Hello, Is This 555

I am familiar with the prefix telephone number ‘555’ being used as a fictional number in many movies and TV shows, at least in North America.

Exploring its origins is a rabbit hole of complications- something that hasn’t stopped me before, so why start now?

But let’s not get lost in the details. Instead, let’s focus on the exciting bits of the ‘555’ prefix’s history.

One of the early purposes was to permit a consumer from any area code to dial a 7-digit number, such as 555-TAXI, and be connected to a local supplier of that service. This service was only withdrawn in 2016, having been overtaken by more efficient technology.

In 1966, Canadian phone companies promoted 555-1313 as a paid service—an early form of reverse number lookup. The internet started providing the same service for free, so the paid service fell out of favour.

By the 1960s, phone companies started to promote using the prefix ‘555’ for fictional numbers. An early use of 555-3485 appeared in 1961 in ‘The Second Time Around.’

Only numbers 555-0100 through 555-0199 are solely reserved for fictional number use.

The ‘555’ exchange was not reserved in area codes used for toll-free numbers. This led to the video game, “The Last of Us,” accidentally including the number of a phone-sex business.

The number 555-2368 is a carry-over from a time (1940s) when words were used such as Exchange 2368. The phone number, 555-2368, is used in the opening credits of the TV series “The Rockford Files.” And in an episode of The Mod Squad.

The movie release of Bruce Almighty displayed 776-2323 as the number to call God, which led to calls in multiple area codes. The video release changed God’s number to the ‘555’ prefix.

Wilson Pickett’s 1966 song ‘634-5789’ caused many unwanted calls in different area codes to call phone customers. Many subscribers had to change their numbers. And on it goes.

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.

I was lucky enough during a trip to the Okanagan to indulge my interest in behind-the-scenes interest of movies and TV series. Hedley, BC, was the site of a made-for-TV series, The Andromeda Strain, on A&E (Arts and Entertainment Network). The front of the library was turned into a gas station with dressing of the set, including fishing lures hanging in the window. The gas pumps were prominent, and I inspected them closely. I could not tell they hadn’t been there forever. Beside the faux front, they had parked the tow truck beside the ‘library.’ On the driver’s side was the number to call if you needed a tow. Yup, ‘555-nnnn” I can’t recall the other digits.

Please give this a bit of a think. Have you noticed the use of the ‘555’ prefix for fictional numbers? Did you resist the urge to call it to see who answered?

My shout out to Wikipedia for their help. Wiki is ubiquitous, and I can forget they are a non-profit organization. I donate every year.

Photo by AI Request: Create an image of a telephone number showing the fictional 555 prefix on a movie set.

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