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# No more Phone Numbers, rather Phone "Words"

There are 26 possible letters and only 10 digits
 (+1) [vote for, against]

The average short term memory capacity of a human is about 7 digits. Would that same memory also remember as many--or even more--letters instead? If those letters spell something--if only partially--then they will be far easier to remember.

There are a possible 10,000,001 phone numbers that are seven digits long--excuding those with 911 anywhere in them and the certain 555-xxxx numbers reserved for Hollywood. There are over 8 BILLION possible phone "words" that are 7 characters long. Since there are so many, people could easily incorporate real words into their phone "words."

This makes the lettering system more efficient and easier to remember than a number based system. Cell phones would not be as small or dialing would not be as simple, but maybe it's worth it.

 — Dignan, Feb 02 2003

Phone Spell http://www.phonespell.org/phoneSpell.html
You can do this right now with your current phone number, start here. [krelnik, Oct 04 2004]

946.387.551.073
 — Dignan, Feb 02 2003

Good point, [RT].
 — bristolz, Feb 02 2003

Had an interesting problem a few years back when Canada added more digits to their phone numbers than were supported by ISDN. See ya to all the backup links I had installed in that country until I could get equipment manufacturers to accommodate the change. Fortunately all the primary links also had analog dial backup. The consequences of this idea would be far worse. So at least do it with advance notice this time.
 — Shz, Feb 02 2003

Baked in the phone system from the beginning: ever heard the song "Pennsylvania 6-5000?"
 — krelnik, Feb 02 2003

 No. The idea is not a letter-for-number swap. It's to use letters instead of numbers, giving a choice of 26 possible characters in each position as opposed to the 10 that are possible using numbers. Under the existing system, A, B or C all equal "2". Under Dignan's system, they'll be separate values, as will every other letter.

At least that's my understanding of it.
 — waugsqueke, Feb 02 2003

when I was very young, our local exchange was Kelvin. I used to ask people to dial Jellystone 1674. my hero at the time was Yogi Bear.
 — po, Feb 02 2003

 One problem is that, while the numbers we know are in more or less universal use, the alphabet we favour here on the HB isn't. Another is that alphabets aren't really convenient for digital systems.

 Maybe the thing to do is to provide alphabetic dialing as an optional phone-level overlay. Your handset would just convert numbers to/from the local alphabet for the mnemonic advantage (seven digits = five letters, and the advantage would grow as numbers get larger). With the underlying real numbers preserved, the system would remain sensible and international. With the system optional and phones increasingly accommodating text-entry systems of some kind anyway, the keypad problem also becomes less important.

(If you're at a pay phone without a keypad and all you know is the alpha code, of course, you need to convert from base 26 to base 10 to get the number. Carry a calculator or be ready to call information.)
 — Monkfish, Feb 02 2003

 Hey, at least every number would have an interesting meaning that way.

 You really could have a system that would translate numbers into two ideograms and give you one dictionary meaning for each in your local language. Then you could key this in to dial.

You could use the same principle with a set dictionary of local words. Numbers become "frigid burlap", "tennis lobster". More trouble to key in, easier to remember. Could be popular phone software for surrealists. Creating an abridged standard numbered dictionary would be the tricky part.
 — Monkfish, Feb 02 2003

There used to be an idea here for telephone number domain name system, but I can't find it now.
 — waugsqueke, Feb 02 2003

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