Imaginary Numbers

I was watching some crappy film a while back when one of the characters was telling the other one an important phone number. It went something like “555-XXXX”. I decided, in a state of boredom, to look up that number and see it it really existed.

And I found out the following vastly interesting piece of trivia, that I had not been previously aware of: the prefix “555” on phone numbers in the US is reserved for “fictional use”.

Since the 70s, you see, telephone companies in the US have encouraged TV and films to use the “555” prefixes when they need a made-up number. This was, I assume, to avoid them giving an actual number to a “bad guy” in a movie and having a few thousand crazy Yanks ring up some poor farmer in Minnesota and pour abuse at him for “killing that poor Jodie Foster and cuttin’ her sweet arms off”.

These days however, according to the helpful souls over at Wikipedia, “only 555-0100 through 555-0199 are now specifically reserved for fictional use”. This gives the interesting situation where all of the films and TV shows made before about 10 years ago may now be using “fake” numbers that are now actually assigned to real people and businesses.

Here is a list of imaginary numbers, taken from TV and film. Nice to see that Mr. Burns from the Simpsons has 555-0001!

One more pointless fact: the company I work for has “555” as a prefix; my direct number is 08-555XXYYY. Does this make my job imaginary..?

/ paddy

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9 thoughts on “Imaginary Numbers

  1. i thought evvvvveryone knew that! i’ve known it since i was a toddler (i also learned to play chess at the age of four years)!
    but it took mathias about an hour to make me understand how itäs possible to call, for example, 555-dr phil. i think it’s a stupid system; why don’t just write out the numbers?!
    ‘king americans.

  2. Aye, in the states here, “555” is always fictional as a non-areacode prefix. In the 1980’s, Tommy Tutone recorded a song called “Jenny,” in whose chorus the phone number “867-5309” was repeated over and over. There was no area code included in the song, so phones all around the states started ringing. You can read about it at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/867-5309

    Not that the song was that good…

    Yeah, I’m an american (though I wish I were an:
    ameri-couldn’t-get-away-with-that-crap).

    But we are not all that bad–trust me; we’re just outnumbered by the…” ‘king a-holes.”

  3. I hope the “crappy film” to which you refer wasn’t Ghostbusters (see image). And I think it’s more about not publishing folks’ information on a massive scale rather than fear of Americans actually attempting to phone fictional characters…

  4. Yeah, they’ve been doing that for years, but I’ve always hated it. It takes you out of the story for a moment and reminds you that it’s fiction.
    I wonder if that’s why i stopped watching tv…

  5. Hedokatt: And where would I find out about it, in school? Yeah right…

    houseofyes: It’s OK, you can swear here, nobody cares.

    malcolm816: NO it was a REAL crappy film. Ghostbusters rules!

    JohnnyOlive: Does watching TV shows on the Internet count..?

  6. well, I don’t watch tv shows on the internet either… but as far as i’m concerned, if you can be entertained without being force-fed product information, then you’re in a better boat than any of the network addicts. It’s not the programming I don’t like, it’s the constant interruptions of the advertisements. If you don’t want your kids to have ADD, don’t let them stare at the TV like that!

  7. Luckily in Sweden we have public service TV – 2 channels without any advertising. And the amount of advertising in general is quite low on TV over here. I watch it very rarely, though – mostly I just waste my life reading stuff on the Internet.

  8. >malcolm816: NO it was a REAL crappy film. Ghostbusters rules!

    Thank god. Rare is the day that hears no utterance of a Ghostbusters quote in Brooklyn…

    “So be good, for goodness sake! Woah-oh! Somebody’s comin’…”

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