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The episode caused such an unexpected spike in calls that AT&T, the phone carrier, later created AT&T billed more than 0,000 that night, marking a glorious moment for the young 900 number business.

In the late 1980s, dialing a number with the 900 prefix on your landline phone became a way to gain access to a web of information on any number of subjects before the Internet as we know it existed.

For 50 cents, viewers could call one of two numbers, and AT&T recorded the number of calls to each to determine who the audience felt was the winner.

Information services, where people could call a 900 number and hear a recorded or live message, were also coming into their own in the early- and mid-1980s.

who they thought won the Ronald Reagan-Jimmy Carter presidential debate.

(Other prefixes, notably 976, had already attracted millions of calls to regional services.) In 1982, more than a million people called what eventually came to be known as In 1987, AT&T started a national program that allowed 900 number information providers—people who provided the audio content—the chance to earn money from their numbers.

Similar to the way anyone can now start their own e-commerce website, AT&T opened up the 900 program to any entrepreneur who had an idea, and set a price of up to .00 for the first minute of a call (and more for additional minutes).

An entirely new information economy opened up overnight, and the first 900 number entrepreneurs struck gold..

In 1987, Bentz was working in TV advertising at a CBS affiliate in Hartford, Connecticut.

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