Dial Zero for Who?

by Colin Berkshire

When I grew up one of the things they taught me in school is that I could dial 0 to reach an Operator. And, an Operator could help me with anything. She could tell me the time, get me the fire department, or give me a telephone number. Any time I needed help all I needed to do was dial 0. Eventually 411 reached directory assistance, 211 reached the business office, 611 reached repair service, and 911 would reach emergency services.

When was the last time you dialed 0? For most people I think the answer may be “Never”.

I just dialed 0 on my cell phone and got a recording telling me for an emergency to call 911 and for customer service to call 611.

It’s pretty clear that we don’t use the 0 prefix anymore.

And thus it struck me that we have an easy way to expand the North America dialing plan. We could use the 0 prefix.

The simplest solution would be to introduce 4 digit area codes with a leading 0 so that we might have Area 1206 and 0206. Or, we could just have 10 digit numbers and 11 digit numbers with a leading 0.

Or, we could have a parallel transitional dialing system where we would dial 0 + XXXX-XXX-XXXX using the 0 prefix to indicate a 4 digit area code.

Anyway, we have this totally useful 0 prefix that is now unused and could be used for something great.

Let’s hope we don’t squander it on something bogus like we did for 811 calling underground cable locating service (like everybody needs to call that in an emergency all the time.)

When did you last dial 0?