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Friday, September 16, 2011

"Text Me Up" - the story of Pagers and texting - Tracey Moberly

Strange are the ways of women – sure they can never keep secrets but can keep most unwanted things for ages (and that includes their memory of keeping so much of what you failed to do !!)

Remember that in mid 90s there was this instrument becoming very famous – slowly it faded into oblivion – first people crazily went after that and bought it at prices around Rs.5000/- (really a handsome amount those days), then prices fell -  all lower level service boys were given that – once it was even given free with a popular magazine.. now you don’t see them at all – that is the story of ‘pager’  - a personal telecommunications device for short messages.  It was   one way communication – only receipt of messages – one cannot call back. There were numeric and then advanced ones were alpha numeric.  In the former one can receive only numbers and in the latter the text messages also.      Actually it worked through a cumbersome process of network.  All pagers just like the modern day Mobile phones had service providers and allotted specific numbers.  If you are to convey the message, you had to call the service provider and convey the message and the recipient’s no.   They would send the message and the recipient would be in a position to see them scrolling on their hand held equipment.  That itself was a revolution and helped many. 

For example, a service technician attending a call in Parrys area (of Madras) can be informed of another call to be attended in the same area without him having to travel back to his Office (some kilometers away) only to be told that there is another service call in the building next to the one from where he had just returned !  Then came the two-way pagers, which had the ability to send and receive  text messages. Still a video message or call was a long long way at that point.  Even in those days, those messages that were sent across were not like the ones texted now a days. 

You look around your environment – be it a cinema hall, hospital, railway station or inside a crowded bus.  You find people (mostly young girls)  very deeply engrossed and in a World of their own – gazing into their mobiles, laughing to themselves and indulged in texting.   Texting is sending SMS (short message service) – the most widely used  service on a mobile device. As you all know, a single key is assigned for continuous alphabets, and there is what is known as dictionary mode, which would suggest the possible words on entering a few words.  Some are expertly fast in typing SMS messages.  Of course this is made much easier in mobiles with qwerty key board.

The Service Providers know well to lure their customers. Some (in India) offer a high no. (say 200 SMS free) – in fact one of the Service providers, provides for 100 SMS free daily at a nominal cost of Rs.19/- per month specific for this service.  So youngsters use this service to the hilt.  In fact there is a whole new language of short acronyms circulating around, which makes the native English speaker frown.. and what you do upon receiving the message ! – either respond with an answer or just delete it, as any equipment would hold only a specified no. of messages.  

Well, that perhaps is what normal individuals World over do……. but not Tracey Moberly, artist, author and radio show host did.  She is so obsessed with texting that she has kept all the messages – awesome considering that since 1999 it is  whopping 100,000 messages.   She is known to have produced and exhibited many artworks but her present work is far different. !

She claims that she has deleted only one text – the first received by her when she resolved that she would never get rid of another one.  Since then she has saved and savoured every message received by her – and when ultimately her phone ran out of space, she wrote them down on paper transferring them to 30 journals. Tracey states that  'People are so honest in texts - I love that I can document everyday conversations and they will last forever,'.

Many a times such attempts are only to draw notice of the public and to gain some advertisement. She is cleverer and has made money out of those saved messages by writing a book.  Her book  “Text-Me-Up!,” is published by Beautiful Books and available now at £20.00.

Strange are the ways of the people

S. Sampathkumar.

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