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What if America’s zip codes were one big game of connect-the-dots?

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You probably don’t spend much time thinking about the humble ZIP code. (Do you even know what the acronym ZIP stands for? We didn’t either: It’s “Zone Improvement Plan,” a reference to how the system would make mail delivery more efficient.) The ZIP code was introduced in 1963 -- along with two-letter abbreviations for states, lest address labels become too crowded – and it has now guided mail for over 50 years.

Robert Kosara of created a series of cool maps of countries around the world by connecting their ZIP codes in ascending order. For this one of the U.S., he traces American ZIP codes in ascending order without lifting his “pen.” (The map above is just the continental U.S., but a zoomable version of the map with Alaska and Hawaii is available here.)

It turns out that the numbers in a ZIP code have very specific meanings: The first three digits indicate a particular mail sorting facility, often in a major city, while the last two digits indicate a more specific delivery address. The codes start with 0 in the Northeast, and then gradually rise as you go west, ending with Alaska.

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