There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Remember pagers? Well, they’re still around.

Many years ago, I began thinking that it might be a good idea to have a way for someone to contact me at any time. So, I was seriously considering buying a pager and signing up for pager service.

Instead, I did something really wild.

I got a cellular telephone and signed up for cell phone service.

As cell phones became more and more prevalent, pagers – the former status symbol used by important businesspeople (including professionals in the illegal pharmaceutical business) receded from the national consciousness. But they didn’t disappear – which was a good thing in August 2011:

SPRINGFIELD, Va., Aug 29, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — USA Mobility, Inc. (Nasdaq: USMO), a leading provider of wireless messaging,mobile voice and data and unified communications solutions, today reported its paging networks remained fully operational in the aftermath of last week’s East Coast earthquake, once again demonstrating the reliability of paging networks over cellular networks, which reportedly experienced significant outages and disruptions to customer service after the quake.

So all of us tech-weenies who were stupid enough to use cellphones lost contact, while the pager people stayed in touch.

But who are these pager people? According to USA Mobility (created in 2004 via a merger of Arch Wireless and Metrocall), pager people are found in a few select vertical markets.

USA Mobility is a comprehensive provider of reliable and affordable wireless communications and software solutions to the healthcare, government, large enterprise and emergency response sectors.

Apparently illegal pharmaceutical distributors have moved their operations to other platforms – or at least they aren’t providing comprehensive employment information to USA Mobility.

It should be noted that NPR has documented a potential shift in hospitals from pagers to smartphones. But even NPR notes:

Still, switching over completely is more complicated than just swapping devices. Smartphones’ extra functionality comes with complications, like safeguarding all the patient information that lives on the phone. Pagers, on the other hand, are simple, reliable.

“The little things, like replacing batteries. Your smartphone runs out of battery, it takes a while to charge. A pager runs out of battery, you pop a new triple-A in there.”

…And then there’s price. Between equipment, data plans, developing apps, NYU Langone spent $10,000 to $20,000 to pilot just 16 phones. Which all means Edds expects the pager to coexist with smartphones in hospitals for the next decade.

But if you see someone in a hospital, fire station, or large business with a pager, now you know why.

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