Why, you young whippersnapper! Keypads? Dials? Faugh! When I was a girl, you had to thwack the cradle a few times and tell the operator where to switch you!
Actually, no, I'm not that old, but I do remember the rotary dial phone, as well as the trick that you could (still can, I guess) pulse the cradle button manually to dial a number.
But you left out one (probably trivial, but cool nonetheless) detail: those "two letters" you mention were called the "exchange", and were
actually leftover from the manual switching days, where
you'd tell the operator, "Essex Five Two Four Eight Oh, please."
Or "Olympic Two Nine Nine Eight Six." Or some such. And the phone
books listed them so: "OLympic 2-9986." In these days of cell and
pager numbers eating up the availables, so that new areacodes have
to be invented to keep up, not to mention the ability to pick your
own number so as to make a memorable text, this doesn't mean as much, but in those
days, your exchange was unique to your city and neighborhood. When you left the
neighborhood, you couldn't have the same exchange.
This moment of daily nostalgia brought to you by
- Muse (lifelong resident of the THornwall exchange)