The 1980s was a decade like no other. At its beginning, we witnessed the death of disco and the destruction of the Death Star. We saw Superman hit the big screen, and we witnessed the first actor to ever become president.
But the 1980s were much more than teased hair, striped knee socks, and mesh shirts. It was this decade that birthed some of the greatest advances in modern technology that we witnessed in the 20th Century.
On an average day in the ’80s, you could still buy gas for less than $1.50 a gallon in most states on average, and most of the decade the prices were actually under a dollar a gallon. But gas prices aren’t what made the 80’s totally “rad.”
It was this decade that birthed the Internet, cordless phones, and a host of great gadgets, games, and toys that have all found a home in our most beloved popular culture.
The ’80s gave us a lot of things that we still love to this day, though in many different forms. And in this post, we’ll revisit some of the best memorabilia of one of the greatest decades in modern history.
The Internet was born on January 1st, 1983. But before this date, there was a solid decade of advancements in computer science that made the Internet that you know of today possible.
In fact, early Internet days were quite confusing, as most people weren’t exactly computer literate in the 1980s. But when the masses started to catch on to the benefits of Internet communication, the entire world soon changed.
The United States Military developed ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, in 1969 as a response to the space race and the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union as a way to enhance national security.
The developments with ARPANET weren’t as functional as developers had hoped. But a decade later, modest advancements would make the birth of the Internet possible.
Developed by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis of Duke University in 1979, Usenet was a concept that allowed the duo to send files to a colleague at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The two used Unix-to-Unix proxy servers and a dial-up connection to send files via the first online message board on a private network. And after this, Usenet went live in 1980 offering a means for academics and computer enthusiasts to communicate using computers.
Usenet is actually still functioning today, still as a separate entity from the Internet. And you can access the network via a Usenet service provider.
Though the Internet wouldn’t become functional in the way we know it today until Tim-Berners Lee developed Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and several other programs along with the World Wide Web in 1989, the Internet had a history that spanned 20 years before reaching its modern form.
If the ’80s is synonymous with anything, it’s the arcade. And if you were a child, teen, or even a young adult in the ’80s, chances are this was your hangout.
Arcade games gave people a way to socialize in a fun and inviting atmosphere and, in a sense, this brought the feel of an annual fair to everyday life. Just like at the fair, you could win prizes at arcades, eat loads of junk food, and mingle with local members of the community.
Arcades became so popular that grocery stores and fast-food restaurants began keeping arcade consoles within their storefronts as a way to entice younger shoppers, and it paid off.
Pizza Hut is just one example of a business that incorporated arcade games into its marketing strategy, offering eating tables featuring Pac-Man, Frogger, and other popular arcade games.
And today, you can still find these vintage console games, though you might pay a pretty penny for them on sites like eBay.
You might have a glorious High-Def flatscreen TV hanging on your wall right now. But in the 1980s, no such thing existed except for at the movie theater.
In the ’80s, console TVs were the standard focal point for just about every household. And these were made to be elaborate and ornate in most models.
Wooden cabinets housing bulging televisions (most of which only allowed 8 channels) were commonly produced which featured deep stained finishes and wheels which allowed you to roll the TV from room to room if you desired. Because if one thing’s for certain, a console TV weighed a few hundred pounds on average.
After a while, remote control sets began to become more popular, and towards the end of the ’80s, a more streamlined and mechanical design began to trend.
No memorabilia list about the ’80s is complete without mentioning the channel that changed them all, MTV.
MTV, or Music Television, first launched in August of 1981, and the first video played on the network was one by The Buggles titled “Video Killed the Radio Star.” A fitting title considering this was the first time that a network brought the concert experience to the comfort of homes across the nation.
MTV also changed the entire music industry in the process. As musicians were no longer confined to the concert stage or to local clubs and tours to deliver their music, musicians everywhere were given a new medium to express their art. And what ensued was both classic and bizarre in form.
All in all, the 1980s was a magical decade. And a resurgence of iconic 80’s motifs has been popularized in recent years as of 2021. You can see this firsthand by remakes of popular 80’s movies such as The Karate Kid and its recent spinoff Cobra Kai, as well as with shows such as Netflix’s Stranger Things, which is set in 1984.
The 80’s truly revolutionized media and pop culture, and even though we’ve come a long way since then, the ’80s and its wacky games and gadgets will forever remain in our hearts and minds.