2023 marks the 76th anniversary of the advent of telephone area codes in the United States!

Back in 1947, North America started out with 86 area codes--three of them assigned to Michigan.

via TelecomMichigan
via TelecomMichigan

Area code 517 was one of the originals. Anchored by Lansing, this code basically served the entire eastern half of the Lower Peninsula (including Bay City, Midland and Saginaw), except for the southeastern part of the state. Area code 313 served the Detroit metro area, as well as Flint and Port Huron. The western half of the state, including Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and the entire Upper Peninsula, began the area code era with 616.

By 1961, the 616 area code had experienced enough growth for the Upper Peninsula to break off and assume area code 906. That's still the area code for the entire U.P. today, but the 616 region has had to split a couple more times (more on that below).

The 517, 313, 616 and 906 area codes were sufficient for Michigan until the mid-1990s.

Population growth caused the need for southeastern Michigan's 313 area code to be split in 1993. Pretty much all of the 313 area code north of Detroit was changed to 810 instead. Detroit and areas to the south kept 313.

Being the same area code for major population centers like Oakland, Macomb and Genesee Counties (among others) proved to be too much for the new 810 area code. In 1997, Oakland County got its own 248 area code. Detroit had outgrown its 313 area code too, so Washtenaw and Monroe Counties were assigned 734, along with parts of southwestern Wayne County furthest from immediate Detroit.

By 1999, enough growth had occurred in Western Michigan to break the existing 616 area code in half. Grand Rapids and areas south would keep the 616, while Muskegon and northwestern areas of the Lower Peninsula would change to 231.

Until 2001, Mid-Michigan's original 517 area code had been untouched. It had been enough to supply Lansing, the Tri-Cities and its other assigned areas with an adequate amount of phone numbers. But as cell phones began to become more and more popular, the need for more available phone numbers in the 517 became undeniable. Areas north of Lansing took on 989 instead, while Lansing and areas south kept the original 517 code. 2001 was also the year that most of Macomb County broke off of the 810 area code and took on 586.

The Grand Rapids area held onto the 616 area code the following year, while Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and the rest of extreme southwestern Michigan became 269.

2002 was also the year that an overlay was used in Michigan for the first time. Instead of breaking an existing area code up and assigning a new area code to part of the affected region, now an area could be home to two area codes at the same time. Area code 947 was created as an overlay for Oakland County's existing 248, which also serves Livonia and Northville in Wayne County.

No new area codes have been introduced in Michigan in the past 20 years, but as needs are expected to change, don't be surprised some new ones down the line.

The 517 area code is projected to outgrow its allotment of available phone numbers by the end of the decade, according to Telecom Michigan. Will our area be split, or will we be assigned a new overlay? We'll have to wait and see.

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