State Area codes

Whether you are calling a friend down the street or a business in a different state, you’ll need a full phone number which includes a three digit area code. The US is broken up into regions that correspond with dialing areas, called area codes. Some states have just 1 or 2 area codes and some have dozens!

Below is a list of all US area codes. Click on a state below to see which cities and towns belong to that area code.

How and Why Area Codes Were Created

In the beginning the phone system was dependent on human operators. Mostly women worked as operators and directed calls to the desired destinations. At the time, phone numbers were made up of numbers and letters, more like an alphanumeric address. They were named after the particular phone exchange of an area. With spoken phone directions there was always the risk of misunderstanding the number. Consequently, emphasis was on minimizing the risks and coming up with a new and more sophisticated system. 

The system changed in the mid-20th century when the United States telephone network grew. The executives at the Bell System introduced a new way of dialing the phone that was more efficient. Area codes were given as routing codes to operators in 1947.

On November 10, 1951, the first long distance, direct call was made by Englewood Mayor M. Leslie Denning to Frank Osborn, the mayor of Alameda, California. Things evolved gradually and in 1955, a list of exchange names was given that had standardized abbreviations consisting of a few letters and numbers. 

Since phone networking was growing fast, it wasn’t possible to hire a lot of staff fast. A system that didn’t require people was needed. Automatic dialing was the answer to stop the dependency on operators. The all number system was created to simplify things. People didn’t embrace the change quickly because they were used to the old way of doing things. Eventually they had no choice but to adopt the new numbering system.

Over the years, area codes expanded and became more complex. Today, California has well over 30 area codes. New York City has 6. New York used to have only one area, which was 212, until 1984. The area code, 212, is considered a prestigious number. New Yorkers were disappointed to find out that in 2010, AT&T announced that the New York area code was entirely exhausted.

Oftentimes when areas have exhausted all the phone number combinations within that area code they will add an overlay. An overlay area code is just an additional area code that is given for a certain area that  follows the same county and or city boundaries. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Area Codes

When were area codes first used? 

The North American area code system was formulated in 1947, which divided North America into 86 numbering plan areas. The execution of the plan began in 1951.  New Jersey was the first one to get an area code which was 201. The idea was to facilitate direct dialing of long distance phone calls. The area code system introduced in larger cities in the 1940’s was fully implemented everywhere by the mid 60’s. 

Who created the three-digit area codes?

AT&T and Bell Laboratories started working on area codes in the 1940’s and it came into effect in 1947 as the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) in the United States and Canada.

How were the US area codes assigned?

When state area codes were assigned, the populated areas got lower digits, while those with less population received higher digits. At that time, rotary phones were used. To dial a number you had to put your finger on the hole of the digit and dial it clockwise till the end. Lower digits meant lower number of clicks. So, the idea behind this concept was that smaller digits took less time to dial which made dialing easier.  New York City being a populated city got 212 as an area code. Philadelphia was assigned 215. Likewise, Los Angeles got 213 and Chicago 312. Areas with less population got higher digits. An example is that of Salt Lake City which was given 801 area code.

What is a toll free number?

Toll free phone numbers are phone numbers that are free to connect from landlines. They have a distinct 3 digit number sequence where the typical area code is. Although the toll free number can come from anywhere in the United States and even Canada. 

Toll Free Number Area Codes 

800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833

How long will we use the current numbering plan?

There are speculations that in the near future the current numbering plan will have to be modified. The current one may be able to sustain only until 2038. In the future, NANPA may have to add one or two digits to each phone number. Thankfully, we don’t have rotary phones to dial any longer!