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Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Have a Pager? Do You Find It Useful? 307

New submitter Chance Callahan writes: I am starting a business, helping a friend with his own startup, and volunteering regularly with a major political campaign (#feelthebern). One thing I have noticed is that my phone likes to die at the most inconvenient times and leaves me out of touch with people. With the business I'm starting requiring clients to be able to get ahold me quickly, I have been seriously considering getting a two-way pager. It's much easier swap out a AA battery once a month then to worry "will client X be able to get ahold me in the event of an emergency?" So, Slashdot, the million dollar question is, in the age of cell phones, do you have a pager? Do you still find it useful? Do any other "dead-tech" tools still play a big role for your communications? For example, fax machines are still big in Japan, and a lot of people keep landlines, too.
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Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Have a Pager? Do You Find It Useful?

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  • Extra battery? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pz ( 113803 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:00PM (#51496727) Journal

    Why not buy one of those easy-to-find extra battery USB-charger things and carry that with you instead?

    • by captjc ( 453680 )

      I keep seeing them on Kinja for like $10 - $20. Some of them even have built in flashlights and whatnot. Sounds much more useful than a pager IMO.

      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

        They are. I have a 15000 mAh unit; two, 2.4 ampere outputs. Wouldn't be without it, can't really, at least unless the companies making the cellphones stop putting too-small batteries in them. last weekend I drove five hours, during about 3 of which we were either completely out of contact or only in distant contact with a cell tower (Montana... lots and lots of empty space.) When we left the city, my phone was at 25%. I kept the phone (a Galaxy Note III with an aftermarket "big" battery that's good for abou

      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

        I even have a battery that includes a wi-fi hub for sharing data (unfortunately, it doesn't include a network jack and the wireless network it creates is local and only useful for file sharing).....but those batteries are really easy to find. Most of them will even fully charge a phone two or three times.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Why not buy one of those easy-to-find extra battery USB-charger things and carry that with you instead?

      This is a much better solution than having to give all the contacts another number to try you at if your phone's dead.
      If you're going to carry an extra device, might has well make it 99% battery/device ratio.

      Also -- should have been a better shopper when picking your phone. I recommend the phone finder at GSMArena [gsmarena.com] to narrow down requirements (including talk/standby time for the battery).

      • This is a much better solution than having to give all the contacts another number to try you at if your phone's dead.

        I set up my pager to receive a copy of my important emails. No additional contact information required.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      or just some 101 or whatever nokia s30 device you find..
      it's like a pager. except cheaper monthly cost and can call on it.

      nobody uses pagers unless theres some burocratic or regulation reason anymore..

    • Re:Extra battery? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Phreakiture ( 547094 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:21PM (#51496953) Homepage

      I would like to suggest one better: If your phone is one that allows you to remove the batter (i.e. not an Apple or a OnePlus or a few others), just get a spare battery of the type that the phone takes. When your phone dies, reach into your pocket, pull out the spare battery, and switch it for the one that is in the phone. It's instant, efficient, and doesn't require you to juggle your phone plus another box for whatever length of time it takes your phone to charge.

      Additionally (and this is good for all phones), if you are traveling much by car, get a cigarette-lighter charger for your phone. Plug it in whenever you are in your car.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        would like to suggest one better: If your phone is one that allows you to remove the batter (i.e. not an Apple or a OnePlus or a few others), just get a spare battery of the type that the phone takes. When your phone dies, reach into your pocket, pull out the spare battery, and switch it for the one that is in the phone. It's instant, efficient, and doesn't require you to juggle your phone plus another box for whatever length of time it takes your phone to charge./blockquote>

        And how do you charge the sp

    • extra battery USB-charger things

      Yup, I would definitely agree with this.

      My setup up is:
      - 10'000mAh USB powerbank [mrhandsfree.com] (good for ~4x full recharge of the smartphone)
      - small compact USB wallwart [hama.com] that can still deliver at least 1'000mA (2'100mA model in the same build size are starting to appear).
      - USB roll-up cable (take very little place and doesn't tangle)

      With that I'm good to go every-where for long period of time. I can recharge the smartphone on the go with the powerbank.
      Or plug it into the wall, or even into the electrical outlets availabl

    • by pz ( 113803 )

      Holy crap, I got a first post AND a 5, Insightful? How often does that happen?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:01PM (#51496735)

    Where I work in downtown Seattle, cell coverage doesn't work at all below ground or in our office building if you're not near a window. We have to still use pagers.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:04PM (#51496763)

      This. Cellphones, like wireless Ethernet, use frequencies that are just too high to penetrate. I think our pager system is 26MHz, and works even in the bottom of our parking garage.

