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Where Have All the Pagers Gone? 584

oddRaisin writes "After recently sleeping through a page for work, I decided to change my paging device from my BlackBerry (which is quiet and has a pathetic vibrate mode) to an actual pager. After looking at the websites of Cingular, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, I'm left scratching my head and wondering where all the pagers went. I can't find them or any mention of them. Pagers of yore offered some great features that reflected the serious nature of being paged. They were loud. They had good vibrate modes. They continued to alert after a page until you acknowledged them. I didn't have to differentiate between a text from a friend and a page from work. Now that pagers seem to have become passé, what are other people doing to fill this niche? Are some phones better pagers than others? Are there still paging service providers out there?"
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Where Have All the Pagers Gone?

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  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:41AM (#25717191)

    Look out - they're right behind you!

  • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:45AM (#25717219)
    I can't stand cell phones, I only got one out of extreme necessity (and because my work stopped using pagers). I like to concentrate - I hate how cell phones immediately "demand" to be picked up. If you don't pick up you've got to listen to some damn message - and you're sitting wondering about the content of the message until you listen to it.

    With a pager, someone notified me of their desire to speak to me, I wrap up whatever I'm doing, and I call them. If it's really urgent, they put a 911 at the end and I move a little quicker. I really do miss them... I can't be the only one... right... right?!
    • by caitsith01 ( 606117 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:51AM (#25717255) Journal

      He wants his manifesto back.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      With a pager, someone notified me of their desire to speak to me, I wrap up whatever I'm doing, and I call them. If it's really urgent, they put a 911 at the end and I move a little quicker. I really do miss them... I can't be the only one... right... right?!

      Have you heard of SMS, or "texting"? :P

      It can work exactly the same as paging, and is what we use at work for the same purpose.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:46AM (#25717875)

        Yes... Problem with Texting is that you have no control over delivery times. A Pager message is guaranteed to be delivered within 5 minutes (at least, here in Holland). SMS and other texting options don't have that guarantee. We tried using sms for relaying snmp alerts outside business hours. It sometimes took 2 hours for us to be notified that a servers was down. So we took the pager back in service.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PJ1216 ( 1063738 ) *
        You don't have control over whether someone sends you a text or calls your cell phone instead. You can only page a pager. If someone knew they had a greater chance to get in touch with you immediately by calling or they could be polite and only text you, how often do you think the latter will happen in a business environment?
    • by wernst ( 536414 )
      I know how you feel (I hate having to drop everything and listen to a message - especially when the freaking message is nothing more than "Call me"), and I hate to sound like a commercial but...

      Youmail has made voicemail and my cell phone a lot more livable. It takes over for the voicemail functions of your provider and records the incoming message. It optionally sends you a text message with the details of the call (phone number, duration, message left or not) and optionally texts or emails you a transcr

      • Re:Try YouMail... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:05AM (#25717347) Homepage Journal

        My voicemail goes something like this:

        You have reached Hadlock. If you need to leave a message, please hang up and send me a text message or email. Thank you." I've never checked my voicemail. If it's a personal call, they'll text message me. If it's business, they have my email address. Since it's a personal phone line it's mostly text messages.

        Voicemail is just a gimmick to get you to use more minutes than you really should, at no expense to the carrier since they don't actually have to connect the call to anyone. It's 100% profit.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by TheEldest ( 913804 )

          You're right. Because most carriers don't charge you to listen to your voicemail, and being able to have messages left when your phone is turned off is a stupid feature anyway.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mikesd81 ( 518581 )
          So you'd rather pay for the text message? Some of the companies charge $0.10 a message. That adds up after a month. Plus the $0.10 to send it. You're an expensive friend to get in touch with.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:50AM (#25717621)

            Wait... do you PAY to RECEIVE text messages? Soon you'll tell us you charge for incoming calls as well. Oh... you live in the US. I'm truly sorry.

            • Re:Try YouMail... (Score:5, Informative)

              by TheP4st ( 1164315 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @07:41AM (#25718567)
              We might have the same system in Europe soon. So if you are from the EU, don't gloat too much.
          • by Swizec ( 978239 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @06:36AM (#25718169) Homepage
            I pay 0.00euro to send SMS. I even pay 0.00euro to receive SMS. Hell, I even pay 0.00euro to call somebody.

