How did one say, “I love you” in 1990s Japan? It could be done in just five digits: 14106. Missing a sweetheart? Try 3341.

Those were the days when combinations of numbers could convey one’s innermost feelings. The must-have gadget of the time was a variety of pager known as the Pocket Bell.

 The news earlier this month of the death of pager services in Japan, a full 50 years after they began, made international headlines. In the mid-1980s, however, so-called pokeberu took off and millions of Japanese people from salarymen to schoolgirls were furiously texting each other. This movement marked the birth of texting and mobile communications in Japan.

In the past 30 years, Japan has gone from bubble and bust to global brand and B2B supplier. It has also undergone a communications revolution led by companies such as NTT Docomo, the nation’s largest mobile carrier. Digital technologies such as email, Web 2.0 and smartphones have changed countries around the world, and Japan is no exception. However, Japan initiated and adapted those technologies for its own ends and used them in unique ways. The era beginning in 1989 and known as Heisei, or “peace everywhere,” could just as easily be called “phones everywhere.”

Read the rest of the story at The Japan Times.

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