In tech, 1997/98 were weird years. Cell phones existed, and not just the big brick-sized things, and not just the car lighter-powered car phones, but the small/sleek Motorola or/and Nokia "mini brick" phones, that are now referred to as "feature phones", and some of those older models even had a color screen, and, as I remember it, a friend of mine even had a lo-fi web browser on his feature phone. Making a call from anywhere - wow, the future!
But most of the teenagers in the neighborhood I lived in growing up, in 1997/98, when I was 14/15 years old, we just had pagers. The standard small, black, Motorola things with the backlit green screen and three buttons atop. Be it a "page" from one friend to another stating
420 + whatever #'s we had assigned to ourselves to indicate this person had bought pot, or that person wants to BUY pot, etc. A PagerNet of marijuana sharing amongst the youth of rural Missouri in the late-90s came about. LOL!
And everyone had them. In fact, my neighbor at the time, "A", even had the original RIM (Research In Motion, AKA BlackBerry) pager back then, and it had a QWERTY keyboard right on the device, so there didn't need to be a LAN line telephone "middle man", and for those who had a RIM pager, they could "page" one another damn near instantaneously, and she, "A", could also page out to other people who were not on that "system". LAN line phones were a non-issue for RIM pager holders (as far as I can remember), but for those in Motorola Land, we had to jump on a touch tone phone to send a smoke signal (figuratively and literally) to someone. It was more sly than tucking yourself away in the corner of your house when "the folks weren't around" to harshly whisper into a phone receiver "hey, meet me at X spot, I got $20", or something to that effect. And of course it made receiving news that so and so "had weed" or "needed weed" less of an event, too. Instead of a LAN line phone igniting the entire house with a situation-stopping phone ring, which anyone could answer, because phones were not "private" devices by any means at the time, and then needing to craft some impromptu lie to explain why so and so was calling, and why one had to leave the house to visit such and such (because every single person present knew at that point that whomever called HAD called, and it was usually said in passing, "what did so and so want?", or whatever.
Pagers remedied this. No one knew what I was doing, or where I was going - just a silent, set-to-vibrate notification, accompanied with a
420 XXX number scheme let me know all I needed to either respond to (via paging them back), or ignore said message. Or, just up and leave the house with any number of reasons for doing so.
But now, of course pagers are completely vestigial. Text messaging exists, texting is better, and I also don't smoke pot, nor do I have to be "sneaky", as I am a 38 year old adult, and I could wear a fucking shirt that said "I'M GOING TO BUY POT RIGHT NOW" as I went and did so, and no one would throw up any red flags.
But they (pagers) served a brilliant utility at that time and place.