            Then again, those prices were in euro and not dollars for a reason.
          • Eh ? You pay to receive text messages ? What kind of network is that, do you have to pay to send them as well ?

      • by Zadaz ( 950521 )

        You do realize that checking voice mail is entirely voluntary, don't you? As is answering the phone. In fact powering the phone is also voluntary. Just like a land line, except it has many more features that are are your disposal. (Not the other way around.)

        Or do you just like making things more difficult than they need to be because it gets you attention?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          And ya know what? People just don't listen. Especially the annoying lusers who you are most likely to have trying to reach you at the worst time. Once they know that you have a cell, they demand the number. Then the firm gives it to them. Then they call you all the goddamn time whether they've been told not to or not. And since the calls are routed through a pbx, there's no way to tell from the caller id if it's some annoying luser or somebody you should actually talk to until you answer the call and then

          • Obvious solution (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Doctor O ( 549663 )

            there's no way to tell from the caller id if it's some annoying luser or somebody you should actually talk to until you answer the call and then it's too late

            No, it's not. You're on a mobile phone. You can always start asking "Hello? Hello? Is there anybody? HELLO!" two or three seconds after picking up the call and then hang up. If they call again, do the same thing. How are they to prove that you weren't in an area with bad reception?

    • No, I'm right there with you. There are paging plans, google for pagers, but they are the same cost as cell plans, pretty absurd.

      SMS could fill that niche, but with providers raping folks on charges it's not really there as yet, e.g. you don't want to send a text to someone as you might be costing them a dime or more.

      Maybe what cellphones need is a pager mode? They might in some sort of "do not disturb" mode, then users immediately go to the leave or message or send a page note?

    • by RustinHWright ( 1304191 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:07AM (#25717357) Homepage Journal

      A cell phone is basically a consumer device. A pager was fundamentally a business device. The differences were legion. What I miss most is having a service where the clients were given the number of a human-staffed service and those operators then keyed in the message. Clients were also told that vague messages would get slower responses than specific ones. If they wanted my attention at 9:00 p.m. on a busy night then a "call us" message would leave then sh*t out of luck. They wanted attention, they had to manage to describe coherently and specifically why they needed my attention to an operator who knew neither of us and knew less about computers than the average modern grandma.

      "I need him"
      "Is that what I should write, sir?"
      "Um, uh, um, no. Say, um, that, um, it's important."
      "So I should say 'call, it's important?'"
      "Um, no, um . . ."

      It took only a few iterations to train clients to articulate the issue *before* hitting my number on speeddial.
      "The archive server is down."
      "Stories sent to blues are getting bounced."

      Anybody who has done consulting will understand that this completely changed the dynamic. Among other things, this requirement to specify the problem got rid of a huge percent of the normal degree of blame game b.s. afterwards. It also taught clients that they had to reign in their panic if they wanted me to call. And sometimes by forcing them to define the problem, that act alone got them to fix the frackin' problem themselves and not waste my time at all. When I *did* get a page I could take a few minutes and think through the message and gather my thoughts about my response before having to be on the phone with them.

      I'm not a consultant anymore but, gawd, if I were, I just don't know how I would do it without that glorious gatekeeper, the pager.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )

        If only you could pay someone for answering your phone - a professional service, perhaps.

    • by rwven ( 663186 )

      Not to be a horn tooter here, but one of my favorite features about the iPhone is the ability to visually see who a voicemail is from, and the fact that you don't have to listen-to and navigate an audible menu.

      I don't know of any phones at this time other than the iPhone that offer VVM, but I sure hope it takes off.

    • It sounds like you can't stand phones. Nothing you say applies only to cell phones.

      If you want to concentrate, just switch the phone to a profile that doesn't react to calls, but gives you a beep when a text message comes in. Voila, you have a pager.

