"A Simple, Bold Idea"
Governor Jeb Bush refferring to Area Code 321
on the First Day of Use, 1999 November 01

How I Got My Own Area Code
by Richard Cheshire, "The Cheshire Catalyst"

It seems simple now, but alot had to come together. I didn't go to the first Public Service Commission hearing. In fact, no one else went either, because there was very little publicity about it (though I had found out about it, but had to work that night). When the newspaper article hit the streets the next day, the public uproar was such that they held a second round of hearings. I didn't plan on going to that one at first, either. I had to work that night as well, but this time I decided to go up on the Internet, and do a little research.

As a Phone Phreak, one of the places I knew about was the home page of the North American Numbering Plan Administration <http://www.nanpa.com>. This organization based in Colorado is an Information Technologies division of Lockheed-Martin, the aerospace company.

There I found the link to the Area Code List which the Telecom Professionals have called Numbering Plan Areas, or NPA's since they were invented by the Bell System in 1947 for internal use. DDD, or Direct Digit Dialling was introduced to the public more than 10 years later. You know what I found, "201 New Jersey, 202 District of Columbia", and so forth. Some of the "blanks" (unused NPA's) had comments like "Easilly recognized code" for numbers like "433" and other numbers with double digits on the end. Many more numbers were marked "available for geographic relief". One such number so marked was the number 321.

I moved to Florida in 1987, where I lived in area code 305 at first. This was fine with me. I'd moved to Titusville FL, just outside the Kennedy Space Center, but most people up north pegged me to Miami because of the area code. Shortly after moving here, though, the Orlando area of East Central Florida changed to 407. I was too busy with the new job, and didn't really notice it much.

The job with the publishing company died in 1991, and I moved to the Tampa Bay area for 2 years. Titusville being a pretty "rural" town, it was good to get back to a Major Market again, with lots of ex-New Yorkers to make me feel at home (it even had a Pacifica radio station, so I could get "radical radio" again). the problem was, things didn't launch from Tampa, so I moved back to Titusville shortly after getting back from working ham radio communications in Homestead FL following Hurricane Andrew. Getting my Ham License was one of the first things I found time to do after moving down from New York City (I had to - I found out you can send data over ham radio).

I'd only accepted the job in Florida in the first place because of the Titusville location. I'd followed the space program since Sputnik went up in '58 when I was in elementary school. I'd travelled to Florida for launches. Now I was living here, and helping explain launches to visitors on launch day. I know they aren't going to send me up on a space mission, but I can help keep the public interested in the Space Program so that people will still be going into space, even if this aging old techno-hippy will never get there himself.

So, having found that the number 321 was "available for geographic relief", I openned up the word processor, and worked up my Testimony to present to the Public Service Commission hearing in Orlando. When I got to the City Council chamber where the hearing was held, I was scarred shitless that someone else had come up with this idea first. I shouldn't have worried. It took the combination of phone phreak and "space cadet" to find a relationship between the number 321 and the countdowns of Cape Canaveral. Once I pointed out this relationship to the Commissioners, though, everyone loved the idea! Commissioner Joe Garcia even said they loved to have this sort of "sugar coating" to put on the bad news that the area code will change for many people. Commission Chairman Julia Johnson told me later that they had asked NANPA for such a list as I had included in my testimony, and had been told it was "proprietary information", and not available for release to the commission. She was very surprised to find out it was on the Internet!

Governor Jeb Bush teleconferences the First Official Phone Call into Area Code 321 at the Kennedy Space Center. Cheshire is the bearded fellow in the first row
The order creating the 321 area code came out in December, but publicity on it wasn't generated until February, when I woke up to the local news guy on NPR's "Morning Edition" telling me that "Florida's newest area code will be the final 3 numbers that the astronauts hear before they blast off into space". That's when I knew I'd done it! The Wall Street Journal ran an article on February 26, with my name at the very top! OK, so it was Robert Osband that got the Area code.

When people ask The Cheshire Catalyst, "What's your real name?", I tell them "Richard Cheshire", and they go away happy. I started wrting under "The Cheshire Catalylst" with the TAP Newsletter in the 70's. When I started writing for Teleconnect magazine, "The Cheshire Catalyst" just wasn't going to cut it. I'd been "typoed" as "Richard Osband" in a Zine the week before, so "Richard Cheshire" was how I signed "real world" telecom articles.

Testifying at the Public Service Commission for a new area code was going to be pretty "high profile". I knew going in that it had to be with my real name. And then there was my Fantasy. From the git-go, I had fantasized on the Governor placing the First Official Phone Call into the 321 Area Code and having the call taken by the Director of the Kennedy Space Center. Originally I'd fantasized on being at the Governor's side as he placed the call. I finally came to my senses, and was at the side of the Deputy Director of the Space Center, along with Senior Staff and Contractor Excutives at the Space Center's teleconferencing room.

As it worked out, the Space Center Director was himself in Tallahassee to meet with the Speaker of the State House on November 1, 1999, and was with the Governor when he placed the call from the PSC's Hearing Room. The director also got to present the governor with a plaque with US and Florida flags on it which had been flown on the Space Shuttle. Publicity has been wild, having heard references to the Area code on "Regis and Cathy Lee", and even having the area code as the Final Jeopardy Answer. <http://SpaceyIdeas.Com/publicity/chronology.html#jeopardy>. No one ever contacted me, or offerred me plane fare to be on their program. as of this writing (late November '99).

No, I haven't gotten rich off this. There have been no bucks from it at all. I've hung out a "consulting shingle" at http://SpaceyIdeas.Com/, but no one has risen to the bait yet. After all, if I can put a "Space Spin" on the Area Code, what could I do for someone's product or marketing plan? And I admit that I have an agenda to promote the Space Program. People, young people especially, think that space is neat! Space excites people in ways that few things do. and space satellites are how much of the world's telecommunications move today.

I'm really happy and proud to have brought this area code to the Space Coast of Florida. And if you're going to be in Florida for a Space Shuttle Launch, look for me at Space View Park in Titusville. It's the front row for a launch if you haven't got a NASA Pass. http://spacelaunchnews.com/spaceview.html

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Also, see Cheshire's paper on the subject,

The author,
Richard Cheshire
 is a member of
The HTML Writers Guild

Return to The Cheshire Catalyst's Home Page.

Visit the 321 Area Code Chronology Page.

Last updated 99-11-23 23:09:49