Alexander Bell, who designed the telephone hardware, and his successors who created the area codes, switchboards and connections that formed the American telephone network likely never envisioned the problem of running out of telephone numbers; yet that’s exactly what is happening today. Since the adoption of fax machines and mobile telephones, the demand for numbers has greatly picked up, and so far met with the creation of new area codes dividing previously whole cities.
On this day, June 4, in 1990, the New York Telephone Company proposed the assignation of the first ever mobile device area code, splitting off Manhattan’s land-line 212 area code, arguably the famous area code in the country, into 212 and 917 for mobile phones and pagers.
The NYTC warned in its proposal that at the present rate, they would run out of 212 numbers within three years. In addition to covering some 100,000 mobile devices in the city, it proposed giving residents of the Bronx the 917 code. Heading off a possible complaint from the Bronx residents, the company’s spokesman noted that five years earlier before the boroughs Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn were likewise split off into their own 718 area code, and after initial complaints everyone came to accept it. The company spokesman said “we’re sure the same thing will happen in this case.”