Pagers pack the parley punch

Sarah Hallonquist

In the 1980s, the only option after getting a busy signal was an undefined wait. Your best friend’s mother could converse into the night, holding your evening plans hostage to the phone line.
But times have changed since the age of argyle sweaters and neon miniskirts. Now you and your friends can connect any time of day without the hassle of busy signals, answering machines or rude family members.
After all, it’s not cool to be out of reach.
Personal electronics are the new game pieces of the 1990s, and the trend reaches just about anyone who has an extra pocket to spare. Two of these small items include the ever-vibrating pager and the traffic-distracting cellular phone.
Pagers, fondly referred to by some as electric leashes, are sold to sixth-graders all the way on up to senior citizens. Whatever the emergency — a cup of coffee or a shopping companion — the pager exists for one purpose only: urgent communication.
Denny Park, salesperson at Express Paging in St. Paul, said his store often markets to students.
“It’s a great way to communicate,” he said. “If you need to get your homework done, you can page someone.”
Two popular kinds of pagers dominate the market. The first is the standard digital pager. With voice mail options, the digital pager allows callers to enter in their phone number or leave an audible message.
For the less than simple approach, Alpha Numeric pagers offer several more conveniences. On tiny screens, these tools can broadcast e-mail, CNN news, weather and text version of voice mail messages. The costs range from $100 to $200.
But if you prefer a more direct line of communication, the cellular phone is the answer. Whether a battery-powered pocket size flip phone or a car plug-in, the cellular phone offers safety calls on a road trip or a friendly conversation on the way to your next class.
And for those with decorative sensibilities, accessorizing options abound.
Sanrio Gift Gate at the Mall of America sells cell phone cozies and pager chains for the young electronic crowd. A Hello Kitty cellular phone case runs $16.50, allowing twentysomethings a nostalgic visit with cartoon characters from their earlier days.
For those who don pagers, bungee cords and chains are available in several characters Sanrio markets — Pochacco, Pekkle, Keroppi and My Melody — the choices are plentiful.
Casey Lundberg, a Sanrio employee, said customers aging 12 to 30 purchase the store’s products, but the majority of its sales rest with teenagers.
But college students might remain the best burgeoning market for the growing electronic communication craze. Although there isn’t a law prohibiting schoolchildren to buy pagers, districts have begun cracking down on pagers in the classroom.
Today’s college students work, study and socialize, and their communication needs are vital. A pager or cellular phone calms the commotion by instantly providing answers to homework questions and date plans.
Those who refuse the technological trend will fall behind and be lost in the busy signals and voice mails. Get connected.