I now live in Raanana, Israel. Where the telephone country code is +972 and the area code is 9. If you want to reach me by phone from the US, you are supposed to dial an international access code (e.g. 011), a country code (972), an area code (9) and finally my home number. A tedious and relatively expensive process.
This international dialing standards and the associated country/area codes have been in place for almost a century. But what was true several years ago is no longer true today. The Internet changed our phone service forever. All thanks to a technology called 'Voice over Internet Protocol' (or VoIP).
Shortly before we left Cupertino we switched our phone service to Vonage. They are an upstart phone company that uses VoIP technology. When you become a Vonage subscriber, you get a small box that connects to your local area network (LAN). It converts a regular Internet connection to a phone line that carries your personal phone number - in my case with a US area code of 408.
As soon as we arrived in Raanana, I connected the small Vonage box to the Internet and attached a phone to it. I picked up the phone and got a dial-tone. I can now dial any US number as if I were still in Cupertino. And when that phone rings, it is someone who dialed our 408 US home number... It works like magic!
I am sure that some of my fellow geeks out there are smiling now - of course VoIP technology works, what's the big deal? Well, it is a big deal when you experience it on a personal level. For almost twenty years the 408 area code was part of my identity. It meant I live in California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Having a 408 area code meant I live in the core of Silicon Valley, not in the 'periphery' like those who were forced to switch to a 650 area code, or even 510.
But now I live in Israel, and I have a 408 area code phone number. Am I living in a virtual Silicon Valley? Or should the age old association between an area code and a geographical area be simply tossed away?