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Many jurisdictions require a person engaged in a call on a party line to end the call immediately if another party needs the line for an emergency.
One of the last manual telephone exchanges with party lines in Australia was closed down in 1986 in the township of Collarenebri, where most town residents had a telephone number of only three digits, and to make a call outside the exchange area it was necessary to call the exchange to place a call.
The earliest selective system was the code ringing system, in which each telephone subscriber was assigned a specific ringing cadence, (not to be confused with modern ring tones).
Although various systems were implemented, one that limited the number of coded rings but established a uniform and readily understood format, was to first give the subscriber number as individual digits, which could be from one to four digits long per exchange, separated by the instructional word "ring" followed by the two digits of the ring code where the first digit indicated the number of long rings, followed by the second digit indicating the number of short rings.
(The two examples cited in this paragraph are taken directly from usage in the 1935 American film Party Wire.) Again, however, it should be noted, whilst this practice was common, it was not ubiquitous, since despite giving a standard configuration for terse, easily interpreted numbers with their respective ring codes, its chief functional drawback was with the first ring always being long and the second always being short, which limited the number of brief and thus practical ringing combinations that could be used on single multiparty subscriber numbers.
Further to this functional deficiency, was a twofold practical deficiency.