In 1913, anyone wanting to reach the Adolf Seligman Dry Goods Co. could walk over to 210 San Francisco St. Only a very few could pick up the phone and dial 180.
You could also reach The New Mexican in those days using a telephone. For advertising, the number was 31 W; for news tips or to speak to the editor, 31 J. By 1946, a prospective buyer perusing a classified advertisement to purchase a mattress and dressing table only had to phone 431 to get in touch with the seller.
And so it went, over the years, as dialing a phone number grew ever more complicated. In the 1950s, Santa Fe residents could dial SF 3-4052, while folks in Los Alamos needed to key in LA before their five numbers.
In the 1960s The New Mexican’s main switchboard number was YU3-3303, the YU being for yucca. By the 1970s, businesses listed seven-digit numbers in their newspaper ads for customers who wanted to call the store or shop before stopping by.
Eventually, so many people had telephones that three-digit area codes were added to the base number. To call from Santa Fe to Taos or Santa Fe to Los Angeles, for example, folks had to dial the area code first.
More people. More telephones in use. More numbers to dial. So it has been, including that difficult transition of modern days — when all of New Mexico lost its signature 505 area code. Instead, the state became split between 505 and 575 in 2009.
Now, the Federal Communications Commission has let New Mexico know — via the Public Regulation Commission — that starting soon, phone users will have to dial 10 numbers, even for local calls in their own towns. Some 80 other area codes are affected, part of an FCC initiative to make sure callers dialing a number beginning with 988 don’t interfere with the new, nationwide three-digit number designed to help anyone experiencing a mental crisis.
Starting July 16, people in trouble simply have to dial 988.
Today, many people use cellphones as a primary method of telephoning — for them, it should be simple to reprogram contacts and add necessary area codes. For those still tied to a landline, the change might be harder.
They have to get used to dialing all 10 digits so their call goes through.
Perhaps children and grandchildren of elderly residents can program numbers into the phone so calls can be made quickly, without a person having to stop and remember the area code.
It’s not only person-to-person calls that will be affected. Any service using a phone and set for seven numbers will have to be reprogrammed. This includes everything from medical monitoring devices, security systems, mobile contact lists and internet dial-ups.
The transition will take several months, meaning there is plenty of time for the Public Regulation Commission to conduct an awareness campaign. The new requirement starts April 24, with a transition period until Oct. 24, when using all 10 digits will be necessary. Let’s hope there’s not overwhelming shock and surprise come October when calls go awry.
We can wax nostalgic for those simpler days, when two digits and a number letter were all you needed — but more than that, be sure to get the word out so all telephone users know the new rules.