Articles Blog

How zip codes helped organize America

How zip codes helped organize America

Between 1940 and 1960, the amount of mail doubled in The United States. That’s largely because companies began using
computers to send automated mailings. Soon, the flood of mail sent by banks, advertisers, and other businesses was overwhelming postal workers. The Postal Service needed a solution. In 1963, the Zone Improvement Plan divided the country into ten regions and assigned five digits increasing in specificity, from region, to large sorting centers, to smaller post offices. Where previously mail workers had to figure
out which post office went with which address, now the zip code provided that information for them. The government promoted the new system with a cartoon character, Mr. ZIP, and a song from a zip-code lovin’ band called The Swingin’ Six. You know you’ve gotta have a zip code on
the envelope, a zip code so you won’t just have to hope. A zip code morning, noon and night, and everything will be alright. And it worked — by 1969, 83% of Americans were using zip codes, and between 1971 and 1980, the number of pieces of mail that were processed per year, increased by 17 billion. But the system was limited. Zip codes are made from digits, unlike the
alphanumeric Canadian system, which can encode more information per character. As America grew, zip codes got longer. In 1983, a four digit suffix was added to
denote specific addresses like city blocks or large buildings. While this update improved delivery, it requires zip codes to be continually managed to reflect changing destinations and delivery routes. Instead of a system dependent on structures, a geocoded zip code would be dependent on place. This gives every point on earth a unique permanent
address. And geocoded deliveries can be sent to specific
pick-up points at an address. More specificity would also benefit industries
that use zip codes for purposes other than sending mail, like analyzing data. In Britain, the postal service has already
geocoded their system and London realtors have used that data to make more detailed
maps of housing prices. Without geocodes, American addressing is limited
to zip codes and building numbers. Any further detail has to be written. With a geocode, sending mail directly to The Oval Office is as easy as remembering 38.8973603,-77.0374162. Or not that easy. Complex numbers hard to remember, so systems
have been created to simplify geocodes. One system called Natural Area Code, converts
latitudes and longitudes into alphanumeric “NAC” tags. Which is netter, but still not great. A different system uses words, which we tend to remember more easily than characters. A company called What3words has divided the world into 57 trillion squares, and given each square a unique string of three words. Each combination of words goes with a specific latitude and longitude. If our postal service used What3Words, you
could send your letter to “rich.soup.noble”, and the President could pick it up at the window of the Oval Office. While language makes geocodes easier for humans,
machines prefer to process numbers. So the zip code will probably evolve in ways
we won’t notice. Right now, computers add delivery instructions
by converting zip codes into a barcode that is printed on a shipment. In the future, a similar process might incorporate
geocoding, which would leave us with one question: If we don’t need to learn a new system,
do we still get to a new song? We’ve told you everything we know. It’s up to you to make zip code go.

100 thoughts on “How zip codes helped organize America”

  1. Really random but… anyone else notice that Jimmy Fallon’s “Tight Pants” skit uses similar music to that of the Zip code song in this video? Yeah didn’t think so

  2. I'm sorry but computers don't prefer to compute numbers – they can ONLY compute numbers. Strings are represented by numbers, it literally makes no difference to the computer.

  3. zipcodes are military zones and we are all presumed to be "under" marshall law (since 1860's) the truth shall set you free

  4. Obama is no longer president. Thank God! Nice to see Americans look like Americans as singers. Amen and Amen. We need to see more of that!

  5. 0:22 but I live in New Jersey and our zip codes all start with 07 or 08. Nothing starts with a 1 so why is it in the 1 region?

  6. When I worked on computerized rating for a trucking company, I realized that if the USPS hadn’t invented zip codes, the trucking industry would have had to. The books describing “classical” rating tariffs were amazingly thick and had references to long strings of routing information to determine the rates for a shipment, requiring human experts who knew all the twists and turns of an area to spend several minutes on each shipment.

  7. Do it like in the uk when you have 2 letters eg se then numbers up to 20 eg 7 then another number up to 10 eg 3 and then 2 letters eg aa
    So your postcode is se7 3aa and this would be for each road usually the two first numbers are abbreviations of certain areas eg se means south east(south east London) your postcode is followed by your street name and house number town and county👍👍👎👎

  8. What3words is a easiest and specific zone for 3 square meters (32.3 square feet), there are 57 trillion of squares on earth. For example: //zone.improvement.plan/ (placed in near Dixon Lane-Creek, CA 89013)

  9. A problem with your zip code map that (in pretty sure that) New Jersey is under the “0” section, not “1”

  10. #sponsoredcontent should really be declared lol

    That aside, this is probably the weirdest video I've ever watched. You literally explain why zip codes were needed, how they work and make sorting easier, then propose a solution which has no included sorting mechanics at all.

    As a postal service you would have to look up the three words to work out where to direct a letter to. If you were efficient, you'd maybe put a little note on the letter so employees downstream also know how to sort the letter and where to direct it – you know, like a zip code.

  11. Yeah I used to deliver the mail and let me tell you their GPS system is very in accurate everything in this video is false Google Maps on your phone is more accurate than the post office

  12. Didn't mention that ZIP codes are actually 12 digits long nowadays, but hardly anyone even knows beyond the basic five so they're only used internally by the USPS when creating the bar code. The first five digits narrow down to individual post offices, the extension (or "+4") get it down to city block, large single buildings, or PO boxes. Next two narrow down to single unit usually using the last two digits of the street address, and the 12th digit is a check digit, derived through a mathematical formula based on the previous 11 numbers. This way, every mailable point in the US has its own distinct number.

  13. 3:00 no, that's not how the postal service works. We deliver to mailboxes or designated delivery points (i.e. the front desk of a business), not specific locations. So anything more specific than # Street, Town, State Zip Code doesn't mean anything to us because I'm not gonna deliver a letter to the bush in your front yard. Geocodes are great for location, for example they'd be great for geocaching. But as a USPS employee myself, geocodes would make the system way more complicated than it needs to be. Each mail route would have multiple geocodes instead of just keeping track of streets and address numbers. It would be insanity.

  14. This is not the reason the Zip Code was instituted! Read the U.S. Domestic Mail Manual to learn the real reason! Using a Zip Code surreptitiously places you in a legal jurisdiction where you are deprived of all Constitutional protections! The government (under the direction of the Deep State, i.e., New World Order, i.e., International Bankers) deceives us every time they push something like this on us. Saying it makes mail delivery faster and easier was to get us to "volunteer" into that jurisdiction! Learn the law Folks! You are NOT required to use the zip code on your return address! The letter will get delivered anyway!

  15. So, we have the fuckton of corporate waste that clogs my mailbox to thank.
    And that's pretty much the only thing mailboxes are used for anymore, so 'improving the system' sounds like a waste of time.

  16. The initial map you show has one mistake (that I know of). New Jersey is in the 0 region and should be gray. It's not a part of the 1 region.

  17. I can think of at least one anomaly in the zip code system. New Jersey's zips begin with 0, but we're separate from the rest of the 0 area… New York to our north and west, Pennsylvania to our east, and Delaware to our south all have zips beginning with 1. The remainder of the 0 area covers New England. How on earth did this happen?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *