Little Bits of History

One Ringy-Dingy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 22, 2010

British phone booth and Big Ben

April 22, 2000: The United Kingdom’s telephone services are updated with corresponding changes in telephone numbering systems. Because of the proliferation of phone lines and the need for more numbers to satisfy the demand, phone numbering was changed from a seven number to an eight number system as well as Code Area numbers being changed.

The world is shrinking because of instant communication. That communication is based on telephone systems. Many people have more than one phone number – land lines, cell phones, and even fax numbers. Businesses have many phone lines and fax numbers as well. Each telephone number needs to be individualized. As the demand for more lines increased, the scarcity of numbers became apparent.

Cell or mobile phones were first proposed in December 1947 by Bell Labs engineers Douglas H Ring and W. Rae Young. The technology went undeveloped until the 1960s when Bell Labs (Richard H. Frenkiel and Joel S. Engel) produced the electronics. However, prototypes were available in the 1950s but in very limited use. Motorola and Bell Labs joined forces to be filmed making calls to each other on the streets of New York City in 1973 in a media event. The first generation of mobile telephony was up and running. The second generation followed in the 1990s and we are now on the third or 3G. More than 2.5 billion people use cell phones today.

Increased need for phone numbers was an ongoing problem and the first migration to the new system was in 1995 when the UK implemented PhONEday changes which provided a pool of 9 billion numbers. Migration from the old to new system had taken place in stages, with this being the final stage. UK phone numbers changed on this date. Land lines were changed immediately and were no longer functional, while mobile phones in the UK worked for another year. Businesses were also granted some extension of time due to costs incurred [i.e. stationery, business cards, brochures and catalogs] by the changing system.

“Some one invented the telephone,
And interrupted a nation’s slumbers,
Ringing wrong but similar numbers.” – Ogden Nash

“TELESCOPE, n. A device having a relation to the eye similar to that of the telephone to the ear, enabling distant objects to plague us with a multitude of needless details. Luckily it is unprovided with a bell summoning us to the sacrifice.” – Ambrose Bierce

“The telephone book is full of facts, but it doesn’t contain a single idea.” – Mortimer Adler

“Tell me about yourself — your struggles, your dreams, your telephone number.” – Peter Arno

Also on this day, in 1970 Earth Day was first celebrated.

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