Turning the page: Japan's last pager service ends after 50 years

December 3, 2018
Pagers were all the rage in the 90s in Japan

The end of the pager era is nigh in Japan after five decades as 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 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.

Explore further: Does not compute: Japan cyber security minister admits shunning PCs

Related Stories

Line says no IPO this year

September 22, 2014

The Japan-based operator of popular mobile messaging app Line said Monday it has decided not to go ahead with an initial public offering in Japan or overseas this year.

Japan's mobile app Line reviving IPO plans

April 2, 2015

Line, the popular messaging app launched in the aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, is set for an initial public offering as early as this year, a report said Thursday, after shelving plans for a listing in 2014.

Recommended for you

Researchers engineer a tougher fiber

February 22, 2019

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a fiber that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material that could be incorporated into soft robotics, packaging ...

A quantum magnet with a topological twist

February 22, 2019

Taking their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern, kagome magnets are thought to have electronic properties that could be valuable for future quantum devices and applications. Theories predict that some electrons ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.