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Ringback numbers

Started by WesternElectricBen, January 04, 2013, 05:49:27 PM

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When I was was about 7, I watched the telephone man test our yellow 500 in our kitchen, dial "953" and then the last four digits of our phone number, and hang up to make it ring.  That was all I needed.  After he left, I dialed the number, hung up, and it rang.  Problem was, every time I hung up it rang. I couldn't make it stop. I remember crying because I "broke it". I found out you had to click the switch hook once and then hang up to make it stop.
Jim H.


I don't know where you are Jim but here in Qu├ębec the number was 41091 and We did not need to dial the four last digits of our phone number. We had just to compose the 41091 and hung the handset and a few seconds later the phone rang. Is like that knew if the phone was working or not. ;)


Where I grew up you dialed 571, waited for the dial tone, then dialed 8 and hung up. I think if you dialed 6 or 7 you would get the two short-ring cadence... the exchange was a 1XB if I recall correctly.

WAY back when I was in high school we had two pay phone booths side-by-side and one time I made them both ring simultaneously. That was fun.

The same 571 number also was a gateway to the dial speed test which I 'accidentally' discovered (it was revealed to me many years later, what this was); after the dial tone, you dialed 1-1 and waited for another dial tone, then dialed zero. Interesting thing on this number is that for a long time, the second and third dial tones were the old-style, non-precise tone.
You know you have either phonitis or phonosis when your favorite film is "Dial Comes to Town".


The only call back numbers I ever heard of were *69 for Touchtone and 1169 for rotary.  I imagine those numbers are for something entirely different, however.


It sounds like you're thinking of vertical service codes. *69 is call return. What they're talking about here are special numbers that (once party lines went away) were only for testing that particular line by a technician who was onsite.

I played around with them when I was young, but it for boring fast haha! I think here in Manitoba, they did away with them a long time ago, due to cell phones.


The ringback numbers I remember were provided so that folks on a party line had a way to call someone else on their party line.  You could not just pick up the phone and dial their number because the line would give you a busy signal since you, yourself, were on the line.

So they devised a way where you dialed a certain number that often times varied from place to place.  It was a three digit number followed by a 4th digit that represented the party you were trying to reach.  The phone company would give you a card that had the other families on your party line and the last number.

So, if I wanted to call the Jones', who are on my party line and their digit is 2, I would dial 1192 and hang up.  As I remember it, Jones' phone would then ring, but ours wouldn't.  After allowing a few seconds for them to answer, we would then pick up the phone and if they had answered, we carried out our conversations.

Later, when we got a private line, I remember using 1191 to get a ringback, so I guess we were considered to be party 1 on our own private line.
-Bill G


That's interesting! I only ever got to see a working party line when I was a kid, at my dad's friends farm.

I think the ringback number I used to mess around with, you had to dial 3 digits then your own number. Then you'd hear a continuous tone that was the same frequency as a busy signal. Then you'd hang up, and the phone would ring. I think you had to flash the hook to clear it.

Fast forward to today, and I'm working in the telco field. I remember in training they talked about other numbers for testing, but I'm probably one of the very few who actually uses them. They are the silent termination, silent switchman, 1 kHz tone, multi-tone, and sweep or something. Some locations these don't even work anymore. Probably because of the fancy test meters, and maybe that some remote switching centres aren't using the old Nortel DMS equipment anymore.


We shared a party line with my grandparents next door when I was growing up. I think it had originally been four parties and dwindled down to just two. We dialed 1543 to call Granny and she dialed 1534 to call us, so I guess we were the third and fourth parties on the line originally. We never had codes for anyone else that I recall, but I was much younger when it was four parties. It was an independent telco using AE phones and frequency ringers. You dialed the code and hung up.

Both phones rang, alternately, and when the ringing stopped, you knew the other party had picked up. It was a very crude interface and made about as much sense as a pay phone where you inserted the coins after the party answered. In both cases you risked them hanging up before you could talk. We knew to wait if nobody was on the line, but you had to work fast when calling Granny.  :)  This was way before telemarketing calls, but she would never wait long.

