Curtains for Calls

Denver’s getting a new area code next month!

No, I’m not short on blog topics – stay with me here.

“983” will be added to 303 and 720 because Denver’s rapid growth means they’re running out of new phone numbers. But it’s not our state’s fifth area code itself that has my attention (by comparison, California blows us away with 36). It’s the 25 years “983” is expected to last before Colorado needs a sixth area code. Seriously? Will we even have phones in 25 years?

“719” reaches my corner of Colorado

“Area code” feels like an old-fashioned term. I associate area codes with the physical act of “dialing” (also an old-fashioned term). Sure, we need area codes to establish new numbers the first time we get smartphones (as preschoolers?) but then they become more labels than three-digit numbers, don’t they?  Think about it.  If you need to call someone these days, forget about their area code because you already have it in their profile.  You either tell your phone to call the person or you pull them up in “Contacts” and simply touch the number on the screen.  In other words, your phone dials the area code but you do not. Not anymore.

How to call someone in D.C.

Before smartphones, area codes had more prestige.  They were required to make “long-distance” phone calls, which meant you had to dial an extra three digits.  Outside of toll-free numbers, area codes conjured up exotic destinations, as if dialing halfway around the world instead of somewhere else in your state.  Area codes made you feel like you were calling someone important.  Today, they’re just labels.

If I really wanted to date myself, I could be talking about telephone exchange numbers instead of area codes.  KLondike, WRigley, and TEmpleton all referred to the central offices of telephone exchanges, with every phone number in an exchange starting with the first two letters of the central office.  PEnnsylvania 6-5000 was a memorable example because it connected you with the famous Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, and Glenn Miller made the number into a popular swing jazz tune in the 1940s.  I wasn’t around in the 1940s (or even the 1950s), so enough with this topic.

Let’s flush “dialing” out of conversations about phones, shall we? Nobody “dials” anymore.  Dialing (for you preschoolers) hearkens back to a time when phones were phones.  You picked up the corded “handset” from the “cradle” on the “base”, nestled it against your jaw so the “receiver” lined up with the ear and the “microphone” with the mouth, toggled the “switchhook” for “dial tone”, and placed a call by spinning the rotary dial once for each digit in the phone number (got all that, kids?)  The dial would rotate back to its original position after each digit so you could dial the next one.  The whole process took 30-45 seconds, followed by a long pause, and then the “ringer” sounded on the receiving phone.  With that in mind, do you take the ease of your smartphone touchscreen for granted?  Of course you do.

[Author’s Note: The mechanics of rotary phones (base, dial, ringer, handset) made them HEAVY.  You can find movies from the 1940s or 1950s where a character uses a rotary phone as a weapon simply by clocking someone over the head with it.]

Dialing eventually gave way to “touch-tones” (thanks to the invention of the transistor).  The rotary dial was replaced with a grid of plastic pushbuttons, one for each digit.  Yes, we still “dialed” area codes but with buttons instead.  The buttons then migrated from the phone base to the handset.  The handset then went cordless.  Finally, the base disappeared altogether, and voila! – you had the first “mobile” phone.

Area codes make me nostalgic because I associate them with actual phone calls, one voice talking to another.  Today we’d sooner text than talk.  Delivered mail to your box on the street isn’t long for this world.  One of these days it’ll be curtains for phone calls as well.  Which re-begs the question about Denver’s latest area code.  Do we really need bright and shiny-new “983”?

The Jetsons don’t know “phones”

Phone calls of the future may simply be mind games where we’re able to “ring” each other brain-to-brain. A little far-fetched, you say?  Probably, and the idea of thought control makes me squeamish anyway.  Call it old-fashioned, but I hope we’re still talking about area codes in 25 years after all.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.


Lego Grand Piano – Update #19

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Today’s section of the symphony was short and entirely predictable.  Bag #19 – of 21 bags of pieces – assembled the rest of the piano’s top lid, shown completed in the photos below.  I simply picked up where I left off from last week’s Bag #18, continuing to build up the “wall” of the lid until it was complete.  It’s a repetitive process using pieces of similar sizes and shapes.  Now, all we are left with – my patient audience members – is the support structure of the piano lid (so it can be raised to its very elegant angle when open), and the free-standing pianist’s bench.

  Today’s build took less than twenty minutes. (I could’ve built Bag #20 as well, but why change my weekly pace this late in the game?)  As I was finishing the piano lid it occurred to me using Mr. Instruction Manual is a lot like using sheet music.  You shift your eyes between the manual and the piano itself constantly as you work, step-by-step-by-step.  Just as you would when playing the piano from a sheet of music.

Running Build Time: 13.3 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Brahams’ Violin Concerto in D. Leftover pieces: None again!

Conductor’s Note: Johannes Brahms had to be included in the list of musical accompaniments for my Lego Grand Piano build because, well, he’s one of the “bigs” in classical music. His Violin Concerto in D Major sits on Germany’s Mount Rushmore of violin concertos, beside Beethoven’s, Mendelssohn’s, and Max Bruch’s.  You, however, know Brahms best for his beloved lullaby “Cradle Song”, which starts “Lullaby, and goodnight, with roses bedight…”

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to "Life In A Word".

19 thoughts on “Curtains for Calls”

    1. The bench for the pianist will be the last step (Bag #21). I think I’ll leave it empty – no Lego guy – because I think the instrument looks great all by itself.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The piano is looking great! I remember when they started splitting area codes in CA – it was in the early 80’s as I recall. Within 10 years we went from 2 area codes in the Bay Area to around 5. Then they gave up on that and started doing “overlays” No San Jose alone has I think two area codes.

    I also remember in tech school back in the 70’s having a lecture on how mechanical telephone exchanges worked because our teacher said that they were still in use. I still remember the circuit diagrams for the old, “POTS” systems. I wonder if any of those are still wired up anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. POTS! Plain old telephone set/service/system – forgot about that one. Our area code – 719 – is in that awkward stage where you have to dial the area code for certain parts of the region itself. To me, that’s a sign another area code is coming soon. No surprise considering how fast Colorado Springs is growing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know all about telephone exchange numbers. I was a Dupont, my husband was a Glenwood– but we’ve been able to make a good marriage of it despite our differences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, glad you worked it out, Ally. I want to say I was a “RIchmond” back in my days in Los Angeles (it was the first exchange to come to mind) but honestly, I can’t remember that far back. It’s one of those questions I’d love to ask my parents if they were still around.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re hard-pressed to give up our landline, Neil, but it’s gonna happen one day soon. And good on you for hanging onto the Princess phone. They’re so elegant for an “appliance”.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My parents had one of those old rotary dial black phone on the farm….at one point when I was a teenager we even had a party line, so you had to be careful with what you said as you never knew who was listening. My aunt was a Bell telephone operator in the 50’s before she got married. I didn’t know that about the Glenn Miller song and I’m a fan of Big Band music. The piano looks grand! Anxiously awaiting the finale!

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    1. Party lines! Before my time, Joni. Your aunt probably knew a lot of the gossip in her town. Before hairstylists knew it all, you could count on telephone operators instead.

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  4. Adding another area code does seem super weird. Before I left my home in Ohio, they required us to use the area code even with a local call because of running out of numbers. Where I lived next, it was the same thing, even if calling next door. But now a days–yeah, that’s weird.

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  5. Dave, my parents made me memorize my name/address/phone number when I was just a small tyke, even before I started school. It sticks in my mind to this day how I rattled off: Valley 7-3219. We had a party line in those days. Our exchange here in Lincoln Park (Michigan) was Dunkirk 1, but we have more exchanges now and don’t use the “DU-1” anymore and are “313” instead. We got rid of our rotary dial wall phone maybe 15 years ago when it became difficult for my mom to scramble up to answer it. We had tried a phone with a charger, but it died by mid-afternoon. She was not keen on getting a cellphone, so we had AT&T convert the rotary phone (which still worked) to touchtone and got a second line put in for a phone for the table. My late mom said they sent a young repairman who had never seen a rotary phone before and asked how to use it. I’m undecided on whether to ditch the landline when I retire. I never use my cellphone – I just have it on me anytime I walk out of the house for emergencies. Right now I need the landline for work as I work from home and don’t have it bundled as I don’t have cable TV. The piano is looking good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always thought the assignment of area codes was random, until I read they have everything to do with rotary phones. The bigger the population the smaller the individual digits. So in your case, 313 was chosen because a lot of people call the Detroit area and the wheel doesn’t have to rotate as much on the phone. The same was true for my Los Angeles locale (213). Imagine dialing all those calls if they started with 989? 🙂

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      1. The 313 area code was once the only area code in the Tri-County area and now we have two other area codes, but “313 Day” is celebrated every March 13th for that area code and a big deal in Detroit. Funny you mention the 989 area code as that area code is here in mid-Michigan!

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  6. Many of those heavy old telephones were made by Western Electric Co in Indianapolis. Those could be the most overbuilt products of all time.

    Area codes used to identify where you lived but now seem to identify where you lived when you got your cellular service.

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  7. When I first moved to my little mountain town (1991), you only needed to dial 4 numbers to call someone with the same 3 digit exchange. Too many number now! Lucky we can store those numbers and redial.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Colorado Springs recently shifted to required dialing of the area code (719), Ruth. It’s going to be annoying for a while because the habit hasn’t formed yet. I’m still dialing seven digits but now getting the recording saying, “This call cannot go through…” or something like that. TEN digits just to talk to my neighbor? Grrrrrrr.

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