For some reason, I was thinking about pagers today. (I think it was something in the news about Motorola, a company that for me just always conjures memories of pagers). Here’s some nice info from Wikipedia:
Some common environments in which pagers are still used are:
* Pagers remain in use to notify emergency personnel. For example, they are required to be used by UK lifeboat crew and retained firefighters.
* Police, coast, local government emergency co-ordinators and other emergency services also carry pagers as a back-up system in the event of civil emergencies when mobile transmitters or networks may be unavailable.
* Security services use pagers (including global satellite pagers) as the signal is broadcast nationally (or across a global region in the case of satellite pagers) and there is thus no way of interceptors tracking the location of the pager-holder. Encrypted messages are also used in this scenario.
* Pagers are mostly carried by staff in medical establishments, allowing them to be summoned to emergencies. This is particularly important as one-way pagers do not interfere with medical equipment.
* Some construction and mining staff have to use one-way ‘intrinsically safe’ pagers as opposed to mobiles, as these do not risk triggering explosions in certain environments.
* Pagers are also widely used in the IT world, especially in cases where on-call technicians cannot rely on more modern cellular telephone systems. A good example would be in a cellular telephone company, where a service interruption in the cellular network would also mean that it would not be possible to notify a technician due to the outage in the network. Therefore, in these companies, engineers are usually equipped with a pager that uses another telco’s mobile network to ensure reachability in case of emergency. Pagers are also frequently used by non-telco IT departments.
* Railway staff (for example those working for rail companies in the UK) use pagers because of their consistency of signal, to supplement mobile usage.
* Deaf people who have no use for mobile voice services sometimes use two-way pagers.
* Pagers are widely used by rare bird-chasing “twitchers”, paying for rare bird information companies to send them messages telling them up-to-the-minute details of the latest rarity sightings across Britain. …
Another pager technology in wide use today is the call or tone pager. Mainly used in the hospitality industry, customers are given a theft-protected portable receiver which usually vibrates, flashes or beeps when a table becomes free, or when their meal is ready.
I love that last example, because it’s 1) something most of us still wind up experiencing and 2) it shows the value of information technology even when it can’t display anything we’d recognize as information.
Also, the range and reliability on those things is just terrible. So you have ultra-reliable, ultra-secure satellite-driven text technology used by emergency personnel — and crummy cheap pieces of plastic running on a radio signal that can’t reach the lobby outside the hotel bar.
But it’s still there. We still need it.