    • What is the AC spam about living in Seattle with slow internet access (and now poor cell coverage)? Does someone have a grudge against the Seattle local government or something?
    • I once worked at a university wherein most of there labs were below ground. A major concern became the lack of cell service below ground. We have come to a point in society where buildings need cell repeaters installed in these areas as it is becoming a life safety issue. Good Luck

  • Get a more reliable cell phone (either a simple feature-phone or iPhone), a car and extra desk chargers. You should only need those extra chargers if you're like me and you forget to charge your phone 2-3 days in a row or you're actually continuously (10h+) dialed in on the phone. There is also a low power mode on iOS which can be manually turned on and disables all non-essential features.

    Not sure how you manage to have a phone with less than a half day of life. Paying for a pager and having your customers

    • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:17PM (#51496911)

      Not sure how you manage to have a phone with less than a half day of life.

      My guess is that the OP is like a former boss of mine who would complain constantly about the shitty battery life of new phones yet would never charge his phone until it shut itself off because the battery ran low.

    • I bought a car charger shortly after a several day power outage. I used it a couple times just to try it, and it got lost. I plug it in every night and don't have any problems. I could probably make it 2-3 days most of the time.

    • I had problems with my battery life when I was using a bluetooth head set, I'm on the phone probably 5-6 hours a day. It's not a problem with bluetooth turned off using a wired headset.

      My old flip phone was amazing 5-6 hours a day for 2-3 days on a charge and about an hour to charge 100% from completely dead.

    • by iamacat ( 583406 )

      Get a more reliable cell phone (either a simple feature-phone or iPhone)

      LOL! Obsession with thinness and battery life do NOT go together.

  • by blueshift_1 ( 3692407 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:10PM (#51496827)
    Battery Cases, Expansion Battery packs, Modified flux capacitors, Arc reactors, Cold fusion... so many ways to charge?!? You could even rig a charger off a potato if you really wanted to. Anything is better than a pager.
  • by Whorhay ( 1319089 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:11PM (#51496837)

    I've got a landline, but basically only because my work requires that I have real phone service. I don't keep a cell phone either as in my situation it'd be a waste 99% of the time, or more.

    • We have a landline at home and have never thought of getting rid of it. Apart from the fact that it is the medium by which our broadband appears there also seem to be some big conveniences which we couldn't achieve with mobiles (which we also have) but perhaps we are behind the times and there are ways around these limitations with using mobiles instead of a landline.

      1) On the land line we have a DECT base station with three handsets scattered around the house. If someone rings then there is a good cha
      • by iamacat ( 583406 )

        You can get a DECT phone system that connects to multiple cell phones over bluetooth and forwards calls to all handsets.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I cut over to a cell-only setup. I bought a box called "X-Link" that you pair via bluetooth and plug into an existing phone jack. It will ring all the old analog phones on the circuit when the phone rings, you can make calls from the analog phones, and it passes caller ID, too.

        It works pretty well, but really, I always have my cell phone with me anymore. It's MORE convenient than any extension because it's within reach.

        Plus, nobody calls much anymore. They text or email. Kids these days.

  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:11PM (#51496849)
    I mean, I haven't even heard of firefighters or doctors around here using pagers since sometime around the early 00s. Didn't even know they were still a thing.
    • by psm321 ( 450181 )
      Apparently a lot of doctors still do. There was an article on Slate about it today.
      Given the issues I've seen with coverage and random SMS delays on phones, I'm glad they do.
      http://www.slate.com/articles/... [slate.com]
      • by dmr001 ( 103373 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:31PM (#51497041)
        I'm a doctor, we still use pagers, and they suck. On the plus side, an AA battery lasts a month, and reception is not usually an issue. On the minus side, no one seems to be making pagers anymore, so we get reconditioned units. I long for my old indestructible Motorola pager. Buttons get jammed and latches fall off the "new" ones, the display is less than reliable, and I can customize the beeping to grating, annoying, and nerve-wracking.

        We are beginning to investigate smartphone based solutions, which, in order to be compliant with US privacy regulations have expensive recurring monthly charges, and will involve installing and maintaining microcells in our hospitals.

        • You can still buy brand new Motorola Minitors. v and 6's are current. Yep, they're old tech and voice besides. The new once have a bit of memory so you can replay the page which was the biggest issue with the old analogs.

