"A Simple, Bold Idea"
|View the Chronology of Events that led up to the creation of Area Code 321|
|View Photos of the First Official Phone Call|
1999 November 01 placed by Governor Jeb Bush to the Kennedy Space Center
It's MY Area Code!
(But I Share.)
I asked for it,
As a Phone Phreak, one of the places I knew about was the home page of the North American Numbering Plan Administration <http://www.nanpa.com>. This organization, now based in Virginia, was based in Colorado at the time and then an Information Technologies division of Lockheed-Martin, the aerospace company.
There I found the link to the Area Code List which the Telecom Professionals have called Numbering Plan Areas, or NPA's since they were invented by the Bell System in 1947 for internal use. DDD, or Direct Digit Dialling was introduced to the public more than 10 years later. You know what I found, "201 New Jersey, 202 District of Columbia", and so forth. Some of the "blanks" (unused NPA's) had comments like "Easilly recognized code" for numbers like "433" and other numbers with double digits on the end. Many more numbers were marked "available for geographic relief". One such number so marked was the number 321.
I moved to Florida in 1987, where I lived in area code 305 at first. This was fine with me. I'd moved to Titusville FL, just outside the Kennedy Space Center, but most people up north pegged me to Miami because of the area code. Shortly after moving here, though, the Orlando area of East Central Florida changed to 407. I was too busy with the new job, and didn't really notice it much. Especially since I'd gone through the 212/718 split while living in New York City.
The job with the publishing company died in 1991, and I moved to the Tampa Bay area for 2 years. Titusville being a pretty "rural" town, it was good to get back to a Major Market again, with lots of ex-New Yorkers to make me feel at home (it even had a Pacifica radio station on FM, so I could hear "radical radio" again). the problem was, things didn't launch from Tampa, so I moved back to Titusville shortly after getting back from working ham radio communications in Homestead FL following Hurricane Andrew. Getting my Ham License was one of the first things I found time to do after moving down from New York City (I had to - I found out you can send data over ham radio).
I'd only accepted the job in Florida in the first place because of the Titusville location. I'd followed the space program since Sputnik went up in '57 when I was in elementary school. I'd travelled to Florida for launches. Now I was living here, and helping explain launches to visitors on launch day. I know they aren't going to send me up on a space mission, but I can help keep the public interested in the Space Program so that people will still be going into space, even if this aging old techno-hippy will never get there himself.
So, having found that the number 321 was "available for geographic relief", I openned up the word processor, and worked up my Testimony to present to the Public Service Commission hearing in Orlando. When I got to the City Council chamber where the hearing was held, I was scarred shitless that someone else had come up with this idea first. I shouldn't have worried. It took the combination of phone phreak and "space cadet" to find a relationship between the number 321 and the countdowns of Cape Canaveral. Once I pointed out this relationship to the Commissioners, though, everyone loved the idea! Commissioner Joe Garcia even said they loved to have this sort of "sugar coating" to put on the bad news that the area code will change for many people. Commission Chairman Julia Johnson told me later that they had asked NANPA for such a list as I had included in my testimony, and had been told it was "proprietary information", and not available for release to the commission. She was very surprised to find out it was on the Internet!
Testifying at the Public Service Commission for a new area code was going to be pretty "high profile". I knew going in that it had to be with my real name (and not my "hacker identity"). And then there was my Fantasy. From the git-go, I had fantasized on the Governor placing the First Official Phone Call into the 321 Area Code and having the call taken by the Director of the Kennedy Space Center. Originally I'd fantasized on being at the Governor's side as he placed the call. I finally came to my senses, and was at the side of the Deputy Director of the Space Center, along with Senior Staff and Contractor Excutives at the Space Center's teleconferencing room.
As it worked out, the Space Center Director was himself in Tallahassee to meet with the Speaker of the State House of Representatives on November 1, 1999, and was with the Governor when he placed the call from the PSC's Hearing Room. The director also got to present the governor with a plaque with US and Florida flags on it which had been flown on the Space Shuttle. Publicity has been wild, having heard references to the Area code on "Regis and Cathy Lee", and even having the area code as the Final Jeopardy Answer. <http://SpaceyIdeas.Com/publicity/chronology.html#jeopardy>. No one ever contacted me, or offerred me plane fare to be on their program. as of this writing (late November '99).
No, I haven't gotten rich off this. There have been no bucks from it at all. I've hung out a "consulting shingle" at http://SpaceyIdeas.Com/, but no one has risen to the bait yet. After all, if I can put a "Space Spin" on the Area Code, what could I do for someone's product or marketing plan? And I admit that I have an agenda to promote the Space Program. People, young people especially, think that space is "a pretty neat idea!" (a phrase taken from The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy). Space excites people in ways that few things do. and space satellites are how much of the world's telecommunications move today.
The one thing I did get from all this was my personal telephone number. Shortly after the PSC's Report and Order came out, I dialed a local telephone number, 543-8633, and got a recording. "The number you have reached at BellSouth Mobility is not currently in service. Please check the number and dial again, or ask your operaor for assistance". COOL! That was the best news I could have heard. I grabbed my Bag Phone, and headed down to Miracle City Mall and went right to the Bell South Mobility kiosk to speak to the little old lady there.I asked her if I could get that particular number put on my bag phone, so she called her people in Melborne FL to ask. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir", she told me after hanging up with Melbourne. That number is in a "hundred group" on a corporate rate. It's totally unavailable. Well, that was it then. Nothing more to be done, right? Well, maybe... I went home and got on the Internet. "Let's see now, BellSouthMobility.Com", and found their web site. It didn't take long to find out that Mark Feidler was the President of the company, but I needed his e-mail address. Hmm, a link marked "Press Room". Let me look around in there. I brought up a random Press Release and found what I was looking for - the format for an e-mail address. The Media Contact for this particular press release was FirstNAme_LastNAme@BSM.Com, I worked up an e-mail to Mark_Fielder@BSM.Com explaining that 321 was my Area Code (After all, I asked for it, they approved it, so didn't that mean it was mine? LOL), hit the send button, and looked at my watch. Darn! It was 6pm on a Friday afternoon. I can't possibly get a reply until Monday at the earliest, probably Tuesday. Sunday Afternoon, I was surprised to find a reply that said, "I'll get my people on it". He did, and they worked the miracle of Central Office Switch Programming so that my phone number to this day is 543-8633, but on November 1st, 1999 it went from Area Code 407 to 321-Liftoff. Yes, really I don't mind the phone calls at 3am Sunday mornings from engineering students at drunken parties who get the idea to try the number. They're usually surprised to find an individual has the number, and not some giant aerospace corporation. On days when they launch something from the Canaveral Spaceport, I get calls from people who think they're going to reach NASA. "I'm not NASA", I explain, "But the launch is still on for 3:43 pm", or whenever the launch is on for. I then text the number with the web address of my Launch Status Page, http://LaunchInfo.Com I'm really happy and proud to have brought this area code to the Space Coast of Florida. And if you're going to be in Florida for a Space Shuttle Launch, look for me at Space View Park in Titusville. It's the front row for a launch if you haven't got a NASA Pass.
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Also, see Cheshire's paper on the subject,
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Visit the 321 Area Code Chronology Page.
Last updated 99-11-23 23:09:49