Dear BT

You've just turned the simple act of dialling into

an even more

time-consuming chore. And what are we supposed to do with all these new numbers?

Or do we have to call you B1T now that you have stuck an extra digit into all our phone numbers? How was yesterday for you? Were your recorded messages kept busy telling people to redial whenever they tried to get through to someone more than a short walk away? Did anyone make an international call successfully? So that is where all your extra ones are coming from! You have taken them out of the 010 dialling code. Why didn't you tell us?

I am sure you are delighted with all those extra potential numbers you have given us, just as you were in 1990 when you split London into 071 and 081. Remember that? By making Londoners dial three more digits for half their calls, and everyone else dial one more digit for all their calls to London, you doubled the number of available phone numbers. Did you actually use any of those new numbers before making another change? You didn't, did you? The hairdresser at the top of our road has just been redecorated and had its sign changed from 01 to 071, and now you have flung in yet another digit.

I remember thinking at the time that adding three more digits ought potentially to increase the available phone numbers by a factor of 1,000. Just one more digit could have given us 10 times as many numbers. Now we have got 11 digits in our numbers which, even given the mandatory zero at the start, should allow not far short of 10 billion numbers. That is more than 200 numbers for everyone of speaking age in Britain. I know we all have to have two lines, a fax, a modem and a portable, but what precisely are we meant to do with the other 195?

Are you, I wonder, in cahoots with printers and pen and pencil makers? There are about 27 million active phone numbers in Britain, each of which probably appears, at a conservative estimate, in a couple of dozen people's address books. That is almost 650 million extra ones that have to be scribbled in. Counting three ones for each inch of pencil line, it adds up to 200 million inches of amendment in the nation's address books. That's over 3,000 miles! And when we include the extra ones in phone books, business cards, newspapers and other publications, I am sure the line would stretch to the moon.

About 90 million phone calls are made each day in Britain, at least half of which must be non-local. Are you aware of the time and energy consumed in dialling 45 million extra ones? It would take a reasonably brisk dialler 15 million seconds. That is almost six months! You have just lost us six man months every day. And how many fingers do you think would be worn to the bone by dialling 45 million ones?

Now tell me honestly: wasn't there a better way to do it?

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