2 min read

Call Me, Beep Me, If You Wanna Reach Me 📟

edit: polling the people

ok so after writing this I was wondering if there was some pocket of tech that was continuing on with physical pagers and I put up a poll seeking some anecdata. so far "i carry a physical pager" is at 0% which kinda surprised me. huh!  

poll on Mastodon: anyone in tech carry a physical pager for on-call these days or is everyone on Pagerduty? Preliminary results with 20 people 0% I carry a physical pager, 70% I use a pager phone app 30% :eyes:

Back before I understood more about engineering and the realities of keeping operating software at scale.

or as some people would reductively say "became technical" (you can read my thoughts on this in On Being Technical and On Engineering Elitism).

I genuinely thought that the engineers that worked around me at NR were carrying literal pagers and were talking about being on "pager"  "duty".

I also thought that JSON was like some dude named Jason who was really particular about how to pronounce it. <insert france is bacon bit here>. incredibly true story.

That was an era where I was a blissfully unaware end user Instagramming my life and never once thinking about the technical complexities of running such a popular platform. I had no idea what was on the other side of those "Oops. We're down right now. Don't worry! The engineers know and are working on it" error pages.

And it is not like I was an unsophisticated user either - I grew up creating "masterpieces" in MS Paint, lost hours and hours of my life playing PC games like Theme Hospital and Zeus, used Google Docs to collab in high school in the mid 2000s, felt like I beta tested whatever horrible educational software was used to submit online hw in college and was working at a tech company where on some level I was soaking up on some level how complicated all this was.

OK back to pagers

Did you know that you can still purchase physical pagers? For the curious I will let Pagers Direct fill you in on their post Are Pagers Still A Thing?

When I was recovering from burnout, my phone was associated more with stress and work and I just wanted to chuck it in a drawer for a few months and be able to give select important people a way to ping me.

Because the amount of work apps that can be installed on your phone is dizzying from - Slack, Confluence, PagerDuty, Okta, Travel Apps, and those misguided attempts by observability/monitoring companies to let you think you could troubleshoot "on the go" on a PHONE SIZED SCREEN lolol.  

Would carrying a physical pager around even make a difference when most folks carry their cell phones everywhere anyways? Perhaps! If I were still on-call I would most definitely look into setting up a physical pager or expecting my company to shell out for a separate work phone.

I ~feel~ like its the same idea as how you spend more when paying with a debit/credit card vs having to hand over that cold hard cashola (source).  

When work and life and everything is mixed on one device it can seem like its not a big deal to ack or swipe away a false positive alert because your phone was next to you and you can move on with your day.

Curious if I know anyone who's actually using a physical pager for tech on-call - let me know!