Where did area codes come from and how do they work?

Where did area codes come from and how do they work?

Every year on July 13th, Houston, Texas, celebrates “713 day”, which is a date Houston celebrates the city’s oldest area code.  It was established back in 1947 as part of the North American Numbering Plan and was Houston’s only area code until 1996.

Houston is the fourth most populous city in the nation, with an estimated July 2018 population of 2,325,502 (trailing only New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago), and they have a total of four area codes: 713, 281, 832, and 346.


While 4 area codes for a single city may sound like a lot, they don’t have the most. Los Angeles has the most area codes – they have 10 of them.

The Bell System, formerly a system of companies led by the Bell Telephone Company, created the first area codes back in the 1940s called the North American Numbering Plan. These designated area codes helped automate telephone calls anywhere nationwide without using a human operator to connect you.

How Area Codes Are Made?

Before we start discussing the science behind the area codes, it is important to discuss why these codes are generated and what is the reason behind their development before area codes, telephone users had to rely upon the operators. 

Operators work on telephone exchanges that transfer the calls to their relevant area’s exchange and eventually connect to the person you want to talk to. This hectic procedure requires extensive human resources and an effective system to fulfill the increasing demand of their era. 

Since it was nearly impossible to keep that increasing demand entertained with swift services, companies decided to remove the interaction of humans in the connection, making it possible for people to directly connect with the person in the entire world with that area code. 


How Area Codes Are Created?

To simplify it, the purpose of area code is not to separate and distinguish areas geographically but to entertain the increasing population’s needs along with area identification

Area codes might seem complicated and senseless, but they are not. The US Interstate system has odd numbers for northern and southern states and even numbers for eastern and western states. Moreover, another distinction is the value if you go further east or north on highways. It is quite simple as the US zip code gets higher when you go further western region. 

Furthermore, this is not the case every time; for example, in North America, this is not the case since its area codes do not get neat geographically, and you may find it very difficult to understand their science. 

Second Digit:

To make it neater, the second digit of the area code has a science. States with more than one area code have their second digit as 1, and states with less than that have their area code as 0. This is because the second digit has to be either 0 or 1. 

Simpler Codes For Popular Areas:

Another distinction that area code generation has has nothing to do with the science behind the whole process. It is based on the popular areas based on population and call volume. Areas with high call volume, like LA, Chicago, Detroit, New York, and California, have simpler codes that are easy to remember and take fewer clicks to dial. 

That is why some states have such area codes that do not meet the exact science behind them; that is why some people call the area coding systems godsent, as some things are there without deliberate explanation. 

Who Assigned The Area Codes:

North American Number Planning (NANP) manages and allocates area codes. This organization is responsible for managing all the area codes along with new allocations. This organization has the right to create rules and make it easy for people to identify their desired area with the code. 

NANP, the custodian of the whole allocation and creation process, developed most of the methodology we discussed above. It is certainly a complicated task with the increasing population and demand for new area codes. 

To conclude the whole methodology, you can say that area codes are created based on login to make it easy to understand and for future allocation. It is also observed that the area codes are created considering that the future allocation of area codes may not be difficult and easy. 

Regarding the purpose, it was created to avoid operators and make it easy for people to connect with people they wanted to call directly. 

The science behind allocating area codes is complex and considers factors such as population, call volume, and geographic location. The North American Number Planning manages the allocation of these codes, ensuring they are easy to understand and future allocations are facilitated. Despite the complexity, area codes are critical in simplifying and automating our communication systems.

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Gianna Golo
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Where did area codes come from and how do they work?

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