PAGER Inventor Alfred J. Gross 1950

PEOPLE WERE BEING PAGED long before there were pagers. The verb simply referred to efforts to publicly track someone down, whether a doctor in a hospital or a stray passenger at an airport.

But the actual gadget, the personal pager, was an essential belt accessory if you were a doctor, CEO, repairman, or drug dealer—before cellphone technology pretty much put it on the heap that includes the 8-track tape player and the CB radio.

The creation of Al Gross, the man also largely responsible for the walkies-talkie, the pager was designed for doctors and first put to use at New York’s Jewish Hospital in 1950. It didn’t hit the com-mercurial market until the 1970s, and early models didn’t transmit messages.

Using a dedicated radio frequency, it only notified the receiver that there was a message. Sound limiting? Then you weren’t paying attention in 1998, when pagers were at the peak of their popularity. Motorola was the biggest player, controlling 80 percent of the market.

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