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Retro Friday: Beepers

Posted by nik on December 2, 2011

beeper The pager, often called a beeper (because the only noise it ever made were beeping alarms) was once a ubiquitous part of the mobile landscape. Although they came in many variants, the most popular was called the numeric pager, seen right. It was called as such because it had a small one-line digital display that only displayed numbers, similar to many inexpensive digital calculators.

During the 1990s is when pagers reached their height of popularity. Cell phones at that point were still very expensive, bulky and barely worked anywhere outside of a metro area. Numeric pagers on the other hand worked almost anywhere, had ultra-simplistic rugged construction, and the best part is that many operated on a single AA battery that lasted easily for weeks – even if you left it on all the time.

What replaced pagers?

In the general consumer realm, cell phones dropped enough in price to where everyone could afford them. In addition, what we knew as “getting a page” has been replaced by SMS texting.

Yes, it is true that some pagers do have SMS text capability, but that’s kind of a waste considering a cheap prepaid cell phone can do the same job with texting.

Are pagers still used today?

Yes, but you usually only see them (at least in the US) for business and government use.

It’s unlikely your wireless carrier offers pagers for sale new, but there are independent organizations who offer them like this one, located in Florida. Another is Page Plus, offering nationwide US pager service. And, would you believe it, they even offer the old-school numeric pager.

There are several businesses that offer pager service in the US on a state-to-state basis, and some even on a county basis. For example, if you search for “pager service [insert your state here]”, you should see results that point you to local pager service businesses easily.

Could you use a two-way pager just for texting?

Two-way pagers can send and receive both text and email, and yes you can buy them new, however it’s very unlikely you’d be able to get pager service that’s inexpensive compared to prepaid or even post-paid wireless plans.

Believe me, you’re better off with the cell phone. It may not be as rugged, but the fees for the service are a whole lot nicer on the wallet.

3 thoughts on “Retro Friday: Beepers”

Akoolo says:
Thought pagers were non existent,with mobile technology being widespread it was phased of use. good i read something about it.
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David M says:
I still love the punchline to the joke, “Watch out Mommy, she’s backing up!”
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edfair says:
Have a friend who uses paging services to dump news feeds to signs, primarily in airport news stands. He has had unending problems with getting reliable services, to the extent that he has started uploading his stuff over the net to those locations that have it available at the store.
Don’t think there is one paging service that he has not complained about over the last few years.
I dealt with a voice pager for a couple of years as a dispatch tool in a field service organization. Vowed I would never have one again after I left the company.
At this point it seems that the field is slowly fading away.
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