Thanks to the smartphone age, dialing “0” and “411” mean nothing on AT&T’s digital service

Thanks to the smartphone age, dialing “0” and “411” mean nothing on AT&T’s digital service

Want to Feel Older? Tell your grandchildren (or children if you’re young) that you used to have telephones that were wired into wall jacks. Tell them that you can’t keep your phone in your pants pocket and can’t take it with you wherever you go. And you might as well tell them that these phones had no screens and (horror of horrors) no TikTok! And if you need to get someone’s phone number, you can’t Google it or scroll through your contact list.

In the old days, to get a phone number, you had to dial 411 and talk to an operator. but AT&T (Via CNN) issued a statement saying that beginning this year, the operator for customers dialing “0” and “411” respectively using an AT&T phone (formerly U-Verse Voice) on a digital landline Help and Directory Support is not available.

AT&T ends 411 service for its digital phone service

Other companies that provide digital phone service, such as Verizon and T-Mobile, continue to offer these services for a fee. However, for those of us old enough to remember the good old days of wired home landline phone service, always remember that AT&T once had a monopoly on this service and provided directory assistance to the operators.
In its press release, AT&T wrote, “If you dial “0”, “00”, 411, NPA +555-1212, or 555-1212 on or after January 1, 2023, you may receive a message telling you that Operator and directory support cannot be reached.”
Interestingly, AT&T is telling its customers to look up phone numbers by replacing websites or apps with online services like Google, Bing or Yahoo. Another suggestion given by AT&T is to use a phone directory search engine. And, An AT&T spokesperson said, “Nearly all of these customers have Internet access to view this information.”

But this was not the case 100 years ago when the telephone operator was the person who connected calls, and passed on information. Josh Lauer, an associate professor of media studies at the University of New Hampshire, said, “The operator was the Internet before there was the Internet. There’s a wonderful cyclicality.” During the 20th century, AT&T provided callers with information such as sports scores, weather forecasts, time and date, election results, and bus schedules. Doesn’t it sound like Google?

“Information” was renamed “Directory Help” in 1968.

In her 2019 book about the history of telephone operators, Emma Goodman said of operators, “telephone users interpreted them as an efficient way to find out any information.” In those days, operators were asked the question of how to get a squirrel out of a house. In 1968, AT&T changed the name of the service from “Information” to “Directory Help”.

In a 1968 advertisement for AT&T, the company explained why it made the name change: “When it was called ‘Information,’ people kept calling it for the wrong reasons. Now we call it ‘Directory Help,’ In hopes that you’ll only call her for numbers you can’t find in the phone book.” In the 1970s, the number of operators in the system reached 420,000. By 2021, this figure had dropped to less than 4,000.

The development of automatic switchboards was the beginning of the end for operators as they no longer had to make long distance connections. Yet, even in the age of smartphones, people still call 411. In a 2019 report, the FCC said, “the use of 411 is not insignificant,” and estimated that 71 million calls were made to 411 annually. But even those whose livelihoods depend on the 411 know the writing is on the wall—and has been since the dawn of the smartphone age.

David McGarty, president of US Directory Assistance, says calls to operators have declined between 3% and 90% annually since they began in 1996. “We’re content to ride the Titanic,” says McGarty.

#smartphone #age #dialing #ATampTs #digital #service

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