When Scrooged came out in 1988, the FCC had not yet defined the fake 555-01xx range of telephone numbers for movies and advertisements. This telephone number must have connected to someone back then. Perhaps they had Mr. Cross’s office message or something? Anyway, today 12/19/2022, it is currently listed in CNAM as a payphone. If any of you can get it, I’d be interested in hosting it. I know it’s a long shot, but did anyone reading this call it back then?
CNAM: PAYPHONE:NONE LRN: 12126749565 State: NY Ratecenter: NWYRCYZN01 CLLI: NYCMNY13DS0 LATA: 132 OCN: 9104 Company: VERIZON NEW YORK, INC. Prefix_Type: RBOC
I hate spoilers – no matter how minor. No spoilers here. But if you are planning to watch the show, don’t read this yet.
I’m a huge fan of telephony Easter eggs, and I’m finding them more and more. The old ‘555’ numbers are so jarring and cheesy, and telephone services are so inexpensive nowadays, that I think movie/TV studios are investing in real telephone services to compliment their shows. As I mentioned in previous posts here and here, I found real telephone numbers in Reacher, Don’t Look Up, Better Call Saul, and now Stranger Things Season 4!
And I’m not much of a TV viewer – these are just from the shows I have watched. Have you noticed others? Please let me know!
Easter Egg 1 – Surfer Boy Pizza
Anyway, in Stranger Things, at one point we see this coupon:
That telephone number in the ad, 805-45-PIZZA, is a valid telephone number 805-457-4992. This telephone number also appears on the side of the Surfer Boy Pizza van. At first I had two concerns. One was area code 805. I was afraid it was “new” but it’s okay, it was assigned in 1957 when 213 split in Southern California (the Ventura/Santa Barbara area). I was also afraid the ‘Z’ wasn’t an official letter on the telephone in 1980s, but again, that was okay also. Back in the old days, the Q and X were not on telephones (the numbers 2-9 corresponded with 24 letters of the alphabet). They also made sure the second digit of the prefix was a valid digit 2-9, which was a rule in the 80s. Well done, Stranger Things Production Crew!
But what if we call it? Well, we are treated to Argyle answering the phone as he did in the show:
The public CNAM information for this number lists San Luis Obispo as the location, which fits with the show. The carrier is Onvoy – which is the carrier for all of the other Easter Eggs I’ve found so far. Is this Twilio?
Information about number 18054574992: CNAM: SAN LUIS OBS CA LRN: 18058170993 State: CA Ratecenter: SNLUSOBSPO CLLI: SNLOCA01XFX LATA: 740 OCN: 649C Company: ONVOY, LLC – CA Prefix_Type: CLEC
Easter Egg 2 – Nina’s Digits
At one point in the show, our heroes discover a telephone number. It is revealed on the screen – super obvious we should see it.
It was also spoken out loud and we could watch the fingers punch it out on the phone. It’s a Washington DC telephone number, 202-968-6161. When you call this, you hear some pseudo-modem tones. It’s not really a modem, but close enough for us to think of computers. The recording repeats a few times and eventually hangs up after about two minutes.
Again, the show’s producer’s obtained a telephone number that was valid in the 1980s. This was Washington DC’s telephone number in the 1980s, and the second digit of the prefix is 2-9. I tried to find a reason for the 6161, but nothing is popping out. There is a White House recording of LBJ numbered 6161, but it doesn’t seem related. It looks like a ‘cool’ number though. If I were searching for available numbers for my TV show’s Easter Egg, I probably would have picked it also. Netflix producers – if you care to share the story?
The public CNAM for this number lists Washington DC and again, Onvoy.
Information about number 12029686161: CNAM: NINA LRN: 15713500993 State: VA Ratecenter: WSNGTNZN19 CLLI: VINNVACBDS0 LATA: 236 OCN: 138E Company: ONVOY, LLC – VA Prefix_Type: CLEC
As always, if you know of Telephony Easter Eggs please let me know! I love this trend of using non-555 numbers in these big budget productions.
And to repeat my earlier offer – if any of you want to make a responsive chat-bot of your show’s characters, I am happy to host it at the Jolly Roger Telephone Company. I can add a whole new level of interaction between your viewers and your production.
