A time line showing the progression of the pager.
Created by christianam on Apr 20, 2011
Last updated: 02/21/12 at 06:12 PM
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Today, in 2011, pagers are "ancient" devices. Many people can't see any advantages of a pager when they compare it to the high-tech cellphones that are on the market now, but truthfully the pager does have some great advantages in certain professions. Doctors, rescue teams, and restaurant workers, all rely on pagers. To doctors, pagers are a necessity because they send VHF (very high frequency) waves that don't interfere with their equipment like cellphones do. These VHF waves also are much more reliable than cellphone waves. That's why rescue workers carry pagers so they don't need to worry that they won't have a signal when they're traveling in the wilderness. Another advantage of the pager is their quietness. Because they make so little noise, restaurants use pagers to communicate amongst the employees about open tables, completed orders, and others of the like, without disturbing the customers.
Soon after the cellphone came into market, the pager's popularity began to diminish. By 2000, the pager was used mostly by doctors, and by 2008, commoners were rarely seen with such a "prehistoric" device as a pager. Today, the pager is almost extinct. The fact that it really has no advantages over the cellphone really killed off the pager-using population, leaving only businessmen and doctors with the outdated way of communication.
The 1990s were the best years for the pager market. During these years sales were booming. Doctors and teens alike had pagers with a total of around 61 million pager users around the world by 1994. Of course pagers were more advanced than the "Pageboy" by that time. The majority of 1990s pagers were digital, so that had some appeal to the common folk.
Because the original pager wasn't all too helpful, it was improved so that people could get more use out of it. When tone pagers came into existence in the 1970s, they were an improvement but nowhere near perfect. A tone pager would alert the user and then play a brief message from the caller. The issue that arose from this, was how costly it was to leave messages. Because of the expenses of the tone pager, the digital and alphanumeric pager were brought into market in the 1980s. Digital pagers weren't pricey, but they didn't have the ability to tell the user the reason for the call. With a digital pager, the user would receive a callback number but nothing else. This was the reason for the invention of the alphanumeric pager. These pagers could send and receive full text messages from the caller. The alphanumeric pager became the most popular pager because it eliminated the problem of costly voice messages, and the hassle of having to call back the sender.
Motorola made their own radio communication system in 1959. The first pager that they put out for the public was called the "Pageboy" and was released in 1974. The "Pageboy" couldn't store messages and didn't have a screen. This meant that owners of the product would be notified that a message was sent, but wouldn't know what the message said.
Canadian Al Gross (who is also the inventor of the "walkie talkie") patented his pager in 1949. However, his invention was not available to everybody. Al Gross's pager was almost strictly used by New York City's Jewish Hospital. It wouldn't become accessible by the public (approved by the FCC) until 1958, almost ten years later.
In 1921, the Detroit Police Department developed a pager-like device used by officers, military officials, and the government. Sadly, the department didn't patent their invention so they didn't get any credit for it.
Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, continued the progress of wireless communication. In 1899, Marconi sent a wireless signal across the English Channel and got the response of the letter “S” two years later, coming from England and going to Newfoundland. 1902 marked the year of the first working transatlantic wireless message.
The year 1866 was an important one in the history of the pager. During this year an American dentist named Mahlon Loomis proved the theory of “wireless telegraphy” by making one kite attached to a galvanometer move another kite that was miles away. His experiment only worked under certain conditions though, which led him to believe that these proven “waves” could only work in certain layers of the atmosphere.
Radio waves (that would one day help create the pager) were first thought up in the1860s by a Scotsman named James Clerk Maxwell. Another man also had the theory that electric current could be put out into space and create waves as light and heat do. His name was Heinrich Rudolph Hertz, and was also a physicist, only originating from Germany where as Maxwell came from Scotland.