London Phone Codes "Change"

 by Martin Belam, 14 July 2004

Today's print Daily Mail screams that London is getting its umpteenth telephone code in so many years. Using digit graphics in case you don't get the point. As has been admirably pointed out by 2lmc amongst others, the London code hasn't changed - and Ofcom themselves were pretty clear about that being the case. It remains the three digits 020. When the code changed last time it was just that for convenience all the exchange numbers started with a 7 or an 8. This hasn't stopped nearly every media outlet this week trying to spin it into another code change nightmare for the capital - including the BBC with New telephone number for London, and the Independent with Phone change for London as 020 3 becomes third code. Mind you last time round the Guardian was hysterically reporting Dial 020 For Chaos and suggesting in the standfirst that "If you're not careful, you may call north Africa rather than north London". I've scoured the article and the only reference to mistaken international dialling in it is for the attention of people who dial out via Microsoft powered PCs who don't check what they are actually dialling. But why let obscure facts get in the way of a dramatically grabbing opening stanza?

Of course today the Mail in print was best placed to find a rent-a-quote businessman to complain that this will cause "confusion", and cost businesses money. The article bemoans the fact that some businesses could find themselves with some numbers starting 020 7 and some starting 020 3. So, come to think of it no different from when the code was 01 and capacity was so constrained that you didn't always have the same exchange number. Both Reckless Records and Note For Note where I used to work had two lines, and in both cases they were on completely different exchanges. I don't myself recall the terrible confusion.

However the oddest thing about reading the story in print in the Mail is that it differs radically from the online version - New numbers to cope with telephone demand - which has as its second paragraph "Ofcom stressed that there would be no change to existing numbers starting with 020 7 and 020 8." and no knee-jerk reaction. Surely The Mail online and in print can't have a different editorial policy?

Still I think the print Daily Mail has a point. Why start using a new digit after the 020 code when in fact Ofcom could increase capacity by 60% by issuing phone numbers in hexadecimal? Obviously everybody would have to by new telephony equipment to use the numbers, but at least it would save some businesses having to reprint their otherwise infinite stockpiles of branded stationary.

1 Comment

Shocking that in six years, no-one has picked up on the mis-spelling of "stationery".

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