All telephone enthusiasts probably have an internal list of “Telephone Songs”. I keep such a list in my notes somewhere and have always planned to start a post for all of us to keep updated. There are tons of songs that mention the telephone, but we probably have an “I know it when I see it” attitude about telephone songs.
Anyway, imagine my excitement when I found these two posts from historiatelefonia.com. I took Spanish in High School, and somehow I found @historiatelefon on Twitter. I can muddle through the posts and always enjoy the photos. Anyway, here’s a blog posting about telefono en la musica. Many of these are non-English so it was a thrill to find them:
The winner for best telecom Easter egg in a show is – Reacher!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m always on the lookout for real telephone numbers in TV shows and movies. So I was delighted to find five telephony Easter Eggs in the new show “Reacher” on Amazon.
At one point, the police detective holds up a scrap of paper with a real telephone number on it. Of course I paused and called it right away.
I was treated to someone’s voicemail. I was asked to leave a message, but there was no beep and the call hung up. Sure enough – in the next scene we found out who this was, but it allowed us to be one step ahead of the investigation!
Much later, we saw the rest of the note, which contained three more valid numbers!
Each of these numbers ties into the story. Two of them are voiced by characters that never actually make an appearance in the show. Do they get credit for appearing in Reacher? There’s no mention in IMDB.
And finally at the end, we get a tender scene with a telephone number hand-off. This one, like the others, is tantalizingly obviously supposed to be called by us, the viewer.
This time I waited until the end of the show before calling it, and it was like a sweet post-credit scene. Well done, Amazon!
If Amazon changes these scenes, or if they’ve disconnected the numbers by the time you read this, or if you are not in the US and do not want to incur international telecom fees, here is the audio associated with each of these numbers:
The “rate centers” of the telephone numbers match the story line, so someone knew what they were doing. I checked the callerid name for these numbers, and three of them say “SKYDANCE”, which is the name of the production company for Reacher. It appears that Skydance has a great telecommunications consultant on this! Whoever you are, we appreciate you!
On an interesting side note, Amazon has recently released a telecommunications product called Amazon Connect for call centers. From the information I could find, I don’t think these numbers are part of Amazon connect. So Skydance Media is paying some monthly fee to host these numbers somewhere. Hopefully indefinitely.
The carrier associated with three of these numbers match the carrier for the telephone number in Don’t Look Up – ONVOY LLC. It could be Onvoy is a partner of Twilio. Peerless is the carrier for the remaining two. They are also a large business-to-business carrier and likely a partner with Twilio. I only mention Twilio because they’re the go-to place for telephone number hosting. But the telecom team at Skydance could be hosting it themselves – perhaps using this as another point of engagement with their productions. I sure hope so! And perhaps they should let people leave messages so we could express our appreciation!
So, to the Skydance telecom team – we salute you! I’m sure there’s a great story behind this. I’d love to hear it if you’re able to talk about it. If you’re a big telecom geek like me, you’re hoping someone noticed these hidden gems and you’re occasionally searching Google for mention of them. Please respond! We’ve noticed and we’re huge fans!
For reference, and to help the Skydance team find this posting, here’s the public North American Numbering Plan information for these five numbers as of 2022-02-13:
Information about number 12294743308:
Company: ONVOY, LLC – GA
Information about number 16465685111:
Company: PEERLESS NETWORK OF NEW YORK,
Information about number 19016540115:
Company: PEERLESS NETWORK OF TENNESSEE,
Information about number 16093372601:
CNAM: TRENTON NJ
Company: ONVOY, LLC – NJ
Information about number 12297858132:
CNAM: MOULTRIE GA
Company: ONVOY, LLC – GA
Note – this is a re-posting of an identical blog post on jollyrogertelephone.com, and LinkedIn. But I wanted to mention a couple more that I recently discovered, so I’ll use this blog posting here to update regularly as I found them – and hopefully to engage with you as you discover them too!
Whenever I watch a movie, I’m always on the lookout for telephone numbers.
By now, I think we all know the 555 prefix is used for fake Hollywood numbers. I learned recently that not all 555 numbers are available for fake usage. Some of you may remember you could call information in another area by dialing NPA-555-1212, so Los Angeles was 213-555-1212, New York 212-555-1212, etc. But in the last 20 years or so, all 411 is pretty much nationwide, and with smartphones, who uses 411 anymore anyway? According to ATIS (the authority in this matter), only 555-0100 through 0199 are reserved for “entertainment and advertising purposes”. The rest of the numbers (other than 555-1212) are reserved for future use. The intention is for a 555-XXXX number to route to the same place regardless of areacode. This gives the industry tremendous flexibility someday to have a nationwide 7-digit telephone number. Although all the telephone companies will have to comply somehow. And the whole industry is moving towards 10-digit dialing anyway.
