In a brave attempt to ward off dementia, I have taken to doing the daily quiz in The Age each day. I’m rather disconcerted that I seem to hover around the 13-16 point score and that too many times I find that I do know the answer but just can’t quite recall it.
This morning, however, I was quite confident that I knew the answer to the question “The letters JKL appear on which number of a modern telephone?” I do recall that as a child, our telephone number was JL7117, later changing to 45 7117. (That was before they added a nine after the 5 to make it 4597117; then later again 94597117!) My maiden name was ‘Lumley’, and I felt rather proud of the fact that my phone number had my initials at the start of it. But hold on- that’s two numbers (4 and 5) and yet the question suggested that both these letters appeared on one number. And sure enough, looking at the phone on the wall of my kitchen this morning- there they were under 5.
Had they changed it perhaps? Or was I not only not remembering, but remembering incorrectly?? But no- thanks to Lord Wiki, I was right! Until the 1960s, the first one or two digits of each telephone number were alphabetical, and each letter represented a distinct number. Thus
- A = 1;
- B = 2;
- F = 3;
- J = 4;
- L = 5;
- M = 6;
- U = 7;
- W = 8;
- X = 9;
- Y = 0
My phone number was, indeed, JL 7117. And here’s a picture of the old dial, with the numbers and letters clearly shown.
Phew! Not completely doolally yet.