With the first phase of Japan’s 3G network shutdown starting this month, phone provider takes a moment to remember how it changed communication culture.

Later this month Au becomes the first of Japan’s big three telecommunications carriers to shut down its 3G mobile phone network. While 3G users with Au’s rivals SoftBank and Docomo will be able to use their phones for a little longer (until 2024 and 2026 respectively), Au’s dropping of 3G service is a reminder that their days are numbered too.

Since March also happens to be graduation season in Japan, Docomo felt the time was right to put together a video for its remaining 3G users, or, more specifically their phones.

As the video opens in a school auditorium, the curtains part and we see an array of over 400 handsets, including a whole lot of flip phones, lined up on stage like a student choir singing a wistful farewell at their graduation ceremony. One phone powers on and starts playing a ring tone, and it’s quickly joined by the rest in providing musical accompaniment for a nostalgic look back at the 3G era, which started when Docomo launched the world’s first 3G network under its FOMA brand in 2001.

▼ Yes, kids, there was a time when this was cutting edge technology.

Getting choked up over sunsetting infrastructure might seem silly, but since this is communications technology we’re talking about, it’s also a look back on how people connected with each other, and the emotional effects of how those connections took place.

For example, one scene shows a young man work up the courage to ask his crush out on a date by text message. He can see that she’s sent her reply, but it takes several tense seconds, and a couple retries, for his phone to finally display the message. It turns out it was worth the wait, though, since she replies to his invitation to go see a movie with “OK! Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Other aspects of yesteryear we see include shaking your phone around above your head to try to pick up a better signal (after extending the antenna, of course), super-long strings of “Re:” for each reply in conversation made up of individual emails (no chat apps in those days)…

using a guide book to program a pop-song ring tone beat-by-beat, wirelessly transferring contact data between two phones using their infrared sensors…

…secretly keeping a sticker picture of you and your sweetheart on the inside of your battery cover so you can keep your relationship on the downlow, and building a collection of cute and cool cell phone straps.

“We hope you’ll remember us. Thank you for letting us be by your side,” reads the on-screen message as the phone choir plays ode to joy and we see people telling friends, family and loved ones that babies have been born, tests have been passed, good times were had, and memories will never be forgotten.

Viewer comments for the video indicate there was hardly a dry eye in the auditorium.

“Yanking on the heartstrings and making me cry.”
“This was my youth. Crying right now.”
“Flashing back to so many memories, and crying, as I watch this.”
“That’s some high-concentration nostalgia!! Totally touched!!”
“By the time I was old enough to have my own phone smartphones were around, but this took me back to borrowing my parents’ phones in junior high to email my friends.”
“When you were emailing with someone you liked, you’d end up with so many ‘Re:s.’”
“Nowadays we tend to think of it as an obvious convenience, but this video is a reminder of how big a thing it is to be able to connect with someone like this.”

The video wraps up with Docomo’s first 3G phone displaying a text message of “Thank you,” and while it may not have the snap of shutting a flip phone at the end of a call, overall it’s a stirring look back at the end of an era.

Source: YouTube/docomoOfficial via IT Media
Top image: YouTube/docomoOfficial
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