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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 15:08 GMT
R.I.P. 192
192 Directory Enquiries; The impending death has been announced of 192, the widely recognised telephone number for directory enquiries.

After a short but profitable life, the monopoly on supplying directory enquiries held by BT (of which 192 was the figurehead), is coming to an end, aged 47.

Affection for 192 is undoubted, particularly from BT, which describes it as part "of the national consciousness". Its sister, 153 (international directories) shares its demise.

Friends will wonder if 192's fate had been foreseen when charges were introduced for the previously free service. In the early 1990s, BT started charging 25p per call; the current cost is 40p per call.

Yet despite the cost, 192 has been called an estimated 600 million times each year.

A man escaping flood waters
"Can you give me the number of a plumber?"
This led the industry regulator to ask whether BT was abusing its position, and to insist that the directory inquiry business be opened to competition. To ensure this happened, the regulator then decided to pull the plug on 192.

Friends will wonder what is the future now for 192's other siblings - 100 (the operator), 123 (speaking clock), and even 999 (emergency services which is under pressure from its US version, 911, and its Euro-rival, 112).

192 will leave several hundred offspring, to be known as 118 001, 118 002, 118 003 and nearly any number made from 118 plus three other digits.

These offspring will pick up where 192 left off, with the significant difference that a whole variety of companies will be able to run the services, not just BT.

Many will treasure the fond memories of dialling 192 and hearing the familiar refrain "Sorry sir, no-one of that name is listed" and of being cut off before being able to ask for a second number.

Others will fear that without their old friend 192, they won't know who to call to get the number for directory enquiries.

No flowers.

Add your tributes to 192 using the form below.

How are you spelling "tribute" sir?
Ben Harnwell, England

In 1987, I called 192 one evening to get a number for my cousin who lives up in Wigan. (I live in London) The operator said "address please". I told her. The operator then repeated the address to me and started to laugh. "What's so funny" I asked. "I know these people," she said. "I lived two doors down from them at one stage and judging by that Kiwi accent you must be their cousin Mike?"
Mike, England

Wasn't it John Major who said Britain was about long shadows, cricket, warm beer and 192? So long ol' friend, your very expensive service will be missed.
Lev, Manchester

Fond memories of deliberately annoying the operator for a laugh by saying "Tut - London of course!" when asked for which town the telephone number is in.
Chris Barnett

The tribute you requested is ex-directory.
Chris Hewitt

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