    • They're still around. One of my projects just got 4 NEC digi-pagers from Ameripage (I think). We need them for alerts that need to be serviced immediately and cell phones could not give us a consistent response time nor offered any quality assurance guarantees that the pager company was willing to give.
    • by SteveWoz ( 152247 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:49AM (#25717613) Homepage

      loved my pager watch

      I could look down, even from a podium, and read a message while continuing whatever

      service was supposedly complimentary for a year but never seemed to shut off

      but then my dog bit into it

      • I hear that some guy got together with some friends and made some company called Danger, Inc, or something to try to partially address that. Afaic, they did a damn good job and I'm glad that they're out there. And afaic, they deserve some of the credit for the return of the "netbook", something that means a great deal to me.


    • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:51AM (#25717625) Homepage

      If you don't pick up you've got to listen to some damn message - and you're sitting wondering about the content of the message until you listen to it.

      I almost never pick up my cellphone anymore... I leave it on silent. My voicemail goes here [], and if I feel like it I can check the transcription email on my phone. No tedious sorting or listening because I can read ten times faster than people can talk.

      The transcription service works extremely well, and is pretty cheap. Sorry to sound like an ad but I was in the EXACT position as you and I am much happier now.

    • Odd (Score:3, Interesting)

      My phone has a silent mode and it doesn't go to an answering service if I don't pick it up, it just gets recorded as a missed call.

      If you have a problem with cell phones it's because you let it control you rather than vice-versa.

  • Slide rules (Score:5, Funny)

    by quarrel ( 194077 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:47AM (#25717233)

    Why, the same place all the slide rules went, of course.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I still have a pair of my good slide rules. One I use, one I have saved for any grandchildren. They don't need batteries, and they're very handy for teaching engineers that the last few digits of their calculator produced numbers are often a bold-faced lie compared to the real world. But they have gotten tough to get.

  • Hospitals. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:49AM (#25717239) Journal
    Check with your local Hospital geek. Doctors, nurses, social workers, pretty much everyone in a hospital still has one. They are starting to introduce a "cellular phone" into hospitals known by the local docs as a "banana phone" due to its yellow color that indicates its a special super-duper-won't-interfere-with-life-support-machines-phone as opposed to the iKill. But only the most important doctors have them right now, due to the advanced complexity of their magic.
    • Oh, my. I'd laugh the thermometer out of my mouth if I heard that in a hospital: I remember that children's song about 'Bananaphone'.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by QuincyFree ( 147705 )

      I had not realized that I've never actually had to call someone's pager before until my wife went into labor at three in the morning and I had to call the ob-gyn. The pager rang once and then beep! Silence. I'm confused, rattled, sleep deprived; I leave a message (words that will never find human ears) and phone the hospital. Get the switchboard operator to track the guy down.

      While my wife's in labor, the ob-gyn actually has the whatsit to pull me aside and spend a solid fifteen minutes showing me how t

  • by neurosis101 ( 692250 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:51AM (#25717257)
    Why don't you get another cellphone? Look at online reviews to find one with a more intense vibration, and if you want, you can set the notification tone to be something longer than a beep.

    Of course since is /., I can alternatively be super obnoxious and say get the OpenMoko phone and then you can program it to behave however you want on the reception of a text message.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:58AM (#25717297)
      Because this is slashdot, he should build a robot which can receive and parse incoming messages and wake him up if the message is important. The robot should be designed to make coffee and pancakes as well, why not? Building a robot shouldn't take long, and it'll be a lot cooler to have your own robot than some silly pager. Build a robot to do it!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by niko9 ( 315647 )

        Because this is slashdot, he should build a robot which can receive and parse incoming messages and wake him up if the message is important. The robot should be designed to make coffee and pancakes as well, why not? Building a robot shouldn't take long, and it'll be a lot cooler to have your own robot than some silly pager.
        Build a robot to do it!

        In reading this post very quicly,my brain accidentally parsed ... and hump him if the message is important.

        Now *that* would be a really impressive Slashdot robot, much less one you could not ignore in the middle of the night.

  • Software problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sodul ( 833177 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:51AM (#25717259) Homepage

    It looks like the 'features' you are missing can be solved by software. Now that Google has opened the door for truly customizable phones you could write an app that would ring really loudly until you acknowledge the page/sms/email based on filtering rules.

