The beeper terms are "something young people understand and no one else does," said A. Michael Noll, professor of communication at the Annenberg School at USC. "Something to distinguish themselves from older folks."
Noll compared it to police using a code over the radio and to "Valley talk," the slang developed by teenagers in the San Fernando Valley.
Now, cellular technology companies are following the youths' lead with the codes, said Haddad. "The kids are definitely the ones who are starting this and then it catches on," said Haddad.
This younger generation has become the fastest growing group of pager users, said Scott Baradell, director of corporate communications for PageNet. In the 1980s, he said, pagers were plain black and mostly marketed to businesses.
"But kids were more interested in wild colors," said Baradell. "Young people are really trendy. You have to really keep up."
Colors now come in fluorescent and glow-in-the-dark. Some pagers have hockey and basketball logos. Others are transparent teal or root beer-toned.
Mouradian, who has owned an arsenal of pagers over the years, now uses a yellow and gray Motorola. "I'd rather have it colorful," she said. "I like getting weird colors that no one else has."
MTV has designed more vibrant beepers and has created an information network that communicates through pages. The network pages people with toll-free telephone numbers that they can call to learn about such things as upcoming contests where they can win prizes, said Mockridge.
NEC America, catering to the interests of all people trying to send messages from a numerical keypad, markets the MessageMaker--a pager that translates 63 numerical codes into meaningful phrases, said Beth Anderson, a spokeswoman for NEC.
"The kids kind of expanded the use of what we call canned messages," Anderson said. "They probably use it more than business users because they wanted to be out and about with their friends."
Motorola has developed a card with a list of codes because "it's become hip--and practical--tosend messages that contain more than just the callback number."
With phrases like, "Let's play golf," some messages might target an older brand of consumer. On the card, 1040 means "You owe me big time," a message they say "is all too clear in mid-April."
Consumers can buy other pagers that produce messages on the screen. With alphanumeric pagers, callers are required to relay their message through an operator since the telephone keypad can't translate numbers to letters.
But while technology moves ahead, many teenagers stick with the traditional numeric pagers because they are relatively cheap. Haddad says the pagers start at $29 apiece and the service can cost as little as $8 or $9 a month.
Kim said that creating one's own code is part of the draw to this type of communication.
"When we were younger, we had a language called G language where you'd put a G before every syllable," she said. "We'd communicate without other people--like our parents--being able to understand."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Teenagers relay messages through their pagers by dialing numbers that in the digital world look vaguely like letters. Other common messages rely on numerical shorthand.
Can you see it?
Good bye: 6000*843
I miss you: 1*177155*400
Good night: 6000*171647
Hello: 07734 (rotated upside down)
Go home: 60*401773
Hi loser: 41*705312
99: Good night (read "Nighty-night"
424: Call me back
911: Emergency; important
411: I have a question
143: I love you
831: I love you (8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning)
823: Thinking of you
637: Always and forever
187: I hate you; murder; death
1517: Keep in touch