Profile America: Direct Dial

A mid-twentieth century rotary-dial telephone

Thursday, November 29th. A key part of daily telecommunications is 67 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 country is fast running out of 10-digit phone numbers.

American residential customers on average pay $307 annually for their home telephone service and $1,124 for cell phones. Despite our familiarity with do-it-yourself calling, there are still nearly 31,000 telephone operators serving us.

Profile America is in its 22nd year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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