[Update: There’s now a post with excerpts from Phones Are for People.]
The Anti-Digit Dialing League was a short-lived movement that arose in 1962 and faded, it would seem, in 1964. Founded in San Francisco, the ADDL opposed “creeping numeralism” and fought a losing battle to preserve the use of telephone exchange names. I came across the group’s name while exploring the 1940 New York City telephone directories earlier this month. Among the ADDL’s members, the semanticist S.I. Hayakawa, a co-author of the group’s pamphlet manifesto Phones Are For People (1962). Here is what Hayakawa told Time (July 13, 1962):
“These people are systematically trying to destroy the use of memory. They tell you to ‘write it down,’ not memorize it. Try writing a telephone number down in a dark booth while groping for a pencil, searching in an obsolete phone book and gasping for breath. And all this in the name of efficiency! Engineers have a terrible intellectual weakness. ‘If it fits the machine,’ they say, ‘then it ought to fit people.’ This is something that bothers me very much: absentmindedness about people.”The same Time article reported that the Bloomington, Indiana chapter of the ADDL had turned to a mild form of sabotage:
Interpreting the area code and seven digits as one huge number, they place calls by saying, “Operator, give me S.I. Hayakawa at four billion, one hundred fifty-five million, eight hundred forty-two thousand, three hundred and one.” Growls Chapter Leader Frederick Litto, “If they want digits, we’ll give them digits.”I remember when grown-ups used to growl about automation and “computers.” I remember owning a button with the younger statement of those sentiments: “I am a human being: do not fold, spindle, or mutilate.” I salute the ADDL’s affection for exchange names. Sign me up.
Update: I have obtained a copy of Phones Are for People.
Other exchange name posts
[Befuddled at memory frenzies? You can pick an exchange name for your telephone number from a 1955 list of Bell Telephone’s recommended exchange names, available from The Telephone EXchange Name Project.]