Ever been in a restaurant and heard pagers going off all evening? It may start happening even more often now that the Mac can make the call that sets off the beep. At Macworld, Ex Machina showed Notify!, a new program that takes advantage of System 7 to deliver all sorts of information from a Mac to a pager, preferably one of the more advanced alphanumeric ones.
I've never used a pager before and Ex Machina wanted to make sure I got the idea, so they lent me one for the duration of the Expo. Luckily, the fancy one they lent out could be set to vibrate rather than beep loudly, which was a little weird, having this thing vibrating in your shirt pocket, but it was less embarrassing than scrambling for the silence button each time it went off during a conversation. There was no chance that I was going to get anyone else to page me while I was there, so I signed up for the football scores group some people from MacUser were putting together. That ensured that I had a vibrating pocket every half hour or so as the semi-finalists battled for Super Bowl berths. Those close games can be exciting. :-)
Football scores may be important to many people, but there are far more interesting applications of the Notify! software. Using Apple Events, Notify! accepts information from applications that support it, translates appropriately, dials a Hayes-compatible modem, and transfers the message to the pager network for transmission to your pager. You can also just type a quick message in for instantaneous transmission without having to interact with other programs. In the tests we saw at the demo, it took about three minutes for a message to get through, which is pretty quick considering the number of jumps. Using Notify! to send pages will generally be cheaper than using a standard pager since you don't have to have an operator type the message in, thus saving time and effort.
Some of the developers supporting Notify! include Claris, Microsoft, CE, Dayna, WordPerfect, and UserLand. Such wide ranging support means that you could have scheduling software send you notification of appointments, network management software could wake up the network manager when the network dies in the middle of the night, short email messages could come through immediately, stock quotes and the like could be routed directly to your pager for immediate action, and you could even have Resolve, HyperCard, or Excel tell you when they're done with a long process. One of the most intriguing applications came from Magnum Software with its TFLX voicemail product that can take calls, route callers around a voicemail system, and send messages via the paging network to alert technicians, for instance, to urgent service problems.
As fascinating as Notify! is, I suspect that you'll know instantly if it will be useful to you after reading this article. Some people simply don't want to be bothered when they are away from work. In contrast, the pager is limited in the amount of information it can take in and display, so if you're the sort of person who needs a lot of information at hand all the time when away from your desk, you'll probably be best off agitating with Motorola for cellular modems that can work with a notebook or laptop computer. That technology is still coming forward, getting cheaper, faster, and more standardized, but I feel that in the next two years it won't be at all strange to have a full-powered notebook machine that is connected wherever you go, at least in major cities. In the meantime, if you use (or obviously should be using) a pager now and you have a Mac, you should definitely take a look at Notify! because it has the potential to do a lot for you and if you don't get one of the quiet beepers, to interrupt a lot of dinners. The Personal Version is shipping now for $149 list price, and the Network Version for workgroups will list for $399 and will be available soon. Highly recommended.
Ex Machina -- 800/238-4738 -- 212/831-3142
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