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05 October 2004 @ 10:25 am
rhodri don't lose that number  
BT made a monumental screw up with UK dialling codes, and especially London's. The various changes have resulted in significant proportion of UK residents becoming a bit confused, thus bringing out the irritated pedant in me on pretty much a daily basis (although the irritated pedant is never that far from the surface, I admit.) A short history:

01: The code for London pre-1990. Gave rise to the memorable phrase on Radio 4 phone ins "That's 01 if you're outside London."

071 and 081: In 1990 or so they dispensed with the 01 code and divided London into inner and outer regions. Inner London had the 071 code, Outer London had the 081 code. The number after the code still had seven digits, so this merely doubled the capacity of numbers available to BT. Nice bit of forward thinking, there. Of course, as a result people were plagued with phone calls meant for their 071/081 counterpart who had the same seven digit phone number. The poor company who had the number 081 222 1234 ended up having to shell out for an automated call answering device that patiently requested that everyone wanting London Transport's information line should replace the receiver and redial 071 222 1234.

0171 and 0181: At some point in the 1990s they decided that all landlines would begin "01" and so all UK landlines had a 1 shoved after the initial 0. This gave London, a major capital city and thrusting force in the world in terms of financial dealings and archaic alcohol licensing laws, two particularly unwieldy and unmemorable dialing codes, when Paris, Budapest, Dublin et al all still had the glorious "01". BT executives sat with their heads in their hands, moaning "What have we done?" We still had seven digit numbers, and the capacity for new landline numbers in London was still only double what it was in the 1970s. Genius.

020: And herewith comes the confusion.

They decided to sort the mess out by giving London an 020 code, and an 8 digit number. They decided that the best way of explaining it to the great unwashed was: "Replace 0171 with 0207, and 0181 with 0208". But the majority of people in the capital have no idea that they have an 8 digit phone number. When I'm wandering the streets, shouting out my 8 digit London phone number to random people in case they want to give me a tinkle, they look at me as if I'm insane. "So, is that 0207 or 0208?" "Neither," I reply, patiently. "Just write it down. 8488 7**8." (Obviously, the point at which I say "Just write it down" stops them from ever wanting to contact me, but I say it nevertheless. I'm rude like that, sometimes.)

Many people outside London are equally confused. "Can I take your number?" "Sure. Got a pen? Right, it's 020... 8488.." "Hang on, so that's 0208..." "No, it's 020... 84-" "OK, so 0208... 8488-" "No. Listen. It's simple. You're outside London? Right. The code is 020. Alright? Got it? Right. And my number is 8488, 7**8." "Alright, chill out," they invariably reply. And that's no doubt what you're all thinking. Just chill out, Rhodri. It doesn't matter.

But it does. Well, it does to me.
 
 
 
Matt Flahertyflayman on October 5th, 2004 03:34 am (UTC)
And me too! But I think it's Oftel rather than BT who deserve the smack. Oh and if I didn't know it already I have a maximum of 100 tries to work out your phone number.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on October 5th, 2004 03:37 am (UTC)
I think BT made the initial errors in the days when it pretty much had a monopoly and Oftel tried to make it better, but I might be wrong.

If there's only a 1 in 100 chance that I'll be bothered on the phone this evening by some bored, random LiveJournal reader, that's a chance I'm willing to take. I'm ditching that number very soon in any case.
(no subject) - keirf on October 5th, 2004 03:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
a velvet hand in an iron glovemissfrost on October 5th, 2004 03:38 am (UTC)
My father, in Manchester, has asked me why people in London give their numbers as "020...7".
I'm not sure my explanation sunk in.

