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The day France changed all of its phone numbers at once

No one living in France was exempt from the changes being made to the phone system.

All French phone numbers switched to new eight-digit format on the same day in 1985

All new numbers for France

36 years ago
Duration 1:54
In 1985, all French phone numbers changed on the same day. 1:54

No one was exempt from the changes being made to the French phone system.

So, no matter if you lived in Paris or Provence, you had to get used to dialling an eight-digit phone number.

"After five years and $1 billion of rethinking, reorganizing and rewiring, every French telephone number now has eight digits instead of seven," said the CBC's Don Murray, reporting from Paris on the changes being made.

The entire country switched to the new system on the same day — Oct. 25, 1985.

The French phone company had indicated "the change will add millions of new numbers" and would deal with a pending problem in Paris, which had nearly run out of seven-digit phone numbers.

50 million phone users

The phone company hoped making the switch to an eight-digit number over a weekend would make for less confusion when people went back to work on Monday. (The National/CBC Archives)

A weeks-long advertising campaign had sought to educate the public on the coming changes.

The switch to the new system had been made on a Friday, giving the phone company some time to prepare for the inevitable problems that would occur at the start of the next workweek.

"It's then that the phone company is hoping and praying that 50 million French phone users can't be wrong — all at once," Murray said.

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