A question for those who went to high school in the '90s: What was the deal with beepers?

I never had one myself, nor did any of my close friends, but when I went to high school in the mid-90s, it seemed like a lot of kids had them. This was before cell phones became ubiquitous (they were just beginning appear in the hands of students when I graduated).
So, my question is why were they so popular? Did they just have a lot of friends outside of school they needed to talk to during the day? Was this supposed to be an early, crude form of text messaging? Some other reason?
When asked by teachers, many students would say something like they needed them just in case someone had to get a hold of them in an emergency - never mind that in case of a real emergency a parent could just as easily call the office and have them get a hold of their kid or that you couldn’t just walk out in the middle of class to make a phone call.
There were rumors that many students used them for drug dealing - knowing a lot of the kids who had them, this wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility, but still seems far fetched. Either way the administration really cracked down on them because they became such a nuisance, and by my junior year I don’t think you were allowed to have them at all.

Pagers were expensive, and thus were a status symbol. Cell phones were even MORE expensive, but no one would pay $2000 for a brick phone and $9 a minute for a teenager to have one.

I graduated from high school in 1995 in a rural part of Ohio, and I can’t think of anyone that had a beeper. Probably it was a more urban thing?

Uh, what about Zack Morris?

I was a bit older than high school but I carried one for a while in the 1990s.

It was a way for you to give out ‘your number’ without having to give out a landline phone that you probably shared with family if you were in high school or roommates if you were just out of college.

Also, it was a way for people to reach you if your landline was in use with a dial up modem.

A guy in my (very rural) h.s. class ('92 graduate) had a beeper because he was on the volunteer fire department. Sometimes when he would get bored, he’d set it off by hitting a test button and would jump up and run out of class, not to be seen for the rest of the day.

I grew up in a fairly rural area, though the main town also happened to be home to a large multinational medical supply company. Still, I noticed it was mainly the working class kids who had them.

We had volunteer firefighters in high as well and a few of them carried beepers. They had a sweet deal because they could just leave school whenever a page came in. I had an even sweeter deal because so many guys were on the fire department, but I wasn’t, that they generally stopped classes during fires and let us go play outside or in the gym whenever there was a major fire in town.

The rest of the people that had them weren’t exactly the community service types except by the loosest definition of the term. They were the drug dealers and gang members which is a traditional niche market for beepers and still is.

How much did a beeper go for in the '90s anyway, and how much did a monthly plan cost?
I do remember there was a period in the mid-90s where you couldn’t walk into a mall without seeing a kiosk or two (or 100) for beeper covers - pretty much any design you could think of, from Mickey Mouse and Looney Toons to thorn wrapped skulls.

One of my sisters had one, and it seemed to me that it was to ensure she was constantly in contact with whomever might want to converse with her. Someone would beep her and she’d call them back — or not, as the mood or circumstances dictated. Now that we have cell phones they seem slightly ludicrous, but at the time it was a way to reach someone, no matter where they might be, and let them know you wanted to tell them something.

That. And selling drugs.

I may have been a little later, but my parents got me a beeper and a cell phone in the late 90’s. I graduated early and was driving 2 hours each day to college. Cell phone plans still weren’t very cheap, so I never kept it on, but the beeper was only $10 a month. It was a way for my parents to keep in touch with me.

11 posts before a correct answer! I’m a little disappointed, dopers.

I graduated in '99 and I didn’t know anyone with a beeper.

My husband had one around that time, but he was working call work at the time and if he would lose work if he didn’t have one.

edited to add

In '98 my family did buy a cell phone. My Grandma got into a bad car accident and my Mom went to the city Grams was sent too and we needed a way to reach her. After my Grandma recovered the phone barely left the box and was just tossed in the car when we went on long trips. Man that phone lasted forever. It was big, but sturdy.

I graduated in '97 from a suburban high school and I remember that a few of my friends had them. None of them were drug dealers or even particularly rich. They were the same kids that today would constantly be sending and receiving text messages on their phones.

All of this is my experience too, except that I graduated in '96.

Even at the time, I remember not being sure what a beeper was supposed to accomplish. A friend of mine had one, but I knew she wasn’t a drug dealer. Her explanation that it enabled people to get in touch with her in case of emergency just didn’t make sense to me. She was sixteen, what kind of emergency were other people going to get into that necessitated her presence?

Of course, I was also a somewhat late adopted to cell phones (got my first one in 2001) so maybe I just don’t get the appeal of having gadgets just because you can.

I graduated highschool in 2000. Everyone had one my junior and senior year. It’s the same justifications as people having cell phones now.
I had a lot of friends and we were always in random spots hanging out every day after school and weekends. So it was an easy way to get friends to find out where everybody was easily. Parents to get ahold of you for when they were on their way to pick you up. Work to get a hold of you, etc. There were payphones all over the place so it was cheap and easy to contact someone.

It was only like $10 a month, so not much money. The fad lasted pretty quickly though, I think only like 2 years. Then people started getting cell phones, and although only a few people in the group had one it was easy enough to borrow them or set up a phone tree that way.

I graduated in '99 and had a beeper. It was a gift from a gadget obsessed uncle.

In the days before cell phones, it was somewhat useful. When I was out and about, my mom would beep me wanting to check up on me. I’d give her a call from the nearest cell phone and it was all good. I also used it to arrange meetings- just “give me a beep” from a cell phone when you are there and I’ll head over. You could also use it as a bit of a primitive text message device. Friends and family would come up with all kinds of codes (“143” was often “I love you.”) I remember my boyfriend would beep me pretty often during the day.

It was a good way to show how important you were. And in the case of one FOAF, a good way for her controling boyfriend who’d already graduated to keep tabs on her.

I graduated in '99 and I had one. I used it because I used to ice skate and would take the bus to the next town over for my lessons. My mom would use it to let me know if she was going to be late picking me up. We had a code that she would type in instead of a phone number, so I woudn’t have to try to call her back. She worked on the road and was a bit of technophobe, so she didn’t have a cell phone.