          I just delivered four brand new ones to some ER docs. The youngest one looked at it a bit curiously. I think it's the first time he's seen a pager.

        • It's a shame nobody has jammed a pager reception circuit in a smart phone. Can't be bigger than a postage stamp.
        • Our hospital is looking into something called Spok for secure messaging. Should work whereever the cell phone has wifi or cell service. It's a secure texting app that's HIPAA compliant and has desktop/web versions so that the operators or nurses can send us texts without having to use a phone. Added bonus of read receipts and ping-back to the sender (if wanted) if the message isn't read in a timely manner (ie: STAT pages).

          At least that's what our IT guys told me. We haven't gotten it yet.

        • I still have my original Motorola pager. Whenever they try to give me one of these crappy new pieces of shit, I tell them that I am the doctor they were warned about in their customer service training, and that they should decide how much blood they want to shed. I think that they have actually written it off by now; no one has bugged me about it for a couple of years.

          It is highly amusing to me that young doctors who care about having the newest iThing get jealous of my pager.

    • by ilctoh ( 620875 )
      Paramedic here. We still use VHF pagers. They are simple, but reliable and rock solid. They work pretty much everywhere, and a charge will last for days. We have a complementary iPhone/Android app that will receive info when we get dispatched, but that requires an internet connection, and a series of interfaced software products to all work correctly. The pagers are maintained as a fail safe - all they require is a radio and a means of generating the tones required to signal the pager to open the squel
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am part of a couple of groups that use SMS (sent from an email list server) for notifications.
    Sometimes it works great, sometimes they are delayed 30min, 1hr, ...
    Its amazing the phone companies can charge so much and offer so little.

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      I am part of a couple of groups that use SMS (sent from an email list server) for notifications.
      Sometimes it works great, sometimes they are delayed 30min, 1hr, ...
      Its amazing the phone companies can charge so much and offer so little.

      Another issue with SMS "paging" is that phones are often not set up for that. By default, they're usually set up to be more discreet. They will often play a notification ONCE when the SMS comes in, and if you miss it, don't wake up, etc., you're screwed, especially if you're the only point of contact. A real pager will usually be much more persistent, which is important for heavy sleepers like me.

    • In a prior life I spent many hours working with SMS. Both text and binary mode, and interestingly a browser that ran in the SIM chip that used binary-mode SMS as a transport. It was a fascinating thing to use, transferring small pages back and forth all via SMS. It wasn't actually that horrible, and had some nice features - the big one being you could keep everything on the SIM which had advantages.

      Most people don't realize that the SMS standard includes binary mode, and you can also request delivery rec

  • like plug it in your car when you drive? or keep it plugged in all day at work? or do you have some OCD issues like my wife against charging devices as you work and waiting for them to die?
  • Uncrippled would be something with a swappable battery.

  • Why not SMS instead? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dejanc ( 1528235 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:15PM (#51496893)
    You can get cheap dumb phones with long battery life, or you can even get one with AA batteries (like SpareOne). That will give you both voice and text functionality and spare you the embarrassment of asking someone to page you (at least I would feel awkward mentioning pagers to my clients).

    Also, you could setup a simple email to SMS gateway, so you can get a text message whenever somebody emails emergency@yourbusiness.com.

    In a nutshell, your phone battery will drain quickly only if you keep using it as a smart phone, i.e. using data, wifi, bluetooth, having your screen on all the time, etc. If you keep a dedicated mobile phone for emergencies only and use it primarily for texting, you will have all the benefits of a pager while remaining in the 21st century.

    You can push a dumb phone battery to a full week if you do it right, and to me at least, charging a phone over weekend or in the car is easier and cheaper then swapping batteries.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      SMS can take hours to deliver messages in a downtown area. I work for a data center, and I typically receive an email and can fix the problem before I even get the SMS alert. Nothing beats a pager when it comes to reliability and speed of delivery.

  • I used to have one but the network has been dismantled as far as I know. In Ireland pagers never had decent 2-way functionality and they were never popular to begin with.
  • Gives you time... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:19PM (#51496931)

    I'm on call from time to time (one week a month, for a full 7 days) and I *LOVE* the fact that a Pager at 3AM at least gives me a bit of time to wake-up and go to the toilet compared to being called directly and dump on a phone bridge with 10 other people wanting an answer *RIGHT NOW*.

