What was the world's first telephone number?

22nd Dec 2021

What was the world's first telephone number?

When was the world's first telephone number made available?

The world's first telephone number - 999 - is made available in London on 30 June 1937.

The world's first telephone number – 999 – was made available to London subscribers for the first time, before being later extended throughout the country. When someone dialled 999, a buzzer sounded in the exchange and a red light flashed to draw an operator’s immediate attention.

In the early days of telephones things were rather different. One simply picked up the telephone receiver, waited for an operator to answer "number, please?” then made a polite request for assistance from the constabulary, a doctor/ambulance or perhaps a firefighter or two. In small towns, operators frequently knew exactly where to find such folk at all times. Sometimes, they were even responsible for activating the town’s fire alarm.

While a single emergency number seems a great idea, it was surprisingly slow to be taken up globally – or in an organised way. In the US, 911 was first used in Alabama in 1968, but it wasn’t widely adopted across the rest of the country until the Eighties. And before the introduction of 111 across New Zealand in the Sixties, people in Auckland used 40 different phone exchanges that each had different emergency numbers – not exactly time-efficient.

Source: The Telegraph