Modern Living: Dial 686-2377 for NUMBERS

Five numerals and a prefix was hard enough. Seven numerals was clearly pushing it. With the addition of three more digits—for area code —phone numbers became endless strings of digits, impossible for all but the strong-minded to remember. Was there a way to give them shape, meaning, character? What about referring to the dial and decoding the digits back into letter form—changing telephone numbers into telephone names? That way, 255-7465 made ALL PINK, 744-7226 the even more colorful PIGS CAN. The telephonetics game was slow in starting, but today it is only the phone company that won't play.

San Franciscans dial POPCORN...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!