Anti-Digit Dialing League

Opposing the proliferation of all-number calling and 10-digit dialing

— About —

Initially founded in 1962, the Anti-Digit Dialing League quickly became the premiere sensible dialing association organization in the United States of America. Nearly 60 years later, the problems this country's phone network faces are direr than ever. While we continue to espouse the use of 2L+5N dialing over all-number calling whenever possible, our primary aim today is to publicly oppose the proliferation of 10-digit dialing, which is fast becoming a public nuisance and dialing nightmare for ordinary people everywhere in this country.

Michael Leddy has written some excellent information about the A.D.D.L. in these two blog posts:

— Problem —

Today, people in more and more areas of the United States are encountering something called "10-digit dialing", whereby in addition to dialing a person's telephone number, one must also preface it with the area code, even for local calls within the same area code. If you think this makes no sense, you're not alone! Ten-digit dialing is even more of a public nuisance than all-number calling. If you want to list your office number 555-1212 as KLondike5-1212, you have the complete freedom to do that. However, when 10-digit dialing goes into effect in a locale, P.O.T.S. customers often have little choice but to suck it up and dial 3 more digits for every local call they make.

A root cause of this modern evil is the recent phenmenon of preferring overlays as opposed to splits in the past two decades. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Splits are what have been traditionally done, while overlays are more common today. The main advantage of a split is that it preserves the network numbering as it was originally designed. Area codes were designed to be geographically unique, and splits ensure that area codes stay that way. Overlays, somewhat paradoxically, simply lay area codes on top of one another, so that certain geographical areas do not have a unique area code. Apart from the disunity and confusion in which this often results, the FCC has mandated that in areas where overlays are in effect, 10-digit dialing be mandatory, so as not to give subscribers of the original area code any "advantage". Of course, this is purely ridiculous. Most people don't care about what the FCC considers to be fair and only care that their fingers are now a little sorer everyday.

Proponents of overlays point out that no telephone numbers change following an overlay, whereas with splits, the customers in the new area code have changed numbers. In fact, this is not quite true. In neither case do any phone numbers change. With splits, only the area code of the affected customers changes, and this is a key difference. The number itself does not change and it is still geographically unique. KL5-1212 in Anytown, USA will still be unique. With a split, there could be multiple KL5-1212s in multiple area codes — numbers are no longer unique — what a mess!

A major contributor to this problem has been unnecessary overuse of area codes. In the beginning, one determined the area code for a distant person by looking up that person's location. For areas without overlays, this still works, but it becomes impossible for people who live in overlaid areas. Although in an ideal world, we would never need more area codes, a healthier approach is not getting too hung up on specific area codes, which have and can change. If you remember your friend lives in Anytown, you will always be able to reach him provided there are no overlays. If you only remember what his area code is, and it changes, then the phone company and the public utilities commission have just screwed a lot of people.

We advocate returning to the original philosophy behind area codes. First, that they be geographically unique. This is somewhat difficult considering that a number of overlays have already tainted the North American Numbering Plan, but the Anti-Digit Dialing League maintains a firm resistance and opposition to all present and future area code overlays. We advocate that sensible splits be done instead, if number relief is truly necessary in an area. If people are in the habit of informing others of their location rather than their area code, there is little benefit to performing an overlay. Although reprogramming of telephone dialers may be necessary in the event of a split, it is also necessary when overlays happen, as machines must be reprogrammed to dial 10 digits instead of 7, not for any real, valid technical reason, but rather for bureaucratic ones.

Finally, it is in the best interest of everyone to maintain 7-digit dialing. Studies have shown again and again that most people can remember, at best, about seven items. This is just enough to accomodate someone's telephone number, but not an area code along with it. A key difference about the negative impacts that splits and overlays have on their communities is that one has only temporary implications while the other has permanent ramifications. Following a split, publications that include area codes may need to be updated (we would kindly like to point out that when splits occur, businesses who do not include their area code on signage do not have to do anything, while those who do include it, often unnecessarily, may have to). People may need to check their telephone directory for somebody's new area code and get in the habit of using that one instead. However, with time, this soon goes away, and people will forget that they were ever part of the area code from which they were split. On the other hand, when an overlay goes into place, forevermore, everyone must dial 10 digits. This nuisance, unlike that of remembering a new area code, will never go away, and is all the more aggrivating because there is no technical requirement mandating it. Your lifestyle is now permanently altered. It is thus blatantly clear which is the more sensible choice.

The members of the Anti-Digit Dialing League are not alone in this conviction. In fact, surveys have shown that 60% to 70% of residential customers prefer a split, not an overlay, and an even higher percentage of businesses prefer a split — this in spite of the fact that many of them would have to change area codes (McLain, 1999, p. 4). It is clear that people prefer splits in order to benefit from the continued availability of 7-digit dialing. Most people would prefer this to being permanently burdened with the nuisance of 10-digit dialing, which is not intuitive and, apart from being a hassle, is an inefficiency that can lead to major productivity lost over the course of one's lifespan. This is particularly the case for those who are adversely affected, such as users of rotary phones and pulse dialing equipment as well as those who use vertical service codes. One person testified that she now has to dial as many as fourteen digits to complete a local call: *82 to unblock caller ID for those who aggravatingly insist on the usefulness of this easily spoofed calling feature, 1, then the area code, and the number. From a rotary phone, one would need to dial 15 digits to complete the same local call, as well as experience increased dialing time besides.

— Membership —

Help protect the integrity and usability of our phone network! Register your opposition to 10-digit dialing (and perhaps overlays as well, which are the main reason for its existence). Consider becoming a member of the Anti-Digit Dialing League — you may join this nationwide chapter or begin your own local chapter if you find that your area is at risk of falling victim to an overlay in the near future. Chapters and members are welcome to enlist the assistance of other members or the national chapter in coming to the defense of those preserving the usability of the network. Fifty-five years ago, we successfully rallied thousands of members in opposition to changing how phone numbers were listed in the directory. Today, we face a more pressing and urgent threat.

To get connected, please feel free to drop us a line at LOcust4-4223. The number's in an overlay, so we'll give you the area code as well: 407.

Dues, none; donations sought.

— History —

It all started with a want ad in San Francisco, following the Bell System's announcement that exchange names would gradually give way to all-number dialing. The A.D.D.L. traces its roots all the way back to our founder, San Francisco resident Carl V. May, who successfully organized thousands of telephone customers to oppose "creeping numeralism" in the summer of 1962, including semanticist S. I. Hayakawa, a professor at San Francisco State College and later Californian Republican Senator. From there, it spread to Los Angeles, where engineer Kent Gould opened a chapter. Momentum grew, and A.D.D.L. later even spread to the east coast. A.D.D.L. accquired an impressive following and made headlines in newspapers and even in TIME Magazine. Anti-digit dialing rhetoric was so powerful it even made its way into the music of the time.

There were writers and intellectuals and a whole spectrum of people who opposed digit dialing because they felt it was taking away a familiar part of people's mental maps of their lives — James Katz
All-Number Calling -- it is clear in hindsight -- stood in the minds of many for the age of the impersonal, when people live in huge apartment buildings, travel on eight-lane highways and identify themselves in many places -- bank, job, income tax return, credit agency -- by numbers — "Telephone: The First Hundred Years", John Brooks

Here are a couple newspaper articles in which the A.D.D.L. has been featured: