What I absolutely hated was when they added voicemail to pagers. Friends would leave messages to call them back instead of just paging so you would have to pony up to listen to the voicemail and then pay again to call back.
When I read these sorts of things I am reminded of an old series of Doonsbury cartoons where Zonker was fucking with Roland Hedly about life at their Walden commune. Convincing him they were Satan worshipers and the like
“Hit me on my beeper”
I was born in 1980 and got a pager when I started 7th grade. My friends and I were deep into this sort of pager communication. It went well beyond the simple hello, and goodbye. Each user / friend had a unique number code they used, I was “32”. We used to communicate in broken run on sentences. And yes there was a high chance that you’d read the msg wrong. There were a ton of 3 digit variations that meant different things. When you were talking about someone else you used their number to reference them. We really only did this at night, when a phone (landline) was available, and you had to remain quiet because your parents assumed that you are sleeping.
I was a teen in the mid to late 90s and we most definitely used codes and nearly everyone I knew had a pager. They were only like $20/month and even the scuba store sold/serviced them so they were very common place, at least here in Huntsville, Alabama. They came in all sorts of colors and shit even. We also had our own secret codes between certain friends/girl friends etc.
I only recall kids being sent to school with dad or mom’s work provided pager for specific reasons. And a couple of rich kids that had them and seemed to get no use out of them.
The only code seemed to be 911 for emergencies.
But then I grew up next to a potato field.
I wrapped mine in a spiral of blue painter’s tape, one quarter per wrap, so that it wouldn’t rattle. I hate rattles when driving.
I get the feeling that me missing out on stuff like this is related to why i missed out on understanding pokemon allure.
Lots of teens had them, but only dealers actually used them. Others pretended to use them for status purposes.
I kept mine in a sock.
Cause the best defense is a strong sock full of loose change.
Okay, LA, New York AND Miami. I guess the requirement for a pager in that era was a vibrant nightlife and a large population of parents with disposable income.
I had a pager in the late 90’s because I was couch surfing in a strange new town and absolutely needed a callback phone number to find employment (and make plans with friends), but had no fixed address where I could have a land line installed. The hiring managers would hopefully leave a voicemail and I would cheerfully call them back. The pager with voicemail was also much cheaper than bare-bones landline service without voicemail. My first cell phone (TDMA technology) had optional “pager” capability in case you wanted people to reach you through two numbers. You could call them right back from your cell. You had to remember to pull the antenna up, though. “Cool kids” would only pull the antenna out halfway for some reason, which was dumb since the antenna didn’t connect inside unless it was pulled all the way up!
Later on, when I had a land line, I used Pagoo Pager which was a free service that added voicemail to your landline (instead of paying the telco for it) and if you were connected to the internet somewhere, their tray app would work like a pager too:
In my case it was paranoia given that the crime rate had skyrocketed in the 80s. I remember going to Miami Beach and my parents would hit me on the back of the head to get me to run the 4 blocks between our car and the water because they were scared of being mugged.
I was in my twenties during the 90s. We had pagers at work; I worked in tech support and a few of us lucky ones would get notified when there was something of high severity (e.g. the app server went down). One lucky person got the “on-call” pager, which meant that in addition to the page they’d receive anyway, they had to call the help desk and handle whatever situation had transpired. The time we spent responding to these got counted as work hours, but much later it occurred to me that we should’ve rightly reported the downtime as “on call” hours and gotten paid for that, too. (One could go out to dinner, or the movies, but it meant dropping whatever one was doing to answer the “on call” page. So being “on call” effectively meant being tethered to a phone and laptop and we should’ve received something.)
These were text pagers which meant that using certain software (or, IIRC, calling an operator) one could send an actual text message (not just a callback number). The pagers would also display some news headlines every night; this arrived around 4am accompanied by the usual alert sound which instilled a Pavlovian reaction that I had to wake up and handle some problem. Later I figured out how to turn these off, but the one that sticks in my mind was when some news headline got garbled and the result was “Vohublicans.”
But I gather that pagers were a thing, back then (along with window tinting and car alarms), as there was a retailer in Austin called Pinky’s Pagers, famous for their big inflatable, pink gorilla that sat atop the store, flexing its muscles.
ETA: In the 2000s the thing seemed to be 2-way radios, the purpose of which (as far as I could discern) was to make enough noise to alert everyone in the vicinity that “Hey I’ve got a two-way!!!” This seems to have been supplanted by bluetoothing the phone to one’s car but turning up the car speakers as loud as they’ll go. At night. Under someone’s (i.e., my) bedroom window.
OMG, Pinky’s Pagers was my service provider too! You in Austin still?
Nah, not since 2002… (I make it back for a couple days every year or so, though)
Are you… are you my boss?
In the 90s I was working for a company on a project to automate trouble paging, well everything really. If a server went down, it would check its list of people to see who was scheduled for that. And it would call them, page them, send emails, leave voice messages…
And if it didn’t get a response within a set amount of time, it would escalate to the person above them, and so on.
I sympathize. My ex worked a job like that back then and you’re exactly right: on-call was work, even between calls. And Murphy’s Law meant that, if the call load was slow and she decided to chance going to a movie or dinner, as soon as she was settled in, the pager went off.