The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there

To celebrate Yesterday's release, in the run-up to September 25th I'll be blogging about the early 80s (1980-1985). Just like Yesterday's main character, Freya, I was sixteen in 1985 and if you were a teenager then too, these blog entries will be a trip down memory lane, back to the days of new wave music and the glory of Atari. If you weren't around for the early 80s, welcome to the time before cell phones you could fit in your pocket and the Internet as we know it today! This first post is an introduction to the period and will give you an idea (or remind you) what was happing culturally and politically during that time. Ready? Let's get started.


* The arcade game PacMan is released in Japan in May and then in October in the U.S.A. sparking PacMan mania in 1981.
* John Lennon is assassinated in New York City.
* Ted Turner establishes CNN, the first all news TV service.
* The Rubik's Cube gains worldwide popularity.
* The world population is 4,434,682,000.
* In 1980 the average new house in the U.S. costs $68,714., the average U.S. income per year is $19,170 and a gallon of gas costs $1.19.
* Terry Fox launches his Marathon of Hope, a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research.


* An assassination attempt is made on U.S. President Reagan.
* AIDS is first recognized by the CDC: five men in Los Angeles have a rare form of pneumonia seen only in patients with weakened immune systems.
* IBM introduces Personal Computers (PC).
* After fourteen months, fifty-two American hostages are released, ending the Iran hostage crisis, within minutes of Ronald Reagan succeeding Jimmy Carter as the President of the United States.
* Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer are married at St Paul's Cathedral in London drawing a global TV audience of over 700 million people.
* On August 1st the 24 hour a day music television station MTV is launched on cable television in the U.S.
* The first launch of a space shuttle (Columbia) occurs.
* Luke and Laura get married on TV soap General Hospital. Their wedding becomes the second most watched in history.


* Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.
* Michael Jackson releases Thriller which sells 20 million copies making it the largest selling album up to that time.
* The Vietnam War Memorial opens in Washington, DC.
* Prince William is born in West London.
* Sony launches the first consumer compact disc player.
* The Commodore 64 PC is released.
* Time Magazine names the computer its man of the year.
* The first artificial heart transplant takes place, the receipent lives 112 days.
* The Toyota Camry is introduced.


* The popularity of Cabbage Patch Kids causes a Christmas shopping frenzy in the U.S.
* Camcorders are introduced.
* President Reagan announces a defense intiative to intercept enemy missiles, a plan which becomes popularly known as "Star Wars."
* The first flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger occurs in April. Several months later Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.
* A Provisional IRA bomb kills 6 Christmas shoppers and injures 90 outside Harrods in London.
* McDonald's introduces the McNugget.


* The PG-13 Movie rating is created.
* The Apple Macintosh is introduced and swells the ranks of new computer users.
* The Space Shuttle Discovery lands after its maiden voyage.
* Stonewashed jeans are introduced.
* Famine in Ethiopia begins, killing a million people by the end of the year.
* Crack, a smokeable form of cocaine, is first introduced in the LA area and soon spreads across the U.S.
* Canadian Music TV station MuchMusic launches on August 31.
* Novelist William Gibson coins the term cyberspace in his book Neuromancer.


* Continuing famine in Ethiopia prompts the Live Aid Rock Concerts in London and Philadelphia which raise over $600M for famine relief.
* The Hole in the ozone layer, first detected in 1977, is now indisputable.
* Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the last president of the Soviet Union.
* New Coke hits the Market, flops and is quickly replaced with Coke Classic ( the original formula).
* The wreck of the Titanic is discovered.
* The first Nintendo home entertainment system is introduced.
* Leaded gas is officially banned in the US.

And that, in a nutshell, was the first half of the 80's, the backdrop of events against which we all lived our lives from 1980 - 1985. Next time I'll be talking about my personal favourite TV shows from the period. Future posts will also cover music, movies and favourite technology/toys from the era. In the meantime, if you need more 80s in a hurry check out my post on my blast from the past vacation in 1981. Don't miss the photos!

Read the Rest of the 80s series:
* The past is a foreign country: 80s TV
* The past is a foreign country: 80s Movies
* The past is a foreign country: 80s Toys and Technology
* The past is a foreign country: 80s Music
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