    I also have shitty Cell reception where I live, but Pager reception is A-1

  • Emergency Services (Score:5, Informative)

    by ronaldbeal ( 4188783 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:21PM (#51496949)
    Many emergency services such as fire departments, Offices of emergency management, etc still use RF pagers. The system is part of or tied in with the dispatch system. By removing third parties in the communication signal chain, the pager systems provide latency free, and high availability for dispatch systems. They also work well for emergency services because they are geographically limited by the pager transmission antenna coverage. which usually coincides with the emergency services coverage area. For the OP's situation there are usually two options: a local RF network, or satellite pager systems. The local networks may or may not have better coverage, just depends on your local pager provider. Sat pagers tend to have nationwide coverage, but reception is limited by access to the sky. Those choices may or may not be suitable for your needs. RB
  • I also still use paperback books. They have size and map advantages over ebooks (The guy that invents software to let you zoom to your heart's content on a map included in an ebook will make a $1,000,000)
  • Invest in a portable charger and pay once versus a monthly fee for a pager.

    Bada bing, bada boom.

  • Pagers tend to have better reception than cell phones, at least fairly recently when I last looked this up for my own curiosity. Also, many paging companies have "TAP" servers that you can dial into with a modem to send pages. This is could make a nice last-resort fallback for when a data center has lost network access and you can still provide outbound alerting via a backup landline.

  • I don't know the solution to OP's problem, although I had a flip phone for a while a couple years ago and it had amazing battery life...I think I charged it twice a week max, overnight.

    Also, if I was volunteering for a political campaign I'd be using a different phone and number entirely. In my volunteer work I use the $13/mo. plan from Page Plus for this purpose and it's just fine.

    As far as dead tech goes, I write in shorthand, definitely dead tech at this point. I do it because I enjoy writing by hand a
  • I seriously would not do business with any company who had as a point of contact, a pager number. In the age of smart phones (with battery packs and alternative charging methods) why go backwards, in a worst case have an older cellphone that lasts days.
    • by sribe ( 304414 )

      I seriously would not do business with any company who had as a point of contact, a pager number. In the age of smart phones (with battery packs and alternative charging methods) why go backwards, in a worst case have an older cellphone that lasts days.

      Yeah, just because the pager is far more reliable, phooey on that old stuff...

      • And sails are far more reliable than diesel engines; clearly modern international shipping is just a fad following what's new and shiny.

        It's called weighing the benefits. The benefits of a modern smart phone far outweigh the limited benefit of a reliable pager for the vast majority of scenarios.

  • by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @05:37PM (#51497079)

    One of my friends carries a pager when he's on call for work (a municipality, and he'd most likely be contacted about a toxic spill). He just clips it to his belt and forgets about it.

    The pager has several advantages over a phone. The most critical is that it's a shared device that gets passed between the on-call staff. That means there's no risk of someone forgetting their phone at home, running out of battery or having an incorrect number listed on the staff contact form. Emergency Services has a single contact number that should always work.

  • I know people who carry old fashioned pagers, and have done so for years. Yes, they also have smart phones, but cell service in many places is shit, and pagers have been part of the support infrastructure forever.

    And, believe it or not, people still use land lines too. I know it's shocking to the kiddies, but it's true.

    Do you people all think this technology became obsolete because you can get a freakin' app?

    Where I live your chance of cellular coverage is iffy, and I'm in the burbs, just in a spot with b

    • Actually, in many countries, the pager infrastructure has been shut down. Where I live, the pager infrastructure was turned off around ten years ago. Nobody cared.
      • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

        Actually, in many countries, the pager infrastructure has been shut down. Where I live, the pager infrastructure was turned off around ten years ago. Nobody cared.

        Are you sure you're not confusing that with analog cell service? That has indeed been shut down in most places, with very, very few exceptions globally (mostly in extremely rural areas where people haven't wanted to go to satellite service). Pager frequencies in a lot of places is still going very strong, for precisely the reasons indicated in the discussion.

        That's even moreso the case depending on government needs in your jurisdiction. If there are Important Civilian Responsibilities, then the pager networ

  • I stopped using mine in the '90s when the service provider went under.
  • Oh! DeLorean is paging me. brb.

  • Client calls come into a pbx, ring the cell and desk phone etc etc etc. Mind you my desk phone is an android tablet with poe and a real handset/speaker phone so things like contacts just work and bluetooth.

    Second get a phone thats does not suck, working with a nexus 5x and better battery life fast charging for that every 36 hours or so. I do miss my qi charging still.

