RE: Internationalization--Phone Number Writing Conventions

From: Tony Harminc (
Date: Mon May 31 1999 - 19:15:38 EDT

On 31 May 99, at 9:08, Hohberger, Clive P. wrote:

> The history of the use of "1" in the US is interesting.

[much folk history deleted]

Almost all of the claims made are simply not true. This is not
really the place for all this, but very briefly:

1) Connecting the "1" as country code and the "1" as long distance
access code is far fetched. In many parts of the US the access code
was originally "112", and this persisted well into the late 1960s and
early 1970s in some areas.

2) Many parts of the US never had a requirement to dial a long
distance access code until the quite recent change which made it
impossible to syntactically disambiguate area codes and local number
prefixes. But some areas have always required an access code. The
reason is simple: most of the switching equipment in place when long
distance dialing was introduced was incapable of analysing dialed
digits and routing calls based on such analysis. Calls were set up
step-by-step as dialed. An escape sequence (access code) was
necessary to route long distance calls to a higher level of switch
that could analyse and route based on three or six digits.

The few places that never required an access code were those large US
cities (more exactly those cities that were large in the 1940s and
early 50s) that had non step-by-step switching equipment installed
for local use. Generally these were the so called Panel offices.

There is much detailed discussion of this on the Telecom Digest web
site at .

> To this day most Americans do not know that "1" is the North
> American country code (Most have never been out of North America).
> Only when Canada, Mexico and the Carribean countries acquire THEIR OWN
> country codes will it finally hit home here. That day is coming soon,
> as the use of cell phones and telephone companies proliferate.
> (My wife and I have 8 telephone numbers between work, home and cars,
> and we aren't all that unusual..

Mexico has had its own country code (52) for many years. Would it be
uncharitable to suggest that it is the US that should now get its own
country code, since it seems to be the cause of the problem?


Tony H.

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