555 (telephone number)
Telephone numbers with the prefix 555 are widely used for fictitious telephone numbers in North American television shows, films, video games, and other media, although real numbers do exist in this range.
Not all numbers that begin with 555 are fictional—for example, 555-1212 is one of the standard numbers for directory assistance throughout the United States and Canada. In fact, only 555-0100 through 555-0199 are now specifically reserved for fictional use - except for the 800 area code where only 800-555-0199 is reserved - the other numbers have been released for actual assignment.
Area code 555 in the North American Numbering Plan is reserved for Directory Assistance applications.
Fictional usage 
The phone companies began encouraging the producers of television shows and movies to use the 555 prefix for fictional telephone numbers, roughly during the 1960s. One of the earliest uses of a 555 number can be seen in Panic in Year Zero! (1962), with 555-2106. "Rossmore 555", mentioned in Eyes in the Night (1942), may be considered a precursor. In television shows made or set in the mid-1960s or earlier, "KLondike 5" or "KLamath 5" may be used, reflecting the old convention for telephone exchange names.
The number "2368" is a carryover from "EXchange 2368", which was common in old telephone advertisements. This represents "Exchange Central", with 2368 being the numeric version of "CENTral" in alphabetic dialing.
Before "555" or "KLondike-5" gained broad usage, and before mobile phones became commonplace, scriptwriters would sometimes invent fake exchanges starting with words like "QUincy" or "ZEbra", as the letters "Q" and "Z" were not used on the old dial phones.
Real uses of 555 numbers 
Throughout North America, 1-XXX-555-1212 will connect to directory assistance for the specified XXX area code, 1-800-555-1212 will connect to directory assistance for all 1-800 numbers and 1-800-555-1111 will connect to a Bell Canada operator.
In 1994 the North American Numbering Plan Administration began accepting applications for nationwide 555 numbers (outside the fictitious 555-01XX range). This would mean that a consumer from any area code could dial a seven-digit number such as 555-TAXI, and the owners of that number could connect the call to a local car service. However, according to a 2003 New York Times article, the desired functionality requires the cooperation of local phone authorities, and most phone companies have been reluctant to cooperate.
In 1996 Canadian telephone companies began promoting 555-1313 as "name that number", a pay-per-use reverse lookup which would give a subscriber name if the user entered an area code and a listed telephone number. The fifty-cent information number was initially heavily advertised in area codes +1-604 (BCTel), +1-416 (Bell Canada), +1-506 (NBTel), +1-902 (Maritime T&T) and +1-709 (Newfoundland Tel), but was soon forgotten once Internet sites began providing free reverse lookup tools.
Despite the fact that the service is virtually unavailable so far, most of the available 555 numbers have already been reserved.
In addition, 555 use is restricted only in North America. Neglecting this fact resulted in a lawsuit in the late 1980s: in his daily The Far Side panel, cartoonist Gary Larson included a graffiti of a 555 number by which prank calls could be made to Satan. When the panel was printed in Australia (where 555 was at the time a standard exchange), the owner of the 555 number became the subject of much harassment, and sued Larson and his syndicate for defamation. The suit was unsuccessful.
555 numbers are mentioned in the 1993 action film The Last Action Hero, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The character of Danny Madigan (played by Austin O'Brien) tries to convince Schwarzenegger's character that he is inside a movie by pointing out that 555 numbers give at most 9,999 possible telephone numbers (although there are technically 10,000 possible phone numbers, 0000-9999, 1212 is reserved for directory assistance), clearly not enough for all phone users in Los Angeles. Schwarzenegger's character replies that area codes would solve that problem and O'Brien's character drops the subject.
The practice of publishing specific numbers assigned for fictitious use gained demand after some telephone customers were flooded by errant dialers using the phone number popularized by Tommy Tutone with the song 867-5309/Jenny.
See also 
- The Phone Lady. "Telephone ads of the 1940's".
- Biederman, Marcia (2003-02-06). "Personal 555 Number Is Still Mostly Fiction". The New York Times.
- Meade, Peter (May 15, 1996). Canadian telco offers users a handy reverse directory. (British Columbia Telephone Co.). America's Network.
- "555 Line Numbers". NANP Administration.
- "Laughs and Litigation: Taking The Joke Too Far". Radio National. 2001-03-27. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
- "867-5309 is not Jenny". Lakeland (Florida) Ledger. May 16, 1982. p. 2A.
- http://www.gemplumbing.com/contact.html Gem Plumbing Inc. - Plumbing Contractor, Lincoln, Rhode Island.
- Adams, Cecil (1978-07-21). "Why do phone numbers in TV shows and movies all start with 555?". The Straight Dope.