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In the United States, the most-populous cities, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago initially implemented dial service with telephone numbers consisting of three letters and four digits (3L-4N) according to a system developed by W. Most other major Canadian and US cities, such as Toronto and Atlanta, were converted from manual exchanges using four digits to a local 2L-4N numbering plan.

For example, in Montréal, ATwater 1234 was dialed as six pulls on the dial (AT1234) to send the digit sequence 281234.

Each central office served a maximum of 10,000 subscriber lines identified by the last four digits of the telephone number.

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In the United States, the demand for telephone service outpaced the scalability of the alphanumeric system and after introduction of area codes for direct-distance dialing, all-number calling became necessary.

Similar developments followed around the world, such as the British all-figure dialling. This system mapped the letter of the telephone number to the digits on the telephone dial.

In large cities with coexisting manual and dial areas, the numbering was generally standardized to one format.

For example, when the last manual exchange in San Francisco was converted to dial in 1953, the numbers had for several years been in the format of JUniper 6-5833. To call JUniper 6 from JUniper 4, the subscriber dialed the number and it was displayed to the B-board operator at JUniper 6, and that operator would complete the connection manually.

For example, the CHerry, FIllmore, ATwater, and KLondike exchanges might be converted to OXford 1, 3, 6, and 7.

Usually customers would keep the same station numbers.

In small towns with a single central office, local calls typically required dialing only four or five-digits at most, without using named exchanges.

A toll call required the assistance of an operator, who asked for the name of the town and the local station number.

The 2L-5N system became the North American standard, as customer-dialed long distance service came into use in the 1950s.

Several standard formats of telephone numbers, based on central office names, capitalized the leading letters that were dialed, for example: If the central office was known by a name, but no letters were dialed, it was common to capitalize only the first letter of the central office, e.g., Main 600W or Fairmont 33.

From the time of these first conversions to automated equipment in the 1920s, through the conversions of most manual equipment by the 1960s, it was necessary for telephone numbers to be represented uniformly across the nation.

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