  • So what do you do when the pager goes off.
    Do you run and find a pay phone?
    Do you reach into your pocket for your cell phone?

    What do you plan to do when the customer captures your cell phone number
    and just calls you back?

    A pager does have value because the coverage was nearly universal.
    They are reliable.
    A classic pager just displays numbers to call back or pre-shared code numbers.
    The day I got a text/message pager that could give me a message "All OK" in contrast
    to a call back number that was run to find a

  • Delete it, or if not an option (like on my HTC phone) disable it. It's only been 4 days into my experiment, but I've charged my phone once in that time (HTC Desire 601, nothing too fancy, but decent.) For the last six months I've had to charge twice a day....and I honestly barely use the thing (the phone, and almost never the FB app). A few days ago read an article (Guardian I think) where people found the Facebook app was hosing their battery. Disabled it, got well over 50hrs before my next charge, and sin
  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:17PM (#51497443)

    I used to carry a pager not too long ago. But in recent years nobody bothered to "call me" on the pager. I think reason is many people don't know what or how it is used. i.e. call my pager number, after hearing a few beeps then key in phone number you want me to call and then I will call you. Is this procedure still taught? Only need a few sentences at most for instructions. But maybe pagers gone way of dial telephones, plop one in front of somebody under 40 and they will have no idea what they are looking at.

    It seemed AAAbatterY didn't last very one, since it rarely received calls many times I forget to wear it. When I find after some time, battery is not only dead but leaked. So I have clean out the battery holder, kept doing this several times eventually didn't put a battery into it. Meanwhile the gal came through the office doing property inventory asked if I still use the pager. I had to find it in my junque archive, I turned it in. Last week got the message item has been disposed.

  • I'm at a medical center where pagers are still in use. Why? Pagers work in the basements and don't drop signal when you're inside a large building away from a window. We can request an upgraded 2-way pager, but most at best a pager will alert you and you can either pick up a phone or move to location where your phone has a signal. Under trial are VOIP phones that use our local Wi-Fi for staff on the floor to have texting & voice. During a prolong blackout, paging continued to work long after cell

  • Where I live, the pager systemwas shut down ten years ago. Nobody used them, nobody miss them. A cheap non.smart phone lasts for a week on moderate use.
  • by axp_bofh ( 930745 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:42PM (#51497659)
    I've carried a pager for over 25 years (systems programmer, then systems admin(VMS, Linux, SAN...)). I like the pager for several reasons: 1) after so many years it is guaranteed to wake me up (and more importantly, it doesn't wake up my wife). 2) it will respond in places that my phone won't reliably get a signal. 3) battery life. 4) clips to my belt and forget it's there.5) if I go on vacation, I can leave it behind. Most paging systems will pass email notifications to the pager; at this point most of my pages are one system or another crying for daddy to help.
  • Pagers were never that great here around, only hospitals used it, and about two years ago, I was within a project to lay to rest the last pager system at a hospital I know of. The other hospitals use DECT phones since ages and have the whole campus covered with DECT repeaters. Pagers are clumsy as you have to find the next phone and call from there. DECT phones can be called directly.
  • I'm cool with it. It is simple. All kinds of stuff goes wrong with my cell phone all of the time, but the pager is rock solid.
  • Hate to admit it but, yep... I carry an alpha pager with me as well as a phone. Why? Because pagers have a much better coverage area, and are generally more reliable. It is used not only for emergency alerts (system down, etc) but also inside the huge building by people to alert to call them (they don't supply cell phones, nor do I want a "work" cell phone, nor do I want my users having MY phone number).

    I hope to rid myself of it one day... cell coverage has improved so much over the years. If I could f

  • Some years ago, us sysadmins went from pagers to cell phones, with the alert system sending SMS via email, which is very close in function than what we used to get from pagers. I typically set the phone to some loud and obnoxious sound for a text, something that will wake me up. People who know me, know the very specific noise it makes.

    One critical disadvantage we noticed right away is that cell phones don't last very long on a full charge. Even in the days before smartphones that last less than a day on

  • ...an insane long standby time.

    When I full charge that thing, it can take a call or text for like two weeks. Maybe using that mode is worth a thought. It's still useful for web browsing, e-mail, text, etc...

    (And yes, I tested that on a long trip, no charger. Got 10 days, no problem, took a few calls, answered a few e-mails, various SMS.

  • This story is the opportunity to ask: how can a pager be integrated with IT systems? Are there standards to send a message? Is there an associated fee?

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