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.