The Reason Why Every New England State Has an Area Code With a Zero
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions, or personal experiences.
Phone technology has come a long way here in the 21st century. I'm not talking about the latest version of the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. I'm talking about the infrastructure behind how your phone calls get to the person you want to speak to.
Have you ever noticed that every state in New England has a zip code where the middle number is 0? We aren't the only ones with zeros in the middle, but there's a reason why all New England States have at least one area code with a zero. If you guessed it's based on where we're located, you're half right, but there's more to it.
American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a podcast and YouTube channel called Star Talk, but the things he talks about aren't always about space and the universe. He explains how things in everyday life work. I'm a big fan of his!
In a recent episode, he explained how regions in the country were assigned area codes. It has to do with rotary phones, which were in use from around 1900 to the 1980s. These phones are where you get the term "dialing a number" from because of the large rotary dial used to make a phone call. Prior to rotary phones, you had to call the operator to connect you to the person you wanted to call.
In 1947, every home with a phone was assigned a telephone number with an area code. The largest populated cities in the country would get the area codes that took the shortest time to dial because they had the most people that would be dialing them at the same time.
The rotary phone uses a pulse to communicate which number is being dialed. When you need to dial the number zero, it took the longest time for the dial to send the pulses as it swung back to the home position. That's why New York City's area code is 212. The shortest possible number you can dial that doesn't begin or end with a 1, which was not allowed.
All the New England states have populations that are far below that of the 8.5 million people in New York City and other large cities like Los Angeles (213), Chicago (312) and Dallas (214). Kind of clever isn't it?
Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island all have one area code for the entire state. Connecticut has four area codes with the one in place the longest being 203. Massachusettes has nine area codes including 617 for the Boston area and a 508 created in 1988 when the 617 was split to only cover Boston.
Today, area codes really don't matter as much as they used to. You just save someone's number in your phone, then tap their name when you want to call them. Isn't the future great?