But someday perhaps this Ghostbusters telephone number will work nation-wide.
Ghostbusters – We’re ready to believe you!
Ghostbusters was made prior to the guidelines set in 1994 to use 555-0100 through 555-0199. This is how we know Veronica Mars was made after 1994. In that show, telephone numbers are displayed frequently, and all are in the allowed range of 555-01xx.
Veronica Mars phones
For the longest time, it was common for telephone system administrators to block calls to 555-XXXX or XXX-555-XXXX. You typically didn’t want your users dialing long-distance to “information”, and XXX-555-1212 was the only valid number. I remember sometime in 2013 or so, I got a call from a manager because he couldn’t call his BMW dealer. It turns out the dealer had an 800-555-XXXX number, which I found interesting. So I had to program the telephone system to allow calls to all of the tollfree area codes (800, 888, 877, etc.) with the 555 prefix. If you manage a telephone system, you probably had to do this also (or you will eventually – you might want to check).
Anyway, back to Hollywood telephone Easter Eggs. I recently saw this “hotline” number in the movie Don’t Look Up.
Don’t Look Up – BASH Hotline
Of course, I immediately paused the movie and called the number (I recommend you finish the movie before doing this), and discovered a delightful series of hold announcements to compliment the movie. This is not something we could do back when we saw movies in the theater, but it’s fun to do it when streaming movies in our homes or on our devices. I recommend you call the number so the show’s producers can track engagement. But if the number is dead, here is the audio. It ends with a very convincing disconnect message at 15 minutes. I don’t know where they got it, but it sounds Genuine Telco.
You’ll notice this is NOT a tollfree number. The IMDB trivia mentions a different hotline number with a tollfree number that routes to an adult chat line service. I’m not sure how this was allowed to happen – Netflix made a similar mistake with the Squid Game when a real telephone number appeared in a scene. But in Don’t Look Up, they apparently procured a telephone number and edited the scene by the time I saw it, otherwise I would have called that chat line also! The new number, a vanity number ending in COMET, fits nicely with the tone of the movie. And the telephone announcements are perfect as well. This must have been rushed, or else they would have included it originally, yes? I noticed they got the same voice talent they used in the movie. The “BASH Narrator” is Liev Schreiber, according to IMDB. What fun to have him record a bunch of goofy on-hold announcements for a fake call center.
And, as an Easter Egg within an Easter Egg, the rate center for 254-632-6638 is Waco, TX, home of the Waco Siege. If you’ve seen the movie, I think that was intentional.
Speaking of more fake numbers, apparently, the Baby Sitter’s Club mentioned a real number intentionally as well. Alas, when I call it now, I just get a fast busy. This makes me wonder about the funding for these Easter Eggs. Does the marketing and promotions budget pay for these? And if so, is it temporary? These movies have a long shelf-life. I assume I will be able to watch the Baby Sitter’s Club many years from now. What happens if some unsuspecting subscriber is assigned that number in the future? Also, if the show is successful, there might be a considerable amount of inbound traffic. This can be a problem if the telephone number is hosted by a VoIP company that charges for inbound traffic (as most do). Don’t Look Up is in Netflix’s top 10 right now. I assume that telephone number is pretty busy. What happens when Marketing pulls the plug on the budget?
I seem to recall a scene in Fletch when Fletch is looking up some medical records of Alan Stanwyk and a telephone number could briefly be seen. I don’t know who has that number today. I wonder if anyone ever calls it? Fletch was made before the North American Numbering Plan Administration reserved fake numbers for movies. Although, Ghostbusters used 555, so I’m not sure why Fletch didn’t. I cannot seem to stream Fletch at the moment, so I cannot verify. I do have the DVD somewhere.
