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The Phone Book: An Introduction



08 Jul 2016

Before the internet age, there was an old school way to find more information about a person or business. It was called the phone book.The Phone Book

Every year subscribers would get a local, printed book from their phone company containing white pages and yellow pages. The white pages contained alphabetically organized personal listings that included an individual's phone number and address. The yellow pages was the business directory and included all of the businesses in a certain area.


What Is the Phone Book?

The phone book, or simply "The Book," was a book that was printed yearly and distributed by phone companies to their customers. Each book covered a specific geographical area. Some, like the New York City phone book, contained millions of names and numbers. While a phone book won't take the place of your old address book, it gives access to names and numbers that were previously accessed through a telephone operator, especially if the call was long distance.

How Are Phone Numbers Created?

Before the existence of the ten-digit phone number, to reach another phone subscriber you needed three letters followed by four digits. The letters signified the central office the phone line came from, and the numbers identified the specific line a caller wished to connect with.  In the past, operators were used to connect callers to their endpoint.

A new number plan came into existence in the 1940s as the demand for phone numbers increased. AT&T and Bell System, the two main phone companies, joined together with smaller providers to make a unified plan for the creation of new numbers. Known as the North American Numbering Plan (NANPA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would go on to control it and still maintains NANPA to this day.

Today's telephone numbers are made out of three parts: the area code (NPA), the prefix (NXX), and the line number.

Area Code

The first three numbers, also known as the NPA (Numbering Plan Area), were developed by the North American Numbering Plan (NANP).  These three-digits represent a specific geological area such as a state or county.  NANP has made it possible to make telephone calls a simple task regardless if the call is local or long distance.  

With the demand for phone numbers expanding on a yearly basis, the addition of new area codes continues with some areas having multiple area codes due to the population.  As of today over 25 territories utilize NANP including the U.S. and its territories, Canada, and many Caribbean nations. 

Below is a table with the area codes from each of the 50 U.S. states.

State Area Code(s)
Alabama 205, 251, 256, 334, 938
Alaska 907 
Arizona 480, 520, 602, 623, 928
Arkansas 479, 501, 870 
California 209, 213, 310, 323, 408, 415, 424, 442, 510, 530, 559, 562, 619, 626, 628, 650, 657, 661, 669, 707, 714, 747, 760, 805, 818
Colorado 303, 719, 720, 970 
Connecticut 203, 475, 860, 959 
Delaware 302 
Florida 239, 305, 321, 352, 386, 407, 561, 689, 727, 754, 772, 786, 813, 850, 863, 904, 941, 954
Georgia 201, 202, 203, 205, 206, 209, 210, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 219, 225, 229, 239, 248, 251, 252, 253, 256, 262, 404 
Hawaii 808 
Idaho 208
Illinois 217, 224, 309, 312, 331, 618, 630, 708, 773, 779, 815, 847, 872
Indiana 219, 260, 317, 574, 765, 812 
Iowa 319, 515, 563, 641, 712 
Kansas 316, 620, 785, 913
Kentucky 270, 345, 502, 606, 859
Louisiana 225, 318, 337, 504, 985 
Maine 207 
Maryland 240, 301, 410, 443, 667 
Massachusetts 339, 351, 413, 508, 617, 774, 781, 857, 978 
Michigan 231, 248, 269, 313, 517, 586, 616, 734, 810, 906, 947, 989 
Minnesota 218, 320, 507, 612, 651, 763, 952
Mississippi 228, 601, 662, 664, 769 
Missouri 314, 417, 573, 636, 660, 816 
Montana 406 
Nebraska 308, 402, 531 
Nevada 702, 725, 775 
New Hampshire 603 
New Jersey 201, 551, 609, 732, 848, 856, 862, 908, 973
New Mexico 505, 575 
New York 212, 315, 347, 516, 518, 585, 607, 631, 646, 716, 718, 845, 914, 917, 929 
North Carolina 252, 336, 704, 828, 910, 919, 980, 984 
North Dakota  702
Ohio 216, 234, 283, 330, 380, 419, 440, 513, 567, 614, 740, 937
Oklahoma 405, 539, 580, 918
Oregon 458, 503, 541, 971 
Pennsylvania 215, 267, 272, 412, 484, 570, 610, 717, 724, 814, 878 
Rhode Island 401 
South Carolina 803, 843, 854, 864 
South Dakota 605 
Tennessee 423, 615, 629, 731, 865, 901, 931
Texas 210, 214, 254, 281, 325, 346, 361, 409, 430, 432, 469, 512, 682, 713, 737, 806, 817, 830, 832, 903, 915, 936, 940, 956, 972 
Utah 385, 435, 801 
Vermont 802
Virginia 276, 434, 540, 571, 703, 757, 804
Washington 206, 253, 360, 425, 509, 564 
Washington, D.C. 202 
West Virginia 304, 681 
Wisconsin 262, 414, 534, 608, 715, 920 
Wyoming 307

Prefix Number

The prefix, or NXX, represents the phone carrier’s central office and the specific switch that the phone line is connected to.

Line Number

The last four numbers represent the specific phone line and is assigned to the switch level in use. Having the line number allows you to add or change phones. The changing process is possible due to the number not being attached to the phone itself but the actual phone line.

Through NANP, numbers are assigned through an official system called the number pooling system of allocating numbers. Through this system, a block of 1,000 numbers is distributed and assigned to carriers. When a user decides to disconnect a number, he goes through the process of phone number deactivation.

