November 24, 2011 | 7:00am
McQuade launched The Area Code Project as a celebration of community but also as a nod to the numbers' historical significance.
After World War II, he writes, the government introduced area codes to expedite long distance phone service. But those numbers also introduced a hierarchy of geographic importance; bigger cities had area codes that were lower on the rotary dial because they were easier to dial (as "big city" people deserved an easier dial).
The end products of McQuade's mission are physical and rooted in each of the 269 area codes that currently divide the United States; he's created posters, accessories, and "art ventures" as well as a collection of stories about people's area codes.
"Today, our identities and our communities, our stories, live within the (parenthetical) of the area code ... Ask someone from Los Angeles about the difference between 310 and 818. Ask a Manhattanite why he wants a 212. Have someone from Peoria tell you about 309. There's power in the pride of place," he writes. "What do those numbers represent?"