I clearly remember feeling like I was on the cutting edge of technology with a pager in high school. This of course was after convincing my parents I wasn’t a drug dealer. I was simply an innocent kid who wanted to keep in touch with friends, and only page local drug dealers. That’s neither here nor there, so let’s continue with the discussion. Pagers were actually quite the status symbol back in those days. If you didn’t have one clipped on your pocket, waist, or backpack, you might as well start practicing the razor paths on your arm. You were in for a lonely existence.

The classic pager was the top view display Motorola. It was simple, yet elegant and functional in its design.  It was small and easy to store, and was actually very reliable when it came down to it. Plus, you could customize the hell out of those things! I clearly remember changing cases, led lights, batteries, and personalized chains on a regular basis, but still not having enough to pay my $8 monthly bill. After all, a man has to have priorities.

The pager worked by…paging. If someone had the need to speak with you, they called your number and plugged in a call back number. You in turn would receive the message, and have to quickly locate a phone in order to call the number back. This would inevitably lead to the most common phone exchange, “Did someone page?”They would also try and write out primitive messages using only numbers. Similar to how we used to write messages on a calculator… in third grade.

The pager only did a few key functions, but it was in these small details you could gain personal insight into its owner. People that kept the ‘beep’ feature on when leaving the house were clearly in need of attention/hug. It wasn’t enough that their pager was always displayed in plain view, but they felt the need to state “I’m kind of a big deal” whenever the pager went off in public. You may say, “But isn’t that why it’s called a beeper, so it can beep”?, my reply “No, continue on poser”. Vibration was the least intrusive notification, and the choice of champions everywhere. Plus, it actually vibrated, so how can you argue with that? It  was a capable mood setter for both sexes! Finally, people who kept it on silent all day needed to be treated with kid gloves. It’s one thing to turn it on silent to be courteous; it’s another to constantly hide in the shadows. Walk away slowly.

Now that I’ve had the time to really digest it, a pager was just about the most retarded form of communication possible. Any device that works by telling you to find another device to complete the transaction was clearly not thought out very well. However, they were cheap, kids are dumb, drug dealers needed to stay anonymous, and Dr’s needed to feel important.  So what can you do? The basic pager eventually opened the doors to widespread acceptance of the cell phone. However, the generous 80 minute calling plans that immediately followed is a story for another day.