Last night we had The Glen Miller Story on TCM playing as we did some household chores. Figuring prominently in the film was the song "Pennsylvania 6-500." This song, of course, is a reference to the phone number of the Pennsylvania Hotel using the old telephone exchange system, where Miller played frequently.
Laura reminisced that her phone number while growing up was "Davenport" something or other. I don’t remember ever having a name as part of my phone number. We figured that the system began to phase out in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, which Wikipedia seems to confirm.
While the current numeric system is much more practical, the older system was descriptive and full of connotations. One could tell right away if someone lived in an upscale neighborhood by the prefix, in much the same was as an address functions today. The closest thing to this today is New Yorker’s obsession with the "212" area code. The change to a straight numerical system made many popular references irrelevant, or less meaningful to today’s world. In addition to the Miller song, the movie title "Butterfield 8" refered to the phone number exchanged by Elizabeth Taylor. It also let viewers know that the characters lived in the Upper East Side of Manhatten.
As we moved toward more dependence on GPS navigation, I wonder if street addresses won’t similarly be phased out in favor of a coordinate system, whether Lat/Long or something new. I can just here the children of today talking with their children – "I remember when addresses actually had the street name in them."