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Remember in old movies, where somebody would pick up the telephone and say, "Operator, I need Oxford-50456"? Oxford was the name of the local telephone exchange (or Bell central office), represented on your telephone by its first two letters: OX, or 69. So, the modern number would be 695-0456. This is why in a particular area, most phone numbers historically began with the same two digits.

Telco employees still refer to central offices by these names. Incidentally, "Oxford" is the CO in downtown Vancouver, WA, where many phone numbers have the prefix "69x".

The Telephone EXchange Name Project, often abbreviated as TENP, has a comprehensive list of exchange names from all over the country. The site has the list of exchange names "approved" by Ma Bell; for example, for 23x, my own prefix, the names ADams, BElmont, BEverly, CEdar, CEnter, and CEntral are approved. It also lists the specific name used for most every individual exchange in the country—in the case of my home, Portland, the exchange is actually located on Belmont street, and thus has taken that name. Irregular names are also included, for example, the 23x prefix in Manhattan uses the name ADirondack.

The Telephone EXchange Name Project can be found on the web at   http://ourwebhome.com/TENP/TENproject.html

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