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In small towns with a single central office, local calls typically required dialing only four or five-digits at most, without using named exchanges.

In the United States, the most-populous cities, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago initially implemented dial service with telephone numbers consisting of three letters and four digits (3L-4N) according to a system developed by W. Most other major Canadian and US cities, such as Toronto and Atlanta, were converted from manual exchanges using four digits to a local 2L-4N numbering plan.

For example, in Montréal, ATwater 1234 was dialed as six pulls on the dial (AT1234) to send the digit sequence 281234.

In the other direction, to call JUniper 4 from JUniper 6, the subscriber would lift the receiver and speak to the JUniper 4 operator who would in turn dial the JUniper 6 number.

During the 1950s, cities using six-digit numbers converted to seven-digit dialing.

The leading letters of a central office name were used as the leading components of the telephone number representation, so that each telephone number in an area was unique.

These letters were mapped to digits, which was indicated visibly on a dial telephone.On the number card of the telephone instrument, the name was typically shown in full, but only the significant letters to be dialed were capitalized, while the rest of the name was shown in lower case.Telephone exchange names were used in many countries, but were phased out for numeric systems by the 1960s.The panel switch was later, from the early 1920s through the 1930s, installed in large metropolitan areas in the Bell System.By the 1950s twenty cities were served by this type of office.Each central office served a maximum of 10,000 subscriber lines identified by the last four digits of the telephone number.

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