Once a telephone number has been deactivated, it has the potential to get reactivated and re-assigned to someone else. Standard time for reassignment and reactivation usually takes around 90 days. Many times number recycling can lead to issues, such as the previous owner's account information being compromised, or the new owner being called mistakenly by companies and people looking for the previous owner. 

What Does the NPA-NXX-xxxx of a Phone Number Refer To?

The NANPA part of the telephone number refers to the North American Numbering Plan Area, also known as the area code. As mentioned before, area codes originated with the North American Numbering Plan Area (NANPA). This plan divides each territory into a zone based on geographical location. The proper NPA has a range of [2-9] for the first digit while the second and third digit has a range of [0-9].

There are six toll free codes: 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844. The toll-free numbers are only reserved for businesses and non-residential lines and allow callers to reach the recipient without being charged for the call.

The NXX, also known as the prefix number, refers to the central office or the exchange number. The proper range for the central office number is [2-9] for the first digit, and [0-9] for the remaining two digits. The number 1 cannot be used in both of the last two digits of NXX due to confusion with N11 codes (Specific Number Calling). N11 codes allow access to specific phone services provided by the North American Numbering Plan. The codes include:

  • 211: Provides access to community services and information (Non-Emergency)
  • 311: Provides access to city government numbers (Non-Emergency)
  • 411: Directory assistance (Non-Emergency)
  • 511: Provides traffic or police information (Non-Emergency)
  • 611: Provides access to the telephone provider's customer service and repair (Non-Emergency)
  • 711: TDD and Relay Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Non-Emergency)
  • 811: Provides access to public utility location (Non-Emergency)
  • 911: Emergency services (police, fire, ambulance/rescue services)

The XXXX refers to the subscriber number, or line number. The proper range for the subscriber number is [0-9] for each digit. The aforementioned central number is considered to be part of the subscriber number as it allows customers to forward their complete number to their mobile phone line when necessary.

Phone Book History

The first phone book was published on February 21, 1878 in New Haven, Connecticut. It was published by the District Telephone Company of New Haven and it included no numbers. You might be asking yourself how it could have had no numbers, but at this moment in time there were so few phone owners that no one had a number.

Phone operators: 1900s

Phone numbers in the U.S. weren't introduced until a year later in 1879, and in a completely different city. In Lowell, Massachusetts there was an outbreak of measles that caused a local physician, Dr. Moses Greeley, to worry about the phone system coming to a halt. 

Up to this point in time all phone calls were transferred by phone operators. Greeley worried that if the operators fell ill there would be nobody to transfer the phone calls between the city's 200 phone subscribers. Telephone numbers were introduced so that if there was ever an emergency, calls could still be made.

In 1883, in Wyoming the idea of the Yellow Pages in the phone book was introduced when a printer ran out of white paper and started using yellow paper. A year later the first official yellow pages business directory was published.

How to Use a Phone Book?

People used the book to look up phone and address information of people who they had met, or friends and family members whose numbers they may have misplaced. All personal listings were organized alphabetically by last name.

People could also look up telephone numbers of local businesses in the yellow pages. The yellow pages were organized in alphabetical sections based on the type of service. If you needed a plumber you could search for one in the plumbing section. Businesses could pay to have advertisements appear in the yellow pages (a precursor to Google Ads, and an expensive one!).

Understanding Online Phone Books

Yes. Nowadays phone books are online and many people feel that receiving a printed book is a complete waste of resources. Some cities like San Francisco and Seattle have banned it.

It's much easier to search for numbers online than by flipping through a five pound book. CallerSmart offers an online, community phone book that compiles a number of phone directories for all 50 U.S. states and territories, the Canadian provinces, and Caribbean nations, our directory includes both white pages and yellow pages information. Our community book is different from a traditional one because it can only be used for reverse phone lookups, meaning that you can only search by number and not name.

How Can I Use an Online Phone Book?

It's easy to use online phone books and phone book apps. You can use CallerSmart's by downloading our free reverse phone lookup app for iPhone and iPad or by visiting our website. All you need to do once you have our app or are on our website is copy and paste, or type, the number you'd like to search into the search bar. We will display all of the free information that we have on the number and offer the option to search paid databases for more information.

Is My Information in the Phone Book?

Unbeknownst to you, your information could be listed online, on a phone book or phone number tracing app. Landline numbers are published by telephone companies unless the owner of the number requests that the number be unlisted. Cell phone numbers are not published by phone companies. However, if you've ever published your number on social media or filled in a survey that requested your cell number, your cell number could have personal information like your name and address attached to it in a telephone directory.

Can I Use CallerSmart to Find a Number?

You can only use CallerSmart's community phone book app to run a reverse phone lookup. This means you can find more information about a number once you have received a missed call from it, or came about the number in a different way. If you're using online dating, CallerSmart is a great way to make sure your date is who they say they are.

How Can I Use CallerSmart?

Using CallerSmart is simple. If you have a number that you'd like to look up you can copy and paste, or type, it into the search bar in either our iPhone app or website to get started. CallerSmart's phone book has the most up-to-date listings available.

Every day, our database is being checked and updated thousands of times by our community of users. This is what makes CallerSmart special, we are the first  app to allow our users to update our listings!

How Can I Remove My Information From CallerSmart's Phone Book?

If you find that your number is listed, but you don't want it to be, you can claim your number via our app or website. Once you've verified that you are the owner, then you can opt for your name and address not to be shown to any other user who searches your number.

How Can I Get CallerSmart?

You can download our phone book iOS app or free number tracer app to use with iPhone caller ID. If you don't have an iPhone or iPad, you can access our reverse phone book lookup on our website or a third-party phone book android app. Whether you use our app or website you will have the same access to our community phone book!

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