Later, in the first house I lived in by myself, which was served by a very small mom and pop Telephone Membership company, I found out you could simply dial your own phone number and hang up and it would ring the phone back until you answered. I tested many phones that way. It eventually stopped working before I moved, but I enjoyed it while it worked. That was 1984-85. I had three phones in that little house and it was like heaven.

Jim Stettler

The ring back number here used to be 99x-nnnn, with x = to a digit 1-0 and nnnn the last 4 digits of the line you are calling from.

Dial the # , flash the switchook and you would get a differ tone, then hang up, the phone would ring back.
There were other tests you could do with the number.

Jim S.
The 99X number varied by exchange.

You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.


When I was on a party line with my grandma, I would dial her number, dial 1, hang up, and then wait for the phone to quit ringing before picking up again.  I know it sounds strange to dial a single number, but that was how it was done in our area.  We were in the Southwestern Bell area.


UPDATE! (as the late. great Dennis Farina would intone), switched BB & phone supplier recently and the nice chap from the install company gave me the UK ringback code - it's (drumroll....) 17070! Naturally this picqued my curiousiy so I had to try it, first you get through to the BT recorded annoncement which speaks your line number back, then asks you press "1" and clear the line for a ringback, works like dream, even through my Pana 616!
"now this should take five minutes, where's me screwdriver went now..?"


Quote from: gpo706 on September 28, 2015, 12:54:28 PMand the nice chap from the install company gave me the UK ringback code - it's (drumroll....) 17070!


Quote from: twocvbloke on January 05, 2013, 10:38:20 AM
Quote from: gpo706 on January 05, 2013, 05:03:18 AM
174 used to be the GPO/BT ringback number, doubt it is now though

We have the engineer test number for BT, 17070, though some reports say it's either not working or it's had features stripped from it that used to be there, though at last check, Ringback still worked, but that was a year ago when I last tried... :D



I have a html file on my computer about phreaking
this is whats under Ringback numbers:

An 'x' means insert those numbers from the phone number from which you are calling. A '?' means that the number varies from switch to switch in the area, or changes from time to time. Try all possible combinations.

If the ringback for your NPA is not listed, try common ones such as 951-xxx-xxxx, 954, 957 and 958. Also, try using the numbers listed for other NPA's served by your telephone company.

Note: These geographic areas are for reference purposes only. Ringback numbers may vary from switch to switch within the same city.

NPA  Ringback number  Approximate Geographic area

---  ---------------  ---------------------------------------------

201  55?-xxxx         Hackensack/Jersey City/Newark/Paterson, NJ

202  958-xxxx         District of Columbia

203  99?-xxxx         CT

206  571-xxxx         WA

208  99xxx-xxxx       ID

213  1-95x-xxxx       Los Angeles, CA

215  811-xxxx         Philadelphia, PA

216  551-xxxx         Akron/Canton/Cleveland/Lorain/Youngstown, OH

219  571-xxx-xxxx     Gary/Hammond/Michigan City/Southbend, IN

219  777-xxx-xxxx     Gary/Hammond/Michigan City/Southbend, IN

301  579-xxxx         Hagerstown/Rockville, MD

301  958-xxxx         Hagerstown/Rockville, MD

303  99X-xxxx         Grand Junction, CO

304  998-xxxx         WV

305  999-xxxx         Ft. Lauderdale/Key West/Miami, FL

312  511-xxxx         Chicago, IL

312  511-xxx-xxxx     Chicago, IL

312  57?-xxxx         Chicago, IL

315  98x-xxxx         Syracuse/Utica, NY

317  777-xxxx         Indianapolis/Kokomo, IN

317  yyy-xxxx         Indianapolis/Kokomo, IN (y=3rd digit of phone number)

