What is the difference “between email and a pager”

SCOTUS 2009
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SCOTUS 2009Some cases simply highlight the age and experience difference between the Supreme Court and the rest of society.

During oral arguments today in the case City of Ontario v. Quon, which considers whether police officers had an expectation of privacy in personal (and sexually explicit) text messages sent on pagers issued to them by the city, the justices of the Supreme Court at times seemed to struggle with the technology involved.

The first sign was about midway through the argument, when Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. – who is known to write out his opinions in long hand with pen and paper instead of a computer – asked what the difference was “between email and a pager?”

Other justices’ questions showed that they probably don’t spend a lot of time texting and tweeting away from their iPhones either.

At one point, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked what would happen if a text message was sent to an officer at the same time he was sending one to someone else.

“Does it say: ‘Your call is important to us, and we will get back to you?’” Kennedy asked.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrangled a bit with the idea of a service provider.

“You mean (the text) doesn’t go right to me?” he asked.

Then he asked whether they can be printed out in hard copy.

“Could Quon print these spicy little conversations and send them to his buddies?” Scalia asked.

It wasn’t just the justices who had technical difficulties. When Justice Samual Alito asked Quon’s attorney Dieter Dammeier if officers could delete text messages from their pagers in a way that would prevent the city from retrieving them from the wireless carrier later, Dammeier said that they could.

via DC Dicta » Blog Archive » Technical difficulties at the Supreme Court.

I am sure Clarence Thomas, who rarely asks questions during debate and recently revealed that he may still marvel at the invention of household appliances, knows all about texting. Can’t they do some research prior to hearing this case? Ask a clerk maybe?

But the real odd thing to me is Quon’s lawyer, Dammeier not knowing that yes, the recipient and sender’s carriers do store the content of all text messages sent over their networks.