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Modern Nostalgia: Pagers and Beepers



Before cell phones became ubiquitous, people carried around small, black squares on their hips. These squares had little grey-green screens, very much like old Game Boys. Upon chirping out a piercing digital beep, the screen would light up, filling itself with a series of numbers and letters that presumably meant something to you. Depending on where you were when you received this message, you had to then begin your search for a telephone to contact the person that messaged you.

And that’s what beepers and pagers were – they were a device that, at some random point in your day, would task you with a mission, and that mission was to find a phone. Beepers and Pagers were like a video game filled with side quests that constantly distracted you from completing your main objective, whether it was to eat some lunch or buy new shoes. You’d be trying on a new pair of Nikes when all of a sudden a magical fairy would tell you that you have to contact your friend Rick. If Rick included the numbers 911 in the message, that meant Rick was not screwing around and really needed to talk to you about something. But Rick was an asshole, and everything he 911’ed you about was an emergency in the same way that not being able to find the car keys you just had in your hand is an emergency.

You would then have to scour the land to find a pay phone, or you’d have to talk a store manager in to letting you use their phone, because beepers and pagers didn’t allow you to communicate back to anyone – they were whiny bastards that barked orders at you. After having to slay a dragon, get a golden key that opens a magical door, offing about 20 or 30 trolls, and then after saving the princess, you would finally find a phone and you would call Rick to hear about the terrible car accident he was just in, or about how his parents both just exploded, because, hey, 911 is some serious shit, right? Whatever Rick wants, it can’t be less serious than either of those two things, because of the 911.

So there you are, pressing your mouth to the receiver of a pay phone that’s probably laced with at least a half-dozen venereal diseases, including a couple only found on the genitals of rare South American hogs, and you’re mentally preparing yourself to hear the worst news imaginable. You are fully expecting to hear something that will straight-up ruin your day; maybe even your month.

Turns out Rick is high as shit and he’s without peanut butter.

Rick sucked, beepers and pagers sucked, and be glad you currently carry around a magical device called a “cell phone” and not those half-assed attempts at creating a  portable communication device that was only popular because we all saw our heroes using them – heroes like hot-shot doctors and crack dealers.

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