Paging for pizza
By Candice Montenegro, Contributor INQUIRER.net MY dad, then a young doctor who had just started practicing surgery, would jump at the sound of his pager. It could be the hospital, telling him that an emergency case was brought in or that his patient lost blood or something. His pager would beep and the message read: "Hi Papa. Please buy pizza." Every time that happened, he probably regretted teaching his four-year-old daughter how to page him. Remember how pagers (sometimes called beepers) were the surest way to contact someone in case of an emergency? I grew up in a family of doctors who all had pagers, and they would all stop in their tracks every time a page comes in. Of course there's the occasional pizza emergency, but most of the time they got messages from patients and hospitals and operating rooms. A pager is a small box-like device used for delivering short (usually one- to two-liner) messages. It was invented in the mid-50s precisely for alerting doctors in a London hospital. It usually can only receive messages one-way and the paged person is expected to call up whoever it is that paged him. The early pagers were called tone pagers. It had programmed tones that the owner could pre-assign to mean something. (One beep could mean call the office; two beeps, call the house.) The numeric pagers, on the other hand, had a small screen that showed the telephone number to be called. The more advanced pagers were the alphanumeric pagers that display text. It was really easy to page someone. You just called up the subscription service (if I remember correctly, the two large companies then were EasyCall and Pocketbell) and gave them the number or code assigned to a pager. And then the operator asked for your message and sent it to the pager. Then you would hang up and wait for the paged person to call or fetch you or whatever. The numbers assigned to a pager were usually just random numbers, and as a kid I carried around a small phonebook (a real one, not the one that comes with cellular phones) that contained family members' pager numbers. I remember watching a really old Jolina Magdangal movie where her pager number was customized. I don't remember what exactly, but I did hear that you can customize it to 6-LOVE or something, for easy recall. Going back to the Jolina Magdangal movie (don't ask why I saw that), I also remember how awkward it was when she was trying to leave a mushy message, mainly because there was an operator taking the message. While the pager was convenient for leaving emergency messages, it might not be the best idea to leave a "night night, sweet dreams, mwah mwah" message, unless you can tolerate the snickering operator on the other end of the line. When I was in fourth grade, a pink Hello Kitty pager went in the market, and my parents promised that they'd get me one when I graduated from grade school. Shortly after that, cellular phones came out and pagers were out of the picture. While pagers were a convenient way to relay short messages, the SMS came in handy because it was easier to reply back. And as with all other technology, the pager died a natural death. As of 2007, pagers have become completely obsolete, but two-way pagers (one that can send and receive messages, very similar to SMS phones) are still used by emergency service personnel and information technology staff. The only time I see pagers now is when I watch "Grey's Anatomy" and they all jump when Bailey pages them. Or when Meredith Grey is paged to the on-call room for a different emergency altogether. I wonder what McDreamy's pager number is.
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