Stumbling upon this entry
; on Boing Boing:
"FM used an 8 and the other office I'm in just changed their system to a 7 due to the San Mateo police department getting all upset (and I don't blame them) about how many false calls there are to their system. "
Which brings me back to a story of a time long ago..
In 95-96, the internets was just starting up, and AOL was the newest thing on the block. Personally, I actually got my first modem in 94 and was playing around with BBS and stuff. (remember those Consumer books with a listing in the back?)
In any case, at some point, we started getting random phone calls - once in a blue moon at first, but soon it appeared that a dam bursted somewhere. These weren't crank calls, as there is usually silence on the other line. *69 didn't get very far either - we even got one of those caller id things, at a time when these were not common at all (and they tacked on 10$ a month, those bastards). Many numbers were "unlisted", but even the ones were able to contact were generally unhelpful as they were nearly as confused (but nowhere as frustrated as we were). This was going on at maybe 5-10 calls a day for several months, filling the house with anger, paranoia, and many other stressed emotions..
Coming before the ubiquity of cell phones, I actually got a cell phone out of it, as it was the only "reliable" way to call anywhere. Ah.
In either case, if you didn't figure it out by now, here's the punchline. Apparently, our number was something like 921-xxxx, and another popular number was 21x-xxxx. It took a long time to figure it out, since people didn't realize they were doing it? Why not?
Because that 21x-xxxx number was an AOL number. During the peak of '96. I guess the only reason there weren't more calls was because well, the number never worked, so people probably tried other things eventually. The *69 and call backs generally didn't help as people weren't even calling people, so were mostly surprised we called back, as they didn't technically make calls. We eventually found some luck with a very patient guy that was going through what was happening and then realized it. AOL had one of the "debugging" options to use a 9 prefix to see if it worked. Wonderful.
We got a number change, and everything was peaceful again.. (well, as peaceful as a house with two teens can be..)