such as New York CityPhiladelphiaBostonand Chicago initially implemented dial service with telephone s consisting of three letters and four digits 3L-4N according to a system developed by W. Most other major Canadian and US cities, such as Toronto and Atlanta, were converted from manual exchanges using four digits to a local 2L-4N ing plan. Eventually, starting in the late s, all local ing plans were changed to the 2L-5N system to prepare for nationwide Direct Distance Dialing.
For example, under this system, a well-known in New York City was listed as PEnnsylvania In small towns with a single central office, local calls typically required dialing only four or five digits at most, without using named exchanges.
A toll call required the assistance of an operator, who asked for the name of the town and the local station. Some independent telephone companies, not part of the Bell Systemalso did not implement central office names. Innewly developed panel switching systems were tested in the Mulberry and Waverly exchanges in Newark, New Jersey. When the technology first appeared in the Mulberry exchange, subscribers had no dials on their telephones and the new system was transparent to them — they asked an operator to ring their called party as usual.
However, the operator keyed the into the panel equipment, instead of making cord connections manually. By the s twenty cities were served by this type of office. From the time of these first conversions to automated equipment in the s, through the conversions of most manual equipment by the s, it was necessary for telephone s to be represented uniformly across the nation.
By Bell System policy, customers never needed to be concerned about whether they were calling an automatic or a manual exchange. The 2L-5N system became the North American standard, as customer-dialed long-distance service came into use in the s. Several standard formats of telephone s, based on central office names, capitalized the leading letters that were dialed, for example:. In print, such as on business cards or in advertisements, the full central office name was often shown only by the two letters:. If the central office was known by a name, but no letters were dialed, it was common to capitalize only the first letter of the central office, e.
Such s were ased typically in manual offices, and the name would be spoken by a subscriber when requesting a destination. Often these were geographically ificant names, such as the town's name. In large cities with coexisting manual and dial areas, the ing was generally standardized to one format. For example, when the last manual exchange in San Francisco was converted to dial inthe s had for several years been in the format of JUniper JUniper 4 was automatic, but JUniper 6 was manual. To call JUniper 6 from JUniper 4, the subscriber dialed the and it was displayed to the B-board operator at JUniper 6, and that operator would complete the connection manually.
In the other direction, to call JUniper 4 from JUniper 6, the subscriber would lift the receiver and speak to the JUniper 4 operator who would in turn dial the JUniper 6. During the s, cities using six-digit s converted to seven-digit dialing. Typically, several six-digit 2L-4N exchanges were co-located in one building already, with new ones added as old ones had filled up. After the conversion, they were combined into a new 2L-5N exchange.
Usually customers would keep the same station s. In the s, the Bell System developed the North American ing Plana system of initially 86 allocated area codes which were used at first only by switchboard operators to route trunk calls between plan areas. Direct long-distance dialing by customers, using the three-digit area code and a seven-digit telephonecommenced in the s. The sequences 55 x57 x95 xand 97 x had no exchange names specified, as the mappings for the digits 5, 7, and 9 had no vowels, thus making it difficult to find names with those consonant combinations.
On the telephone dial, letters were mapped to digits using the asments shown in the table right. Fictitious phone s starting with 55 used the fictitious exchange name KL ondike The letters Q and Z were never used in the naming system, but Z was often mapped on the telephone dial to the digit 0 zero.
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As demand for telephone service grew in the post—World War II period, it was foreseeable that the demand would exceed the addressing capacity of the existing system of using memorable telephone central office names as prefixes in telephone s.
Several letter combinations had no pronounceable or memorable names and could not be used. Several North American ing plan areas NPAs were divided so that more office codes became available to smaller regions.
However, as the growth accelerated, the Bell System decided to implement all- calling ANC and to deprecate the use of central office names to provide more central office codes to each NPA. This extended the usable ing plan and only two area code splits became necessary between and All- calling was phased in starting in and most areas had adopted it fully by the mids. In some areas it did not become universal until the s.
The Bell System published and distributed area code handbooks yearly which compiled the towns available for calling using an area code. Experiencing ificant resistance in many areas, the Bell System employed a strategy of gradual changes to ease the transition for customers. Originally, directory listings were printed with the central office name spelled out in full, e. At this stage, the telephone companies had the means to as letter combinations for central office prefixes that were ly unavailable, thus any set of five- or fewer-digit s could be expanded to seven digits:. The Bell System proceeded to convert existing named exchanges to all- calling, starting in smaller communities.
No ificant opposition arose until conversion began in major cities. Hayakawa was a notable member. Bell CanadaAlberta Government Telephonesand BC Tel completed most conversions of existing s during the first half of the s. For example, in London, Ontariothree conversions took place starting in February and completing in September The use of letters in exchange names resulted in the placement of letters on the telephone dial, even outside the areas using the letter and combinations. Some Canadian areas at first used original letter schemes, notably CalgaryAlberta, until later standardization within North America.
In smaller communities with four- or five-digit s and a single city exchange, central office names appeared for the first time in the late s, and then solely to match the North American direct distance dial standard of a three-digit area code and seven-digit local .
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The names, usually chosen from standard Bell System lists, had no local ificance and were short-lived; phase-out began soon after Virtually every telephone exchange in Europe was named for its local area village, town, or city. However, in the largest cities it was clear as early as the s that several exchanges would be needed. These were usually given names reflecting a district of a city, for example Holborn in London, Docks in Manchester, Leith in Edinburgh, or in some cases an entirely unrelated name, e.
As automated systems were introduced starting in the late s, the first three letters of these names were used in the ing plans for those exchanges. The 3L-4N system was notably used in the capital cities Paris and London, both examples of the big-city problem.
Large cities served by many manual exchanges could only be converted to automatic operation gradually, which required a logistics of operating both types simultaneously for several years. Telephone directories showed the first three letters of the exchange in bold capital letters, when all seven digits were to be dialed. If the first three letters were capitalized but not bolded, e. Later, Coded Call Indicator working equipment was installed at some manual exchanges so that the caller could dial all seven digits, and the required would be displayed to the operator.
In the United Kingdom, the first Director exchange in London, Holborn Tandem, was cutover in ; preceded by any necessary changes in the London area, e. As each digit represents three letters the same network cannot have exchanges called BRIxton and CRIcklewood, which both correspond to In smaller director areas some A-digit levels were combined so that local director exchange would only need four or fewer groups of directors instead of eight. But if say A-digit levels 7 and 8 were combined it would not be possible to have both PERivale and TERminus exchanges in the same network.
The other main UK conurbations followed suit, namely Manchester in e. The standards for converting exchange name letters in Europe varied, notably in the placement of the letters O, Q, and Z. The switchover to all figure dialling began in the UK inalthough it was not until the early s that all exchange names were converted.
In Paris and its suburbs, the conversion from 3L-4N to all s occurred in October But until Octoberwhen an 8th was added, it remained possible to make use of almost all the combinations. Telephone exchange names often provide a historical, memorable, and even nostalgic context, personal connection, or identity to a community.
They can therefore often be found in popular culture, such as music, art, and prose. Stan Frebergon his album, Freberg Underground objected to all digit dialing in song, including the lyric:. Distinguishing name for a telephone central office. Telephones portal. Retrieved