Profile America: DITY Direct-Dial Area Codes

Profile America — A key part of daily telecommunications is 65 years old this month, as direct-dial telephone area codes for transcontinental calling were introduced in 1951. The mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, made the first official call, picking up the phone and directly calling his counterpart in Alameda, California. At the time, all previous long distance calls went through an operator. To begin with, there were 86 exchanges, but the vast expansion in cell phone usage means the U.S. is fast running out of 10-digit phone numbers. American residential customers on average pay $350 annually for their home telephone service and over $960 for cell phones. Despite our familiarity with do-it-yourself calling, there are still some 30,000 telephone operators serving us.

Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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