Many years ago in 1995 I was involved in the PhONEday number change when UK telephone numbers had an additional one forcibly inserted into the dialing code so, for example, Reading went from being 0734 to 01734. The purpose of this was to allow for more capacity across the network as a whole.
My part in this was working for Yellow Pages where on the National Code Change project I had to write the code to update to do this insertion. For such a simple change you cannot believe how long it took to run – days. That’s what you get for running on an IDMSX database the smug buggers in the new media team who were running on Oracle were done in a matter of hours but that’s another story.
For some reason within a year it was deemed necessary to change the code for Reading again this time from 01734 to 0118. The reason was the same that there was insufficient capacity and this would resolve the issue. Why nobody had thought of this a year before has always puzzled me.
So we went through the whole exercise again but by this time I had moved on from Yellow Pages and I played no part in the actual switch over. However, I was there for the lead up and one thing that always bugged me and continues to do so now is how poorly the change was explained to the residents of Reading and leads to confusion to this day.
What happened was that the code was changed from 01734 to 0118 and a nine was inserted at the front of all existing numbers so 01734 123456 became 0118 912 3456. Unfortunately through a lack of publicity and that people assumed that code had to be five digits most people assumed that the code for Reading had become 01189 and for a while dialling local numbers without the code and the leading nien still worked. They don’t now.
The whole point of the change was to give greater capacity and that was achieved by effectively allocating ten codes to Reading 01180 to 01189 but initially only 0118 9 was used. Then the hospital and university became 0118 3 and now, as you can see from above, 0118 4 is being used.
The problem is that plenty of people still think that the code is 01189 and it isn’t difficult to find marketing material with 01189 on it. Does this matter? Not greatly. Anyone dialling the number without the code just won’t get connected and the company won’t get the business. But it just bugs me!