Remember pagers? Maybe not! If you were around in the 1990s, you might’ve carried a pager in case someone wanted to get in touch. Mainichi reports that today in Japan, service for pagers finally ended after first being introduced fifty years ago.
Tokyo Telemessage Inc., Japan’s last pager service, began shutting down radio signals late yesterday with the final beeps ending later today.
As Mainichi explains, pagers continued to find use in Japanese hospitals, where mobile phone connection can be spotty or where phone use has long been frown upon over concerns the signals could interfere with medical equipment.
As I wrote in my book Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, teens in the 1990s developed their own slang for pagers so they could send each other primitive text messages. Here’s how: When calling a pager, you were supposed to enter your own phone number for a call back; however, teens entered coded messages. For example, the number “3341″ meant samishii (I’m lonely).
The number three (3) is san or mitsu in Japanese, four (4) is shi in Japanese, and one (1) is the Japanese character i (い).
秋葉原・富士ソフトビル、あすでサービスが終了するポケベルの告別式。遺影は「愛してるよ」と読むらしく、オタクにこのセリフは無縁だったね的な哀しみ pic.twitter.com/W0vAX11S9h— ﾂﾙﾐﾛﾎﾞ (@kaztsu) September 29, 2019
The number one (1) looked like the English letter “i,” which sounds like the Japanese word ai (愛) meaning “love.” The number four (4) is shi in Japanese. The number ten (10) is te, the number six (6) is ru, and four (4) is yo. There were variations on the codes from friend to friend and school to school, which might explain the variation.
Pagers are relics of a simpler time, so it’s sad to see them go. Their old-fashioned brethren fax machines will probably stick around a little more.