Where did telephone numbers go?

Back in the day telephone numbers represented a house. People in organisations or from domestic dwellings would call houses and then ask for the person to whom they wanted to speak. Today we call another’s mobile and almost disregard what number we are calling, or use any number of mobile apps which ignore the whole idea of telephone numbers such as WhatsApp.

But he main purpose of fixed line numbers today seems to have become finding out who called you, and ignoring them. This can be done from a mobile of course, but think about this:

  1. We used to have printed telephone directories when you wanted to call someone else’s house.
  2. Commercial organisations would list their names in a colourful printed directory, sometimes call the Yellow Pages (or blue or pink in other countries).
  3. We would find people through directories and contact them via their fixed line telephone number.


So the important points are that:

  • People/organisations would be discovered through a directory
  • Numbers represented the route to contact that person or organisation

Present day

Today, the main use for fixed lines numbers seems to be typing them into Google and trying to work out ‘who called me’ – the plethora of web sites which provide such services seems to indicate that it is a growth business!

Following the theory that the best new businesses are those which remove part of an established process (think Uber – remove the payment, think AirBnB – remove the property) then we have moved to the place that telephone numbers have all but disappeared, and which specific telephone number we have is almost irrelevant, since no-one dicovers us, nor contacts us anymore through the use of a string of digits.

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