TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Enterprise and Zenith Numbers

Re: Enterprise and Zenith Numbers
Mon, 7 May 2007 19:54:12 EDT

In a message dated Sat, 5 May 2007 20:25:41 -0700, Al Gillis
<> writes:

> In the past there has been discussion here of ENterprise and ZEnith
> numbers, precursors to toll-free services. I've always thought those
> services were a thing of the past now, a vestige of the former
> incarnations of AT&T and the Bell System.

It's not clear why this service is being related to AT&T and the Bell
System. It was widely used in independent company offices, too. In
the early 1950s the Los Angeles telephone directories were rife with
Zenith numbers; that was when there were a great number of different
independent companies serving the Los Angeles basin, long before GTE
had gobbled up most or all of them.

> Well, today I received a new copy of the "official" 2007-2008 Nevada
> DOT state map. In moderately large type this document claims that to
> reach the State Highway Patrol "dial the Operator and ask for ZEnith
> 1-2000" (the 2000 issue of this map has the same instruction). I
> didn't dial this number (I didn't want to get mixed up with placing
> calls to emergency services just to chat!) so I have no clue how an
> Oregon Verizon (nee GTE) operator would handle this call. But I was
> pretty surprised to see ZEnith numbers still in service. Does anyone
> have other examples of these things still around? (Wikipedia claims
> the same number (ZE1-2000) reaches the California Highway Patrol and
> it provides some other ZEnith numbers, presumably still in service)

The instruction you quote specifically says to dial operator and ask
for the number, not to try to dial it.

> The Nevada map also recommends dialing *NHP from your cellular
> telephone to reach the State Patrol. I'm wondering if all cellular
> carriers observe that dialing shorthand or if only a couple of the
> larger services will complete those calls.

Most states I'm familiar with have a number to reach the highway
patrol or other agency. In Oklahoma it's *55 (goes back to the time
when states were blackmailed by the feds into setting a 55 mph speed
limit). I've seen a number posted on highway signs in Kansas and in
the official state map, but I don't remember what the number is.
(it's also of the form *000/)

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: If the telco operators are properly
> trained, they will either use their (at hand) 'flip chart' to look up
> dialing instructions or perhaps they will consult with Rate and Route
> (which is operated for all telcos by AT&T out of Morris, IL [operator
> would dial +815+161] to get details). While Zenith and Enterprise are
> no longer sold to customers, they are grandfathered to existing
> customers who have had the services for (obviously) many, many years.
> I am not sure about the way the number is parsed in your example. The
> number is _probably_ parsed 'Zenith 12000' rather than 'ZEnith 1-2000'
> All that Zenith and Enterprise did was serve as shorthand for 'place
> this as a collect call' and the digits following did two things: they
> served to tell _which subscriber_ had automatically authorized
> 'collect calls' and which 'calling band' (or geographic area) was
> entitled to make such 'collect calls'. Nevada Highway Patrol would be
> such a long-time subscriber. You may recall there is not normally a
> /Z/ on the standard USA telephone dial, thus no way to dial 'ZEnith'-
> anything ... Not even in Nevada ... :) Basically what happens is the
> operator dials some number, let's call it 702-xxx-xxxx and is not
> required to remain on the line asking the answering party if they
> will accept a collect call. Her flip chart or Rate/Route tells her
> the number to be dialed. I just love it when Wikipedia and these
> other know-nothings expound on telecom subjects, don't you? PAT]

In 1950 and 1951 I had a Enterprise number in Konawa, Oklahoma, for
customers in Wewoka, Oklahoma (the county seat) to call my business without
having to make a collect call. A collect call was perceived as cheap or
unreasonable by many callers who might want to do business with your business, and also
was a lot more hassle than just placing a call by number.

Konawa was a community dial office (three- and four-digit numbers)
with operator service provided out of Ada, Oklahoma. Wewoka was also
its own toll center. Both Ada and Wewoka were common battery manual.
All three exchanges were Bell.

Since Ada and Wewoka were different toll centers, a study had to be
made to determine whether facilities were adequated to handle the
traffic. (Remember, this was only a few years after the end of World
War II when there were still a lot of shortages of equipment and
facilifies in many places, and not just Bell.)

The study determined that facilities were available, and the service
was provided at a monthly fee, which was in addition to the calls.
The calls to the called customer at the station-to-station sent-paid

There was no question of "bands" then. The service was provided on a
exchange-by-exchange basis, and if you wanted to be able to call you
from another exchange, it was another service at the same monthly

The calling customer in Wewoka only had to pick up his phone and when
the operator answered "Number, please" give the number as "Enterprise
000." If the operator didn't know the translation, she would refer to
her keyshelf bulletin for the terminating number. Having never used
the service from Wewoka, I don't know what the customer would have
heard, but the operator would have plugged into an Ada trunk (and rung
on the trunk if it was not an automatic trunk) and when the inward
operator answered ask for "Konawa 234." The Ada operator would have
dialed that number (no doubt from a regular dial on her keyshelf) and
might or might not have watched the call supervision. The operator
might have split her key so the calling customer did not hear this
exchange; I don't know on this point.

Wes Leatherock

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: If I am not mistaken -- but my memory
is getting so awful these days -- 'Enterprise' was the name for Bell
System subscribers and 'Zenith' was the name for GTE/other subscribers
when used to _originate_ auto-collect calls (although subscribers
could and did call any number even if on some other telco.) In other
words, a national firm using that service might have both an Enterrise
number and a Zenith number, depending on _which_ subscribers (by telco
territory) were calling them. PAT]

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