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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.
For rural residents, many were on a single telephone line identified by a number and a property name, for example one party line was called Gundabluie 1 line.
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.
Such laws also provide penalties for abuse by falsifying emergency situations.
The new telephone exchange equipment offered vertical service code calling features such as call forwarding and call waiting, but often was incompatible with multi-party lines.
This distinctive ring would alert all parties on the line who the call was for.
Three short rings signified the call was for the party with the S letter and so on.
In rural areas in the early 20th century, additional subscribers and telephones, often numbering several dozen, were frequently connected to the single loop available. They were frequently used as a source of entertainment and gossip, as well as a means of quickly alerting entire neighbourhoods of emergencies such as fires, becoming a cultural fixture of rural areas for many decades.
The rapid growth of telephone service demand, especially after World War II, resulted in a large fraction of party line installations in the middle of the 20th century in the United States.