Although it’s not movie-related, I did want to mention my favorite telephony Easter Egg is from a game called Kentucky Route Zero. The game was published in five “episodes”. At one point, the developer, Cardboard Computers, published an “interlude” to the game with a telephone number of 270-301-5797. The CNAM says Gracey, KY but the ratecenter for 270-301 is Madison. Regardless, this telephone number connects you to the most amazing IVR I’ve ever heard. It DEFINITELY fits the mood of the game. The voice and content are absolutely perfect. I applaud the creative team involved in this. If you call it, you’ll understand why I have not provided audio. At some point, perhaps I’ll try to crawl this IVR and record it, but I have not tried. I believe it was set up in 2013 or so, and at the time I write this in early 2022, it is still active. I hope the developers never pull it down. But call it now just in case.
Kentucky Route Zero – Bureau of Secret Tourism
But back to movies…
And, if you are a child of the 80s like me, you may remember that telephone numbers featured prominently in Wargames. In one scene, David Lightman speaks with an operator and requests the local prefixes for Sunnyvale, CA. He then sets up a wardialer to call every number in that area. For this case, the writers could not just use the single prefix of ‘555’. So they fudged the area code when displaying the wardialer at work. The real area code for Sunnyvale, CA was 408 in 1983. But the screenshots show area code 311, which is an invalid code and impossible to call.
Wargames – Impossible area code 311
I’m not sure what the guidelines would be today if a movie needed to show a long list of non-555 telephone numbers. Probably something similar to this – using an invalid area code. For now, area codes cannot start with 0 or 1, nor end in 11. Prior to 1995, the middle digit had to be a 0 or 1, but this is no longer the case. So if Hollywood needs to show fake telephone numbers and wants to avoid the jarringly fake 555, then invalid area codes are the way to go.
But I love the approach that Don’t Look Up has taken – why not hide an Easter Egg in your movie?
So Hollywood – I’d like to make an offer. At the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, we have an extensive inventory of telephone numbers and access to many more. If you’re considering including a telephony Easter Egg in your show or movie, please let me help! Most of our numbers include unlimited inbound calls. Or, if you want a vanity number, we can find one and port it into our network. The rules have changed over the years for telephone number formats, so if you’re making a period piece, I can help you find a telephone number that fits the time. And I can make an AI robot of anyone in your cast of the movie, so your viewers could call into the number and speak with a character from your movie. In the case of Don’t Look Up, callers could speak with President Orlean, or Dr. Randall Mindy, or perhaps funniest of all, Jason Orlean. And as a lover of telecommunications, I will take good care of these numbers and the associated robots as a museum curator takes care of a beloved collection. Stop using the boring and obvious 555 prefix! Let’s hide some Easter Eggs and engage with your audience!
In the meantime, please let me know if you remember or notice any telephony-related Easter Eggs as you watch these shows! Also, for those of you outside the US, what does your entertainment industry do for fake telephone numbers?
Thank you all!
Update 2/13/2022 – The Italian Job
I’m a fan of heist movies, so I’m not sure how I missed The Italian Job for so many years. But shortly after writing this I saw a tollfree 555 number on the NetCom van. As I mentioned above, the npa/nxx of 800-555 is actually assigned, so compliance is important. Here we see 800-555-0199. I remember an internet service provider in the 90s called Netcom. I guess the name was available for use in this movie?
The Italian Job – NetCom van
The winner for best telecom Easter egg in a show is – Reacher!
A while back, I posted a “Sigma Cookbook” with some sample Sigma code for the Avaya Aura SBC. Recently a reader told me about a document written by John Waber at ConvergeOne called “Super Sigma Scripting” I had the pleasure of corresponding with John who gave me permission to post his document. I will copy/paste some of the text for easy Google indexing. But click this link for the actual document.
Thank you John! This is great stuff!
And good luck to all of you. I am now immersed full-time in the world of Cisco, but if your job is anything like mine, in September 2021, you are dealing with capacity, routing, and remote workforce issues due to COVID-19. This has been a chance for all of us in telecom to step up and help our customers, employers, and colleagues communicate through our favorite network – the PSTN!
Thanks all and good luck! – Roger
Here are some excerpts from the document (for the Google bots!)
Having the ability to create a script that performs sophisticated manipulation of SIP and SDP messages is a super power of Avaya’s Session Border Controller Enterprise (SBCE). Signaling Manipulation (SigMa) scripting gets its power by borrowing concepts from Regular Expressions (RegEx), a sophisticated pattern matching tool invented in the 1950s.
