Elsewhere, someone was wondering why there seemed to be so much 1980’s “nostalgia” even by those weren’t there at the time. My take is that (at least in the US, and perhaps UK) despite many media ‘popular’ claims, the 1980’s, like the 1950’s, were a decade of relative optimism. Things were, or were expected to be, going good. There was real hope.
I know in the USA, that the 1970’s were rather depressed and depressing time. A time of “malaise” (even if Carter never actually said it in a speech, it became a Theme) and double-digit… inflation, interest rates, unemployment – a trifecta of economic suckage for Joe Average. Movies that (until Rocky and Star Wars and maybe Jaws) didn’t have endings so much as simply ran down – or did end, but not well. The time when the dream of Apollo ended… and then.. nothing much. Vietnam… Watergate. The Chevy Vega. The Ford Pinto. A time of… blah. or, well, malaise.
And then the 1980’s. A slow, painful start with a recession as the economy was sort of reset. And then… hope. The real thing. Inflation dropped. Interest rates dropped. Jobs appeared. The Strategic Defense Initiative was mocked, but it was audacious in its hope: maybe we could defeat nukes withOUT having to employ them on people. Home computing became if not mainstream, a part of mainstream consciousness. A character in the Bloom County comic had a home computer. They were in movies, and TV shows. Commercial networks appeared – more widespread than a mere BBS, though not the Internet we know. There were some military successes: Falklands (for the UK), Grenada (for the US) and Quaddafi’s ‘Line of Death’ was not simply erased, but outright ignored as meaningless – and shown to be so. And, imperfect as it was, the Space Shuttle finally got the USA back into manned orbit. And computing power was applied to problems… the genome started to be unraveled. Magnetic resonance had been known for some time… but images without ionizing radiation (X-rays)? That was a-freaking-mazing!
It’s not that the 1980’s were perfect. There were problems: the disaster in Bhopal, Chernobyl, new supposedly more dangerous street drugs. The Cold War… until it all but ended when the Berlin Wall was joyously danced upon, ripped down, and the pieces sold off. You can argue about Reagan or Pope John Paul II, or Lech Walesa, or whoever having what and how much effect… but market economics clearly won with and the pieces sold off. Karl Marx can choke on it.
But someone else had another take. That the 1980’s were a time of a bunch of new things. This is true – no time is truly devoid of innovation. But the list of 1980’s new items given amused me, for they are all from before the 1980’s. The list:
The cyberpunk genre
the War on Drugs
Tabletop Role-Playing Games might have been around in some form before Dungeons and Dragons, I don’t know, I am not a gamer. But if even if we don’t look any further back than D&D.. that’s 1974.
Video games? Yes, there were lab demos and such, but the Big One for many would be Pong. 1972 for arcade stuff, and 1975 for a home version.
Personal computers were around in the 1970’s. Earlier, if you counted the few folks doing soldering or wire-wrap to truly build from the ground up. TRS-80: 1977 Apple ][: 1977 Commodore PET: 1977. And those were the Big Names of the day, after the little guys checked the thickness of the ice upon which everyone would soon be skating. IBM? They weren’t into such mere toys… yet.
Cable TV was around almost since TV. Part of RCA’s settlement to Philo T. Farnsworth involved coaxial cable. At first it was about relaying TV into places signals didn’t readily reach. But in the 1970’s satellite distribution made modern cable possible, with nationwide channels and superstations.
I cannot speak with any expertise of the cyberpunk genre, but Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, was first published in 1968, so… the origins if not the full-on thing go back a good ways. The term, first appearing as a title, didn’t show up until 1983, however.
Televangelism? Does Bishop Sheen count? If so… Happy 1951.
And the War on Drugs… well, if you find it problematic, it shouldn’t surprise you that it started with Richard Nixon.
Now look around. See those flailing just-barely-there even if given oh so much attention things? (Anything blockchain, for instance.) Those things? Yeah, the stuff of this decade. Expect to eventually hear how some of those were 2020’s things.