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|| News Item: Posted 1998-10-21

Travel Tips: Stay in Touch with the Home Office Via SKYTEL
By Captain Ron

In the hectic fast-paced world of sports photography, with picture requirements changing at the last minute, it's more important than ever for the home office to be able to reach you wherever the hell you might be.

You have a couple of options, for staying in touch.

(1) Cellular phone, Analog, PROS: Widespread coverage established track record, OK sound quality, and everybody has one and knows how to use it. CONS: Everybody has one, consequently whoever is calling you, always gets a busy cell site signal or the dreaded "The cellular customer you are calling it is out of the service area or away from the phone, please try your call later message.

(2) Pager. Nationwide digital, PROS: Always on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Works really well in buildings and garages. CONS: Always on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means your buddies who are sitting around with nothing better to do, can wake your ass up, at some ungodly hour of the night. Or page you with the number of the "Panty of the month club" which you will call while in a stupor, after being roused from sleep at some ungodly hour.

During the past 8 years, I've used two different paging services, starting with PAGENET, supposedly the nations largest paging company. The service was pretty good. Coverage extended over much of Southern CA. After a few years they offered expanded regional coverage across the West and then nationwide service. Problem was that the pager was just a plain old Motorola "Bravo" numeric pager, so unless you had memorized all the phone numbers in your phone book, you never knew who was calling, or what they were calling about.

Then one day, trapped aboard an airline flight, with no reading material other than the in-flight magazine, I saw an ad expounding on the virtues of a new nationwide pager service called SKYTEL. They claimed nationwide coverage, and GUARANTEED message delivery. Now my curiosity was piqued. How the hell did the network know you were out of range? (Like in an airplane, or underground RF shielded military bunker).

When I got back to L.A., I drove down to my local PAGENET office to inquire about this new wonder pager. There were clueless. Since I couldn't get the information I wanted, my desire for the pager began to fade. The gods of technology smiled upon me however. A few weeks later, I was changing planes in Salt Lake City, when I spied a SKYTEL kiosk. The nice lady behind the counter demonstrated the pager to me and told me that I could try it for FREE for 30 days, if I didn't like it, I could just send it back in the postage paid envelope!

I never sent it back!

How I love this pager let me count the ways.

(1) I have my own personal 800 number, NOT an 800 number with a stupid PIN number to remember, but MY OWN honest to god toll free 800 number. Those of you ordering these pagers now, will probably get stuck with an 888 number, because the supply of 800 numbers is exhausted. It might prove worthwhile to ask your salesperson to search out an 800 number for assignment, because some hotels and pay phone systems do not recognize 888 numbers as toll free.

(2) GUARANTEED message delivery! The pager works like a cell phone, registering itself with the local system. When you leave the service area, the system will store your messages until you return to full service area, and then downloads them to your pager. You can also call the 800 number and have the system retransmit the last 99 hours of messages to your pager.

(3) TEXT messaging! No more calling back to the office to see what they wanted. You can receive messages up to 500 characters in length. Callers can send you text messages dictated to an operator or sent via email to the SKYTEL web site, or download paging software from the SKYTEL site. (it's
only about a 4-minute download) If you're outside a full service area, you can call your 800 number and have the system convert the text to voice and the computer will read the message back to you over the phone.

(4) Voice mail! Callers can leave a long or short message for you. The computer will page you to let you know you have voice mail waiting and time and date stamp each message for you.

(5) Caller ID! I used to go crazy trying to figure out what area code 970 was. Never again. The pager displays who the caller was and where they were calling.

You can get all this technology for only $24.95 a month. Yes that's right $24.95. You have to ask for the "SKYTEL service PLUS" deal. If the operator taking your order waffles, just tell 'em you saw the deal at the airport.

Should you buy or rent your pager?

Buying PROS: No monthly rental fee, at $10.00 a month this can add up over the years. Figure it will take about 15 months of rental fees to pay for a typical pager. Many of the newer and smaller pagers are available for sale long before they are offered for rental or replacement for an older model pager you may be renting.

Buying CONS: If the pager breaks, too bad, unless you bought the pager protection insurance. If you lose it, too bad, even if you bought the insurance, the deductible is almost 50% the cost of a new pager. For more information or to order, check out the corporate web page at

(Capt. Ron travels extensively and has been on the road for 185 days so far this year.)

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