Friday, March 06, 2009


I have long since lost count of all the phone numbers in my life. Every time I have moved we get a new number. Even when I haven't moved, we have had our area code changed on us more than once. When I first arrived in Chicago in 1989 there one area code (312) for the entire Chicagoland area. Now there are seven area codes (312,773,224,847,630,331 and 708) and I've had phone numbers in five of them.

There used to be talk of running out of phone numbers in the US between multiple-lines at home and work, fax machines, cell phones, etc. But not so much anymore. Why? Because of my daughter.

My daughter has a cell phone number. It could likely be the only phone number she ever has. She may never get a home phone. Fax machines, already becoming obsolete, will likely go the way of the typewriter by the time she grows up. I wouldn't be surprised if she never gets a separate office phone line either.

My daughter has an email address. It could also be her primary email for the rest of her life.

My daughter has a postal address. She has had many postal addresses and will have several more. Why not just have the USPS computers map some number (like her cell phone) to her current physical address which she can enter in a database. In a world where we are moving from identities pointing to people instead of locations, why should the old postal system be left behind?


  1. The advantage of the old postal system is that addresses having small (Hamming?) distance also have small physical distance. Hence an error may still result in the letter eventually reaching its intended destination.

  2. I suppose you could have the USPS do that if you didn't mind what they would charge for it.

    $4 postage anyone?

  3. If you have submitted a change of address application with usps which does free forwarding for a year based on the name, then at least for a year USPS system could point to the person. You could even do this online. If there is a new resident at your previous residence, USPS won't forward their mail to you.

    So at least temporary, in the limited sense, they do point to the person. Same address, different names on a letter, will get the letter delivered at different places.

    Similarly our internal microsoft mailing service also points to the person. If you send me a postal mail, you do not have to write my building and office number. The same is true with other large companies too.

  4. Although there is much less talk of running out of phone numbers, there is concern for running out of IP addresses, as individual devices can now have their own IPs, and a single individual can have several such items. With the upcoming rise of "ubiquitous computing," that "several" could easily turn into tens or even a few hundred. Hence IPv6.

    I think there's also a similar issue for MAC addresses.

  5. A GPS is already in many phones, doesn't that mean that addresses will become obselete. If one actually needs a letter or a package delivered, it should be easy to track one down where ever he is and deliver it personally.

  6. Off topic, but does anyone know what the story with the NSF stimulus funds is? Are they only going to fund proposals that were already submitted or will there be a new call for new proposals (that will create jobs)?

    For example, funding an award to pay for a profs travel + summer salary may help the prof, but it won't create a new jobs.