Thursday, October 23, 2008

Please Dial "3"

This month, the local, which is to say, national, which is to say *only*, landline telephone company, Vietnam Posts and Telecom (VNPT), announced a change in all landline phone numbers.  

In HCMC and Hanoi, all landline numbers now grow from 7 digits to 8 digits.  Plus the two digit city code.  In the outlying provinces that used to have 6 digit numbers, they also grow by one to 7 digits.  While provinces that got recently "upgraded" to 7 digits stay at 7.

For all of HCMC and Hanoi numbers, you now add a leading "3" to the old numbers to create the new 8 digit telephone number.    

A lot of business here, even more than in the US, is conducted via mobile phones.  With no wide acceptance of voicemail, folks carry multiple cell phones.  But still a lot of folks, like us for instance, will be affected by this new landline number change.

And this change is idiotic.  The more reasonable way to go about things is to add an area code "overlay," and not to simply lengthen numbers.  Split HCMC and Hanoi into new area codes, instead of just maintaining one city code.  My hometown has four new overlay area codes since the time of my childhood - and my childhood home number didn't change for 25 years until we sold the joint and moved.  

This new VNPT edict will just create business for the print shops, because now all our business literature - business cards, letterheads, envelopes, marketing materials, etc., etc. - will need to be redone.  Arrgghhh.

And given that short term memory is about 7+/- 2 digits*, as I remember from Psych 101, these new 8-digit phone numbers will start messing with your head.  Mobile numbers in Vietnam are at least 8 digits long, plus at least a two digit mobile provider code.  No one can remember these long assed numbers, that's why people buy and peddle "so dep" - pretty numbers.  One buys a nice and pretty mobile number just to have a number that can be remembered.  

After two years, I've finally been able to memorize my own mobile number!            

* this magical 7+/- 2 standard was put forth in a 1956 paper, since then, and my time in the lecture hall, new research has suggested that we can remember 2 seconds worth of spoken content.  For English speakers, this would be 7 plus or minus 2 digits, depending on how quickly one normally speaks.  For Chinese speakers, the number of digits recallable in short term memory is closer to 10, because the words are shorter.  My impression is that the Vietnamese speak slowly and they'll be closer to the 7+/-2 measure.     

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if they go back and reverse this new protocol in a few years. Then, and only then, they'll create a new area code. Seems like a temporary solution to me.