Why Do We Need a Zip Code?

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Whenever we send a letter or a postcard, we are asked to write a zip-code. What is behind this strange number and why should we use it? Who has ever come to the idea to use it? You might be surprised, but everything is there for a reason.

Some Facts from History

Earlier zip-code was not used at all. But after World War II, when many people, including post-office employees, were killed, the work of postal services became inefficient. At that time, the coding was introduced in the USA. However, it had not been used widely until 1960.

The population number grew, people used to send not only personal letters but bills, invoices and other kinds of business correspondence. And after a big volume of correspondence was lost, it was evident, that a new system was needed. That had to be something that would allow handling all those letters, bills, cheques and so on. And this system was introduced. Under the Zone Improvement Program, codes to each area were allocated.

What Does a Zip Code Mean?

Each area in the USA was given a code. Then, the area was subdivided into smaller zones, each of them got, in turn, a number, and so on. Each code means a particular zone, but it is not attached to geography in any way.

So, if somebody is trying to divide an area into the neighborhoods, for example, based on these numbers, the person will definitely fail. A code means just an area and nothing more but area. These numbers were allocated based on logistical reasons, transportation specific and other postal needs. That’s why they don’t have logic in the eyes of an ordinary person.

Each number in the code means something. For example, the first number denotes a big area, in most cases, several states. Further numbers denote smaller areas, up to neighborhoods. Like this, when a post officer sees a code, he/she already can determine which delivery route should be used.

Is It Possible to Determine a Zip Code of an Area?

Yes, of course, one can do it. Just some years ago, the simplest way was to ask in the local post office. Looking up in a special paper was an option, as well. Nowadays there is no need to go somewhere or to keep those papers. You can open a browser and check all with a special zip code look up software.

Good software allows using a number of filters. The most frequently used is probably, “by address” filter. There could be also such options as filtering by city or by state. Another option, which is used not so often, is looking up the city based on the ZIP.

Coding System Is Used till Now

You know this coding system is used till nowadays. It means, that, even though it took 20 years to persuade the USA postal service to accept it, it is efficient and server the purpose for which it was invented.


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