Now you've reminded me of the dreadful BT adverts with Maureen Lipman from when they first split to 081 and 071, which if you remember featured two Maureen Lipman sisters discussing the merits of each code.
Er, marvellous?
wardytronwardytron on October 5th, 2004 03:42 am (UTC)
Oh yes, one was being snobby about being in Central London, and the other claimed that meant the inner city or something. Anyway, trying to explain 020...7/8 is like trying to explain offside to someone when they don't care about offside and you're tired. I always give out my work number as "020...7 etc", but when people FLAGRANTLY IGNORE your CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS by repeating back the number as "0207" I don't bother to correct them anymore. If anything, at least any confusion means they're more likely to get my number wrong and be unable to bother me again.
lastyearsgirl_ on October 5th, 2004 03:45 am (UTC)
God bless mobiles. I'm sure eventually dialling codes will cease to even be an issue, since nobody will be calling from landlines anymore.
40% less vagueperfectlyvague on October 5th, 2004 03:48 am (UTC)
Ah - but I have discovered since commencing work in London that a native worker is expected to use the 8 digit number and shouts at people when they write or say the number 0207 (seven digit number) however, BT have neglected to tell this to anyone outside London so when I call colleagues in the provinces if I phrase the number with an 020 stress, they get all confused. Waaaaah.
Sister Testiculatatesticulata on October 5th, 2004 04:56 am (UTC)
Unless you call people in eg Coventry, who had the same thing happen to them except without previously having had a divided city, so they understand it better than anyone else. Who could have said that about Cov before?? They are now 024 xxxx xxxx
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 05:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - testiculata on October 5th, 2004 05:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
The Black Regentg0ldt00th on October 5th, 2004 04:05 am (UTC)
It matters to me. Also mobile phone numbers have a five digit dialing code beginning with 07 followed by six digits, usually separated into two pairs of three for easy remembrance, although I split mine into three pairs of two as it makes more sense that way (mine is 07*** 22 44 **).

Of course the mobile phone dialing code has no meaning whatsoever as even if you have the same dialing code as someone else you still have to dial the full number. I think.
viceyekiller on October 5th, 2004 04:14 am (UTC)
Yes, but when someone gives you a mobile number in a ridiculously *stupid* way eg: 07 9667 46 711 it makes it much easier to get it wrong. Why do they do this? everyone else manages 07*** *** ***, what makes them so special that their number gets broken up differently?

And the whole 020 thing drives me mental.
(no subject) - offensive_mango on October 5th, 2004 04:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eyekiller on October 5th, 2004 04:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - offensive_mango on October 5th, 2004 04:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eyekiller on October 5th, 2004 04:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
an effable mysterychiller on October 5th, 2004 04:39 am (UTC)
Oooh, but I'd heard that the 8 (or 7) is NOT a part of the phone number, but is a part of the dialing code.

Not that it makes any appreciable difference, either way. I still want my 01-for-London back.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on October 5th, 2004 04:44 am (UTC)
Oooh, but I'd heard that the 8 (or 7) is NOT a part of the phone number,
but is a part of the dialing code.


You heard it from someone who makes a living knocking up hundreds of incorrect advertising hoardings around the London area. Go on, go and try dialing a 7 digit number. Try it. You be speakin' to nobody, darlin'!
(no subject) - mooism on October 5th, 2004 04:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
Dr Jimjimyojimbo on October 5th, 2004 04:43 am (UTC)
071 and 081: In 1990 or so they dispensed with the 01 code and divided London into inner and outer regions. Inner London had the 071 code, Outer London had the 081 code. The number after the code still had seven digits, so this merely doubled the capacity of numbers available to BT. Nice bit of forward thinking, there.

What you're forgetting there is that this coding system allowed Live and Kicking to have the magic sing-a-long phone number:

081! 811! 81! 81!

...allowing millions of kids to phone up and win a Scalextric, or throw pies at Trev & Simon. So BT didn't necessarily drop the ball on that one.

Don't know what they do nowadays. I mean, I don't know what the BBC people do nowadays, with the new coding system. Trev and Simon have been busy turning into Andy-the-Gangster-off-Eastender's heavies, by the looks of things.
Sister Testiculatatesticulata on October 5th, 2004 05:00 am (UTC)
Dammit I just posted about 081 811 8181 and you pipped me to the post! (See what I've done there with the 'pip' reference? Not that anyone has pips anymore but hey.)
(no subject) - draconid on October 5th, 2004 10:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jimyojimbo on October 5th, 2004 11:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
shewho on October 5th, 2004 04:44 am (UTC)
hah! you have actually helped me understand this rubbish for the first time ever! public service rhodri there, marvellous.

i still type numbers 0207 123 4567 because it looks more symmetrical. aesthetic reason. honest.
Sister Testiculatatesticulata on October 5th, 2004 04:53 am (UTC)
It riles me too, but I must confess that it wasn't until someone told me that the code was just 020 that I realised. No thanks to BT's marketing campaign. (Did they even have one?)

But now if I try to dispense the info people just go yeah, whatever and go back to their old (errant) ways.

But you reminded me happily of 081 811 8181 - name that number!
the heiressthe_heiress on October 5th, 2004 04:58 am (UTC)
I purposely repeat 0207 or 0208 to get back at those hateful souls who say 'my number is 7xxx xxxx' assuming that as I work in a creative industry, I must (also) be in London. Yet I am in Hemel Hempstead (01442) oddly with a St Albans number (01727) as our exchange ran out. Actually they probably say it to everyone.

Also, I see it as more aesthetically pleasing.

Does this mean that eventually, some London residents will have an eight digit number that doesn't start with (020) 7 or 8?

If not, if it's always going to be 020 7... or 020 8... then your point seems a little less pointy.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on October 5th, 2004 05:04 am (UTC)
I'm presuming that we'll start to see (020) 6xxx xxxx or (020) 5xxx xxxx at some stage, as I imagined that was the whole point of giving us 8 digit numbers. Which will make those people who say 0207 or 0208 jabber like imbeciles before their heads explode.

It's not more aesthetically pleasing, really, Kellie. Is it? It was always a ridiculous idea to divide London into inner and outer regions in the first place. North and South would have made more sense.
(no subject) - the_heiress on October 5th, 2004 05:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 05:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - angel_thane on October 5th, 2004 11:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 12:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - angel_thane on October 5th, 2004 12:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 12:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - angel_thane on October 5th, 2004 01:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 01:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - angel_thane on October 5th, 2004 01:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 01:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - angel_thane on October 5th, 2004 01:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 01:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - angel_thane on October 5th, 2004 01:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 01:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nickeii on October 5th, 2004 12:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rhodri on October 5th, 2004 12:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nickeii on October 5th, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - acronym on October 5th, 2004 01:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - angel_thane on October 5th, 2004 01:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
the heiressthe_heiress on October 5th, 2004 05:00 am (UTC)
and another thing, sir!
I am great (thanks) but I also wash regularly.
no one knows how this will endactually_not on October 5th, 2004 05:14 am (UTC)
so what was the number for swap shop?

Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on October 5th, 2004 05:14 am (UTC)
01 811 8055!
(no subject) - actually_not on October 5th, 2004 05:15 am (UTC) (Expand)
Alex S: gunshipbarrysarll on October 5th, 2004 05:15 am (UTC)
Apart from anything else, it matters because if you have a number beginning 7, and try to dial another such number, you have to include the 7 or you won't get through.
Anyone who doesn't understand this is a peon. Any company who print their number as '0207' should be heavily fined.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on October 5th, 2004 05:22 am (UTC)
Thank god that these people outnumber these people plus these people by some 1,981,000. But that's still 389,000 peons. Get to work, Baz.
(no subject) - barrysarll on October 5th, 2004 05:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - the_heiress on October 5th, 2004 05:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
sphygsphyg on October 5th, 2004 05:25 am (UTC)
rhodri, meet snathe: this has more content but this is more amusing.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on October 5th, 2004 05:32 am (UTC)
That just broke my firewall :)
josiejo on October 5th, 2004 05:31 am (UTC)
I wanted to say
I 100% agree with what you say. But then up until recently Shaun didn't realise that you didn't need to use the 020 part of numbers.

The amount of times I've said 020 - 7... to have someone else go 0207

Although moving that on to mobile phone numbers, I can't give mine five digit prefixes, as I never remember them - so I'm always 0773 9 rather than 07739

Yes, I am boring. I know.