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Phone Numbers

What Is In A Phone Number?

Phone numbers are used to place a call to a telephone. So, there are actually two important aspects to this: 1) the phone that is being called and 2) the way in which the call is placed.

You can think of a telephone number as an instruction. How that instruction will be interpreted depends on the type of conventions that are being used between the entity sending the instructions (your phone) and the entity receiving those instructions (your telephone company). It actually is more complicated than that: some of those instructions may be forwarded to other entities (other telephone networks).

Consider the following example:

9 1 800 4241040

If you are an employee working in Canada or in the US, you might call this number from your office cubicle in spring to get some clarity around an income tax question. The toll free number belongs to the US Internal Revenue Service.

9

At this point you are talking to your company switchboard. You are telling the switchboard that you would like to make an outside call. Some switchboards will wait for you to enter the entire number before allowing you to proceed (or not!) while others will connect you to an available line right after you press the 9. For this example we will assume that the switchboard just gives you an outside line right away.

1

This single digit instructs the telephone company that you want to call a telephone in another area code and that the next thing to follow will be a three digit area code. Note that this is a "local" convention in the sense that this may look different in other parts of the world.

8
0
0

This is a toll free area code. The caller will not be billed long distance toll charges. The phone company now knows that the next seven digits will identify the "800" number being called. Actually, there now are several toll free area codes: 800, 866, 877, and 888. Telephone companies have ways by which their computers can find out which company actually handles a specific toll free number, but first they will need to know what 800 number you are actually calling.

4
2
4
1
0
4
0

This is the "800" number being called. Toll free numbers are especially magical in that calls may be sent to different destinations depending on the time of day or the physical location of the caller. It all depends on the company that provides that toll free service (there are many). In this example, the phone call might automatically be sent to the IRS office responsible for the part of the US from where the call originates.

In case you are not familiar with american tax regulations, the "1040" happens to be the number of federal income tax declaration every individual US tax payer has to submit. This is no coincidence - the last four digits of this free number will be easy to remember for the tax payers working on filling out their 1040s.

As you can see, what is in a phone number depends on how you are connected to the phone network. The numbers you dial first will change how remaining numbers are being interpreted.

Learn More About Phone Numbers

You can learn many more interesting facts about telephone numbers on our web site:

Last updated Tuesday December 11 2012
For more info contact Zeebar Technology Services, Inc..
(C) Copyright 1996-2006 by Helmut Hissen and Zeebar Technology Services, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Zeebar Technology Services, Inc