'Operator, Please Connect Me to ...'
Pop quiz: What do "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and "Butterfield 8" refer to?
You get part marks if you answered a song by Glenn Miller, and a movie with Elizabeth Tay- lor. You get full marks, however, if you know that those are also telephone exchange names.
If you find this concept a little mystifying, perhaps it's because you're young. Telephone exchange names started to disappear about 30 years ago, when Ma Bell got automated and moved us away from cranking the phone and asking the operator to connect us to "Hudson 3-2700."
For you youngsters out there, telephone exchange names are words used to represent the first two letters of a seven-digit phone number. The first two letters are the first two digits of the phone number, when they're spelled out. For example, Pennsylvania 6-5000 is 736-5000.
The Telephone Exchange Name Project, a labor of love from Robert Crowe (from the Sycamore 4 exchange in Pasadena, Calif.) exists so that this nifty system doesn't disappear entirely.
"Exchange names helped foster a sense of place, and community, in the same way that cities do," Crowe writes. "They're also a link to our more analog past, which is fast slipping away."
The site's best asset is the list of known exchange names, sorted by prefix. The prefix at The Oklahoman is 47, which is Greenfield. In other parts of the country, however, the 47 prefix was handled differently. In Los Angeles, Granite was used. And in a tricky section of Chicago, they used Irving (clever, no?).
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