TURN­ING the PAGE

JA­PAN’S LAST PAGER SER­VICE COMES TO AN END AF­TER 50 YEARS

The Nation - - LIVING IT UP -

THE END of the pager era is nigh in Ja­pan af­ter five decades, with the coun­try’s last provider an­nounced on Mon­day it would be scrap­ping its ser­vice next year.

Tokyo Telemes­sage, the only pager ser­vice provider left stand­ing, said it had de­cided to ter­mi­nate its ser­vice to Tokyo and three neigh­bour­ing re­gions in Septem­ber 2019 – de­scrib­ing the devel­op­ment as “very re­gret­table”.

“Pagers were once a huge hit... but the num­ber of users is now down to 1,500,” the com­pany said in a state­ment, ad­ding it had stopped man­u­fac­tur­ing the hard­ware de­vice 20 years ago.

Pagers – known as “poke-beru” (pocket bell) in Ja­pan – be­came very pop­u­lar in the 1990s es­pe­cially among high school girls ob­sessed by their prim­i­tive text mes­sag­ing func­tions.

At break time, long queues of high school girls would form out­side pub­lic phones as they fran­ti­cally punched in num­bers which were then con­verted into short mes­sages to class­mates and boyfriends.

At the 1996 peak for the tech­nol­ogy, the num­ber of users reached more than 10 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data.

But mo­bile phones quickly con­signed pagers to the tech­nol­ogy dust­bin.

Ma­jor tele­coms com­pany NTT, which in­tro­duced pagers back in 1968, stopped its ser­vice in 2007.

Visitors to Ja­pan are of­ten sur­prised at the con­trast­ing use of tech­nol­ogy in Ja­pan.

On the one hand, Ja­pan is a land of high-tech and fu­tur­is­tic gad­gets but can also some­times be bizarrely old school – for ex­am­ple, faxes are still rou­tinely used as a method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

When the last North Korean mis­sile flew over Ja­pan, one of the more sur­real mo­ments was TV footage show­ing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe learn­ing about the emer­gency – on his flip-phone.

And the Ja­panese minister in charge of cy­ber se­cu­rity re­cently made in­ter­na­tional head­lines when he ad­mit­ted that he del­e­gated com­puter work to oth­ers.

Yoshi­taka Saku­rada, 68, who is also in charge of the 2020 Olympics, also ap­peared con­fused by the con­cept of a USB drive.

A 1998 file photo shows a Nip­pon Irid­ium em­ployee dis­play­ing a pager of Irid­ium satel­lites tele­phone ser­vice, made by Ja­pan’s elec­tron­ics gi­ant Ky­ocera at the com­pany’s head of­fice in Tokyo.

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