    If you really want an actual pager, just try a popular search engine, you'll find plenty of stores that sell them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @03:55AM (#25717285)

    Myself and some co-workers spent quite a while recently researching this; except for a few people in our group, we agreed that the best substitute for a pager was to have a large-breasted secretary in a nurse-like outfit mind our phones and repeatedly slap our face with their titties if we got a page - sort of like motorboating, but with them doing all the work.

  • I just saw a janitor with a pager on at work the other day and my brain went "woah a pager!". I've seen a few other people wearing them but it's pretty rare. I wonder if there's some business trade show where they're being advertised.
  • by buchanmilne ( 258619 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:00AM (#25717321) Homepage

    I didn't have to differentiate between a text from a friend and a page from work.

    Mabybe you need to assign a different ring-tone to your work numbers ?

  • They once, perhaps, were the rage.
    But now it's time to turn the page.

    -capt poetry
  • Custom Ringtones (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nightbane ( 21511 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:03AM (#25717339)

    Custom Ringtones are you friend here.

    When I use to be on call I setup a ringtone for calls from the overnight answering service. Reveille was usually my choice as bugles blaring full blast usually woke me up from even my worst alcohol induced slumbers. With the Blackberry I know you can set these rules to override your sound profile. So you could set your profile to silent and avoid all other calls\txts but the custom rules would still come through.

    Man I miss my BlackBerry....stupid WinMo pos smartphone, Oh well I'm not on call anymore :D so it isn't as bad.

  • by Igmuth ( 146229 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:04AM (#25717343)

    Along with a few dozen other companies dedicated to this service. It's one thing if finding the answer takes some serious searching, but this is just silly.

  • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:05AM (#25717349)
    I have an old defunct pager that still lights up when pressed. I keep it on my belt when I want people to think how important I am. Sometimes I'll bump the button so it lights up and I can then say: "They really need me, sorry but I have to go."
  • by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:05AM (#25717351) Homepage Journal

    Pagers definitely have not gone, they just have become unpopular among consumers as two-way messaging replaced it. Hospitals and the US Government use one-way pagers still a lot. Our company was apparently taken over by another larger one, []

  • Nokia 6310i? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fe105 ( 146603 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:06AM (#25717355)

    My nokia 6310i has a "pager" mode, when you receive an SMS, it keeps beeping as loud as it can until you do something.

    Very annoying, but can also be very useful.


  • by Foo2rama ( 755806 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:16AM (#25717411) Homepage Journal
    Really this is an ask slashdot?

    type pager into google and a whole bunch of services pop up...
  • Battery Life (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DavidD_CA ( 750156 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:27AM (#25717469) Homepage

    You also didn't have to recharge your pager once a night. I remember two AA batteries going for months in my old pager.

  • Pager coverage is actually pretty damn good. Come to think about it, I had less issues with pager coverage than cell coverage even though it was obvious they broadcast pages cross a given region, a few states or cross the nation wide network. Service was pretty damned reasonable, about $8/month or so IIRC, about the same as unlimited texts on t-mobile.

    Why did I ditch it? Well the pager networks got bought out by other people, changed hands, and they no longer offered some of the handy dandy services they

  • by uncqual ( 836337 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:48AM (#25717605)
    I mentioned your problem to my wife.

    She graciously has offered to send you her pager. Just post your address in response to this post. We will even, as a public service, pay for shipping.

    I can attest to the fact the unit is plenty loud. As a bonus, you will get plenty of pages for problems that an engineer should never be called for and should have been handled by customer support.
  • I think that pagers have been obsolete for more than 10 years now.
  • by LunarEffect ( 1309467 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:53AM (#25717645)
    Great, now I have this song going through my head: "Where have all the pagers gone? Long time passing. Where have all the pagers gone? Long time ago..."
  • by FTL ( 112112 ) <> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @05:00AM (#25717677) Homepage
    When carrying a pager for one of Google's farms I occasionally get messages from unknown numbers saying things like "WHERES THE STUFF YOU DIDNT SHOW". So obviously some people still use them.

