I’ve had a pager on my hip almost my entire professional life. At first, it was simply a cheaper option than cell phones for the company I was working for. At this point, cell phones were not ubiquitous, and had all sorts of limitations. When they needed to get in touch with their technicians, they would send a page, and we’d call the shop. We’d also use it as our business number–customers would call, and could leave messages. Since the job was primarily business hours, the pager came off as soon as I walked into my apartment.
When I moved to my current company, the pager was part of being in an on-call position. I could be called upon to react on a 24×7 basis. Systems could automatically generate a ticket, the system we set up ensured we could track the alert from the ticket to the pager. As cell phones started to become increasingly common, to the point I even owned one, I still preferred, for business reasons, having a pager. I had the option of controlling how I responded. Sure, I could choose not to answer, but the non-answer would create confusion. People would escalate to my lead. I also paid for my cell phone out of pocket. While my number is an open secret in my office, it at least prevented random calls from people I didn’t know. More than once, I saw people called off hours for issues that could wait. If the pager could be a firewall against that, I was all for it.
I recently learned that my company is discontinuing pagers. From a business perspective, it makes sense. By using the existing corporate plans with cell phone carriers, they could lower costs and aggregate the expense. Most people already are getting their “pages” as SMS messages. As I’m the last hold-out, I had to decide what my approach would be. I decided my best move was to get a cheap phone on a company plan to treat as a pager. We’ll see how that works out. However, I’ll miss the simplicity of the pager.