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UPDATED 10/15/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/15/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT

DIAL-A-WHATEVER

Once the telephone was used to place bets, call home to say you were going to be late, or order pizza. But in 1939 New York Telephone established a weather recording—the first number that reached not a person but a taped message. Now the inquisitive, troubled or lonely can dial for information about everything from the weather to the future. New York Telephone last year registered 248 million calls on its message numbers (8.7 million placed out-of-town), and most large cities have at least a few numbers for jokes, prayers, sports scores and kids' stories. Some are staffed by public service groups; others include commercials. The following examples would, of course, involve tolls for nonlocal callers:

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