    I'm sometimes tempted to text back "Double dumbass on you" or something else inflammatory -- then sit back and watch the 6 o'clock news. But that would be evil.

  • by Dice ( 109560 ) []

    Our pager team carries Skytel pagers because they have guaranteed delivery SLAs. We have tried SMS with all of the major providers over the years and they cannot reliably deliver messages in a reasonable amount of time. It's the best option short of having a NOC staffed 24/7/365.

  • Unless you completely reject a cellphone, deliberately reducing the functionality of the device you are carrying, why would you want to carry both a cell phone and a pager?

    Simply because the cellphone's pager is not good enough? It always puzzled me, why would people carry more than one of pager and cellphone (much like why would anybody mix grep, sed, and awk in one command line, but I digress). My guess was, it had to do with the status, an attempt to derive importance from the number of gizmos carried.

  • We still use pagers for our notification systems. Most cell providers do not do guaranteed delivery/receipt of text messages while 2 way paging service will. It often has a much larger range than cell towers will give you and works further inside building that cell phones die in. Regardless of what many say here, pagers are not obsolete.

    I personally have found the USAMobility [] people responsive enough, generally knowledgeable and the times the device has broken, they've had a new one to me in 24 hours.


  • sms and gsm has replaced pagers in Belgium a long time ago.

    You can see who is calling you. You can ignore it and let the anwering machine pick it up and call that a minute later to decide wether or not it is importand enough to take action on.
    People can send you an SMS and describe better what they want to say.
    You can have people call your fixed line, use selection and then send an SMS so that you get the same information you got previously. This might be good for you. It is lousy customer service.

    sms and g

  • BT discontinued their pager network years ago; there do still seem to be companies about in the UK who provide them though (such as PageOne). I'm sure you can scare some up in the US as well - my guess is its become a niche market the larger players are no longer interested in.

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @06:38AM (#25718187)

    I didn't have to differentiate between a text from a friend and a page from work.

    You could do that just as easily by not giving your work phone cell phone number to friends.

  • Some background (Score:5, Informative)

    by Peter Simpson ( 112887 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:04AM (#25718683)

    I'm not a pager guy, but have used them and know pager guys. Also, have played with old pager gear as a staring point for some ham radio projects.

    Pagers used high power (300 watt) transmitters, and if you wanted to cover a decent area, several of them, synchronized to prevent distorted signals in the area where their coverage patterns overlapped. They were known for their tendency to interfere with other systems, no matter how well they were maintained. It was an expensive way to make not much money.

    Profit margins were low, and churn was always a problem. Companies went in and out of business, larger companies consolidated the smaller companies, but, in the end, Nextel and cellular technology gave you two-way communication at essentially the same monthly rate.

    Basically, paging companies were made economically obsolete by advances in technology.
    There are "micro" paging systems still in use at restaurants, hospitals and companies, but the high power transmitters on the hill are pretty much gone, replaced with cell sites.

  • Oh, btw... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fjodor42 ( 181415 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:09AM (#25718711) Homepage

    Did anyone stop to ask the cell phone haters if they had such devices "back in their days"?

    It's ok to be adverse to cell phones, it's ok to long for the pager days, but the pager functionality is *completely integrated* in the cell phone system, so are they asking that we "burn them all", or are they really whining about not being able to transition?

    My phone has a silent mode. It has the option to disconnect an incoming call. It has the option to tell my service provider to never, ever, forward a call to voicemail *whatsoever*!

    If I'm busy, I can pretty much tell from the preview of the text message alone, whether I need to read and see if something needs my attention, and if not, the combination of that and caller ID provides even more clue...

    But sure, if you want, you can always try to cram a cell phone size display into the strangely crippled device that a pager is, and see if you can market it. If no one has done it before, I don't know, but I wouldn't invest in anything of the sort...

    Bottom line: If you need the limitations of a pager, your phone *and you* in combination are up to the task easily, but instead, you can just whine as me in this comment, and then go blaming someone else for your failure to RTFM...

"Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love." -- Albert Einstein