This guide begins with an overview of SigMa and finishes with examples that illustrate using Avaya’s proprietary SigMa scripts to solve common compatibility issues. SigMa is granular enough to work its magic on just Requests, just Responses, or both types of messages. It is designed to manipulate Session Description Protocol (SDP) as well.
The script can be created externally as a regular text file using a utility like WordPad and imported in the Signaling Manipulation screen. Alternatively, the script can be written directly in the SBCE using the embedded Sigma Editor
I just found this letter in our storage unit. When I was 22 years old, I was hacking away at a telephone system at Sears in Antioch, CA while working as the building engineer. For some reason, I was really drawn to that ROLM telephone system and I somehow captured the attention of a local IBM rep. I think she was amused by my enthusiasm – by this time, I had “socially engineered” my way into getting the system password for the PBX. I had already performed a ton of optimizations to it, such as matching all telephone extensions to the department number, building speed-dials to all neighboring Sears stores, and replacing the old Automotive Department telephones with digital multi-line telephones. A few days after our meeting, she sent this letter to the store. She probably had no idea how influential it would be.
In this letter, this IBM account rep called me “innovative”. I was just 22 years old. I was just a kid with an affinity for that big orange telephone system. And this account rep with IBM, who I respected and admired, took the time to write this.
The confidence boost from this letter propelled me into a very rewarding career in telecommunications. I used it to score my next two jobs – one with a Northern Telecom reseller in 95, and the next with a large institutional investment firm in 97.
Over the next thirty years, I have attempted to boost others in the same way. We have no idea what letter of recommendation or encouragement will do for someone. I’m not sure a linked-in recommendation or “good job” comment on Facebook has the same impact today. I suppose today it’s all about the “likes” and the “shares”. But if you have a chance to help someone just starting out in life with a letter like this, I highly recommend it. You have no idea what a few written words of encouragement can do for someone.
Kim Beaudette, if you’re out there somewhere, I thank you for taking the time to write this note back in 1992. You changed my life.
This post will probably only help me. I don’t know if anyone out there is using Flowroute for SMS. And if you are, you’re probably not using Perl. So this is another post that is meant for my future self and maybe one other person on the Internet.
If you’re looking for SMS integration, I highly recommend Flowroute.
I am writing a game to be played at an upcoming TEDx event. The game is played simultaneously over voice and SMS and when the game is over, I wanted to allow players to send messages to each other – proxied through the game engine so the users do not know each other’s mobile numbers.
Naturally, I wanted to support Emojis (and any Unicode) through this messaging, but I was really struggling to get them to work. The messages would look like this:
It ended up being the way Perl was encoding JSON. Using the standard JSON encode command did not work:
my $json = encode_json \%data;
I then found a great article comparing Mojo::JSON and Cpanel::JSON::XS. It turns out I had the same problem with Mojo::JSON
my $json = Mojo::JSON::encode_json(\%data);
But then I tried Cpanel::JSON::XS and hooray!
my $json = Cpanel::JSON::XS->new()->encode(\%data);
Anyway, if you’re struggling with UTF-8 and Unicode and Emojis when it comes to messaging APIs, sometimes the JSON encoding package you use can make all the difference in the world!
Here is an interesting image being passed around the Internet. I haven’t found the source of this, but I assume it’s an advertisement during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. I also found the same image with Rocky Mountain Bell as the advertiser, so I assume the Bell System passed this around for any subsidiary to use.
This is a very interesting and surprisingly busy time for telephone engineers. In my day job, I work for a large healthcare company and we have been shifting traffic and installing a lot of hands-free devices so nurses do not have to touch the phone, thus saving gloves.Our team is hard at work to make sure the phones can handle the traffic. Perhaps you have similar stories of having to support a large mobile workforce?
When I first set up RogerThePhoneGuy.com, I had no idea how easy it was to host WordPress on my own site. Fast forward through a crazy era of JollyRogerTelephone.com, and I finally got around to migrating this site to my servers at Digital Ocean.
I have a lot to share with you about the last couple years. I also have some amazing scripts and tips for you. Oh, and I took a “telecom research trip” this summer and learned a lot of interesting stuff that I cannot find anywhere else on the Internet. I’m looking forward to sharing that with you too.
Anyway, I hope all of you are enjoying your telephone systems! I love them all and I hope you do too! Stay tuned and I look forward to interacting with you soon.