"Pager" and "beeper" are both names for personal one-way telecommunication devices that allow for short numeric and/or text messages to reach their users. The nicknames "beepers" or "bleepers" come from the beeping or bleeping noises that the devices make. The devices are used to notify a person that he or she needs to call someone or that he or she has a message waiting on a voicemail system.
Pagers are generally small devices, approximately 1 inch wide (2.54 centimeters), 2 inches (5.08 centimeter) in length, and 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeter) in diameter. A narrow read-out screen shows a numeric or alphanumeric message, and many pagers have a button one can press to light up the screen. In addition, many have buttons that allow users to scroll backward and forward to find messages. Small clips attached to the back of pagers allow them to be clipped to a user's belt.
"Pager" was the original name used for the device because people used them to page one another. Since pagers make beeping noises to notify their users, the name "beeper" became popular. Not all pagers and beepers just beep, however. They can often be set to vibrate, light up, beep while vibrating, and beep and light up while vibrating.
Pagers were first used in the 1950s and were meant for physicians to receive emergency calls. Originally just numeric devices, someone, such as a nursing assistant, charge nurse, or fellow doctor, would call a physician’s pager and dial a number into a messaging service. The pager would then activate and notify the physician that a message had come through. The physician would call the number that he or she saw on the pager or call a messaging service to receive a voicemail. Nowadays, alphanumeric read-outs are available, and some pagers and beepers are two-way devices.
Very popular during the 1990s, pagers and beepers were cheaper for personal communication than cell phones. Pagers are still used in places where cell phones cannot receive a signal, and by people in emergency or security positions, such as firemen, police, and government employees. They are also still used by medical facilities because they do not interfere with medical equipment such as monitoring equipment or defibrillators.