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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

I was watching an episode of Friends the other day (one of my comfort shows-Seinfeld being the other).  It was one where Rachel is pregnant with Ross’ baby and living with Joey.  The baby kicked and Ross missed it.  Ross later said “I don’t want to miss anything else.  Page me”.  That got me wondering when the episode originally aired.  It was January 31, 2002.  “Pagers were still in fashion in 2022”? I asked myself.  When did they disappear altogether?

Invented in 1921, pagers(also known as beepers) were used by the Detroit Police Department when they successfully put a radio-equipped police car into service.  In 1959, the term “pager” was coined by Motorola.  By the 1970’s, tone and voice pagers were invented.  After the tone, the pager relayed an audio message.  Pagers didn’t become widely used until the 1980’s.  (

Pagers were often called beepers and were many people’s first mobile device in the ‘80’s.  They would display the number of a caller, prompting you to go to a nearby payphone and call the person back. There were 3.2 million pager users worldwide by the beginning of the 1980’s.  At that time, pagers had a limited range and were used mostly in on-site situations.  At this point, Motorola were also producing devices with alphanumeric displays which allowed users to receive and send a message through a digital network.  A decade later, wide-area pagers were invented and, by 1994, there were over 61 million in  use, and pagers became popular for personal communication as well.  

 While Motorola stopped producing pagers in 2001, they are still being manufactured.  Spok is one company that provides a variety of paging services, including one-way, two-way, and encrypted.  As of early 2021, there were an estimated 2 million pagers in use.  In the late ‘90’s, cellphones and cellular service became affordable enough to make the pager extinct.  The main extinction really happened in the early 2000’s, when cellphones were small and portable enough to put on your belt in place of a pager.  Cellphones not only replaced pagers, but landline phones as well.  (

Below are links to my podcast, Blendertainment      


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