319  79x-xxxx         Davenport/Dubuque, Iowa

334  901-xxxx         Montgomery, AL

401  98?-xxxx         RI

404  450-xxxx         Atlanta, GA

407  988-xxxx         Orlando/West Palm Beach, FL

412  985-xxxx         Pittsburgh, PA

414  977-xxxx         Fond du Lac/Green Bay/Milwaukee/Racine, WI

414  978-xxxx         Fond du Lac/Green Bay/Milwaukee/Racine, WI

415  350-xxxx         San Francisco, CA

417  551-xxxx         Joplin/Springfield, MO

501  221-xxx-xxxx     AR

501  721-xxx-xxxx     AR

502  988              Frankfort/Louisville/Paducah/Shelbyville, KY

503  541-XXXX         OR

504  99x-xxxx         Baton Rouge/New Orleans, LA

504  9988776655       Baton Rouge/New Orleans, LA

505  59?-xxxx         New Mexico

512  95X-xxxx         Austin, TX

513  951-xxxx         Cincinnati/Dayton, OH

513  955-xxxx         Cincinnati/Dayton, OH

513  99?-xxxx         Cincinnati/Dayton, OH (X=0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 or 9)

516  660-xxx-xxxx     Hempstead/Long Island, NY

601  777-xxxx         MS

609  55?-xxxx         Atlantic City/Camden/Trenton/Vineland, NJ

610  811-xxxx         Allentown/Reading, PA

612  511              Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN

612  999-xxx-xxxx     Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN

614  998-xxxx         Columbus/Steubenville, OH

615  920-XXXX         Chatanooga/Knoxville/Nashville, TN

615  930-xxxx         Chatanooga/Knoxville/Nashville, TN

616  946-xxxx         Battle Creek/Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo, MI

619  331-xxxx         San Diego, CA

619  332-xxxx         San Diego, CA

703  958-xxxx         Alexandria/Arlington/Roanoke, VA

708  511-xxxx         Chicago/Elgin, IL

714  330?             Anaheim, CA (GTE)

714  33?-xxxx         Anaheim, CA (PacBell)

716  981-xxxx         Rochester, NY (Rochester Tel)

718  660-xxxx         Bronx/Brooklyn/Queens/Staten Island, NY

719  99x-xxxx         Colorado Springs/Leadville/Pueblo, CO

801  938-xxxx         Utah

801  939-xxxx         Utah

802  987-xxxx         Vermont

804  260              Charlottesville/Newport News/Norfolk/Richmond, VA

805  114              Bakersfield/Santa Barbara, CA

805  980-xxxx         Bakersfield/Santa Barbara, CA

810  951-xxx-xxxx     Pontiac/Southfield/Troy, MI

813  711              Ft. Meyers/St. Petersburg/Tampa, FL

817  971              Ft. Worth/Waco, TX (Flashhook, then 2#)

906  951-xxx-xxxx     Marquette/Sault Ste. Marie, MI

908  55?-xxxx         New Brunswick, NJ

908  953              New Brunswick, NJ

913  951-xxxx         Lawrence/Salina/Topeka, KS

914  660-xxxx-xxxx    Peekskill/Poughkeepsie/White Plains/Yonkers, NY


204  590-xxx-xxxx     Manitoba

416  57x-xxxx         Toronto, Ontario

416  99x-xxxx         Toronto, Ontario

416  999-xxx-xxxx     Toronto, Ontario

506  572+xxx-xxxx     New Brunswick

514  320-xxx-xxxx     Montreal, Quebec

519  999-xxx-xxxx     London, Ontario

613  999-xxx-xxxx     Ottawa, Ontario

705  999-xxx-xxxx     North Bay/Saulte Ste. Marie, Ontario

Australia:            +61 199

Brazil:               109 or 199

Holland:              99-xxxxxx

New Zealand:          137

Sweden:               0058

United Kingdom:       174 or 1744 or 175 or 0500-89-0011


Jim Stettler

In Colorado Springs, CO it used to be
719 99n-xxxx
with n being a digit between 0-9 and xxxx being the last 4 of the number you were calling from.

I used a memory dialer  to determine the 99n by exchange.

I programmed all the 99n prefixes into the dialer. I then would program the last 4 for the number I was dialing.
I kept the dialer in my car and wopuld try it out on friends telephones.

This was a quick and easy way to determine ring back by exchange.

I kept a list and verified that the exchange ring-back numbers were consistent.

Jim S.
You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.