What is a Pager?
A pager is a very simple radio that listens to just one station all of the time. A radio transmitter broadcasts signals over a specific frequency. All of the pagers for that particular network have a built-in receiver that is tuned to the same frequency broadcast from the transmitter. The pagers listen to the signal from the transmitter constantly as long as the pager is turned on.
Each pager has a specific identification sequence called a Channel Access Protocol (CAP) code. The pager listens for its unique CAP code. When it hears the code, it alerts the user and may provide additional information, depending on the pager type.
There are five basic pager types:
- Beeper – The first and simplest form of paging, beepers provide a basic alert to the user. They’re called beepers because the original version made a beeping noise, but current pagers in this category vary in the type of alert. Some use audio signals, others light up and some vibrate. Many of them provide a combination of alerts. This is the category that the majority of restaurant pagers fall into.
- Voice/Tone – These pagers provide the ability to listen to a recorded voice message when you are alerted that you have a page.
- Numeric – These pagers provide the ability to send a numeric message, such as a phone number, along with the page alert.
- Alphanumeric – These pagers provide the ability to send a text message along with the page alert.
- Two-way – These pagers provide the ability to send as well as receive messages.
Regional and national paging networks set up towers, like those used for cell phones, to cover large areas. On-site paging systems like the ones used by restaurants use a small desktop transmitter. In the next section, we will take a closer look at this device.
The Master Transmitter
To operate the pagers used for on-site paging requires a master transmitter. The master transmitter sends out the signal that the pagers are listening to. A good analogy is to consider the master transmitter as a radio station and the pagers as radios tuned into that station.
The actual frequency used by the master transmitter varies between various models and manufacturers. Their coverage area can range from a few hundred feet to several miles, depending on the power of the transmitter. To page a customer, the hostess enters the numeric code for that pager into the master transmitter. The hostess may also select a specific option, such as the code for “table is ready” or the code for “lost pager.”
Most master transmitters display the last several pagers contacted. Some systems can handle up to 10,000 individual pagers, much more than any restaurant should ever need! A popular option is to connect the master transmitter into the telephone system of the restaurant. This allows a hostess or other member of the restaurant staff to initiate a page from any phone in the system.
The pagers typically run on rechargeable batteries. A recharging station is used to recharge the pagers easily. For example, the JTECH pagers in the image above have a set of metal contacts on the bottom of each pager. These contacts are connected by screws to metal plates on the pager’s circuit board. The metal plates lead to the battery pack. Also, the screws thread into exposed metal balls on top of the pager. These metal balls touch the metal contacts on the bottom of the pager stacked on top of that one.
For more Detail: How Restaurant Pagers Work