Our attachment to electronics as conversation instruments existed well before iPhones and apps ruled the ways we communicate. For years, people have found ways to stay in touch with each other without actually speaking a word, instead using gadgets to do the deed. And in the late ’80s-early ’90s, the key gadget to hold was the pager.
Thinking about them now, pagers are archaic compared to all the wizardry at our fingertips. Remember that we’re not talking the Timeport or the little brother Talkabout T900s; they would come many years later. But way back then, beepers were the equivalent of a mobile answering machine or, in some cases (if someone put *911 after their number), the easiest, most effective way to prompt someone to call you asap. That was mostly it, unless group of people concocted a Wire-like code of communication. Still, they were the ultimate status symbol.
The first time I really remember hearing about these crazy new devices on wax was 1989’s “Beepers” by Sir Mix-A-Lot. Can I admit that I used to dial the 800-number given by the automated voice repeatedly? Was I paging a friend or checking my own messages? Hell no. This things were just that dazzling and unheard of that natural curiosity meant trying to access them however possible.
When they first really started jumpin’ off, the only people who owned beepers were doctors and dopeboys. For the latter reason, my parents wouldn’t dare even consider letting me have one, but it’s not like I needed to stay in close contact with anyone either. I just wanted to be down by law, word to MC Shan. As far as accessories go, having a pager was just as ill as having thick herringbone or a rope chain.
I can’t remember how I got my hands on it but I distinctly remember carrying a disconnected Motorla for a few weeks in junior high. Clearly, my personal fail was a juvenile attempt at status and chasing cool, one that closely mirrors a small kid standing in the arcade snatching a joystick around on a game that clearly says “game over” on the screen. I wore it clipped to my belt and silently prayed that no one asked to see it.
After that “Beepers,” the last dedicated paging device cut would have to be Tribe’s appropriately titled “Skypager” from Low End Theory. Tip spelled it out in the song’s opening: “Do you know the importance of a Sky-pager?” That was ’91 and pagers were still going strong but would soon hit a lull as another telecommunications gadget started to emerge: the mobile phone. The want for pagers took a dive cells eventually become more and more prevalent (and more mobile, as the name would indicate, and not brick-like in weight).
So, dear Skypager, you are gone and all but forgotten. Fret not though because you were immortalized for eternity in song and in the minds of Rap City kids who longed for you.
Cred: Pedestrian Parallax
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