Science and technology made
terrific strides in the eighties. Large numbers of Americans
began using personal computers in their homes, offices, and schools.
America's first reusable spacecraft was launched in 1981. A sad
day in our history was January 28, 1986, when space
shuttle Challenger exploded 74 seconds after liftoff at Cape
Canavaral, Florida killing all seven astronauts, including school
McAuliffe. Research money allowed for studies and new
treatments for heart, cancer,
and other diseases. Major advances in genetics research led to
the 1988 funding of the Human
Genome Project. This project will locate the estimated
80,000 genes contained in human DNA.
(Try the Timeline)
During this decade Wayne
Williams was arrested in Atlanta for the murders of 23 black
Day O'Connor became the first woman Supreme
Court Justice, 52 hostages were released from their 444 days of
captivity in Iran, the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial inscribed with 57,939 names of American soldiers
killed or missing in Vietnam was dedicated, income climbed more than
20 percent, Boesky
and Drexel made headlines with their insider trading
Ferraro was the first woman presidential candidate, Jesse
Jackson was the first black candidate, the stock market tripled in
7 years yet survived the 1987 crash, and televangelist Jim
Bakker was sentenced to 45 years for selling bogus lifetime
vacations. The sexual revolution encountered a major adversary
Hudson died of AIDS
in 1985. Prisons overflowed and violent crime rates which, in
1980, had tripled since 1960, continued to climb with the appearance
of crack in 1985. From 1985 to 1990 the use of cocain addiction
was up 35 percent, though the number of users had declined. Nancy
Say No campaign had great influence. Toward the end of the
decade, President Bush called for a kinder, gentler nation and
volunteerism and contributions reached an all time high.
Families changed drastically during
these years. The 80s continued the trends of the 60s and 70s -
more divorces, more unmarrieds living together, more single parent
families. The two-earner family was even more common than in
previous decades, more women earned college and advanced degrees,
married, and had fewer children.
A 1980 study by UCLA and American
Council on Education indicated that college freshmen were more
interested in status, power, and money than at any time during the
past 15 years. Business Management was the most popular major.
American education came under fire
during the 1980s. Liberals cried out against budget cuts and rising
student costs. School districts offered teachers exams and exit
exams became a part of graduating for Education majors.
Conservatives like E.D.Hirsch,
Jr. and William
Bennett advocated a return to the classics for
college students and back to the basic skills for public school
students. An attempt was made to improve the teacher quality by
raising salaries slightly. Efforts to censor books tripled in
the eighties. The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , The
Grapes of Wrath, and Catcher
in the Rye were among books banned in New York State. Roget's
Thesaurus banned sexist categories: mankind
becamehumankind; countryman became country dweller. Columbia
University, the last all male Ivy League school, began accepting
women in 1983. President Reagan endorsed a constitutional
amendment to permit school prayer. It was defeated.
Team sports for kids were really popular beginning in the
seventies and going through the present. Eighties' mothers ran
carpool after work, kids had after school and week end cheerleading,
baseball, football, soccer, gym, dance, jazz, you name it!
Nerds became a hot commodity in
the 1980s. Wealthy and brainy computer wizards like Stephen
Wozniak helped. So did movies like Revenge
of the Nerds, Lucas, Stand
by Me, and Peggy
Sue Got Married. TV joined the nerd ranks with
ABC's hit series Head of the Class. Food
of the 80s included the popular fast food places like Taco
Bell and McDonald's
McDLT and McRib. Kids loved Sweetarts,
Skittles, Nerds, Runts, Hubba Bubba Chewing Gum, and Five Alive.
Collectibles were big in the 80s.
Smurf and E.T.
Patch dolls, camcorders, video games (Nintendo,
Pac Man, Game Boy), Rubik's
Cube, Teenage Mutant Nija Turtles, and Barbies (now
Hispanic, Black, Asian) were big. New were discount air fares,
lite foods, aerobics, minivans, talkshows, and Valley
Girls (grody to the max).
The combination of Nancy Reagan's
elegance and Princess Di's love of fashion, stimulated a return to
styles. The mini made a major
revival, denim was important. Anne
Klein, Perry Ellis, Donna
Karan, and Calvin
Klein were designers for the 80s. Film continued to
influence and inspire clothing. The Flashdance
look had young and old in tank tops, tight-fitting pants or torn
jeans, and leg-warmers. Teens not wearing designer
clothes opted for Michael Jackson's
glove or Madona's fishnet stockings, leather, and chains. Older
women wore the Out
of Africa look popularized by Meryl Streep. Image won
over reality and tanning salons thrived. And how about
designer underwear for men? Sneakers
were so popular (and necessary) and the price so high that the Los
Angeles Police Department accused shoe companies of cashing in on the
easy drug money picked up by inner city kids. The shoe companies
claimed the cost of high technologies needed to create the shoes was
responsible for the huge jump in price. Kids like to do their
own thing - see hairdos in pictures as evidence!
During the eighties, Americans
continued to travel around their own country - using every mode of
transportation. Trips to Colorado for a mountain vacation were
popular in summer as well as winter. Traveling was often in RVs.
Cable was born and MTV,
orginally intended to be promos for albums, had an enormous impact on
music and young people. The digital compact disc (cd)
revolutionized the music industry. Dances learned on MTV
dancing, lombada, and break
dancing. Harlem's gay Black and Latino males imitated the
beautiful jet set with their (then underground) Vogueing,
a 'pose' dance popularized by Madonna
incorporating the struts and stances of high fashion models.
Pop, rock, new
country, and especially rap
or hip hop became popular in the 80s. Rap was new in the late 80s
and 90s. It had started in prison 20 years earlier by jailed
black inmates who, in the absense of instruments, turned poetic meter
into musical rhythm. The early rap heard on ghetto streets was
abrasive and laced with hostility toward society. Early
important groups are Milli
Vanilli, M. C. Hammer (great
site, but it takes time), Vanilla
Ice, and L.L.
Cool J. There are great links on the Internet for music of
the 80s listed below. Here are a very few of my favorite from
the top hits of the decade:
In 1981, VCR sales rose 72% in 12 months. By 1989, 60 percent
of American households with televisions received cable service.
Huge or memorable movies of the decade included On
Golden Pond, Tootsie,
Spielberg Movies like E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, The Big
Chill, Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, Out of Africa, Back
to the Future, Cocoon, The
Breakfast Club, Platoon, Star
Morning Vietnam, Fatal Attraction, Rain Man, and Driving
Broadway revivals were important
during the 80s. Revival
musicals like West
Side Story, The Music Man, Anything Goes, Me and My Gal,
Brigadoon, Grand Hotel, Gypsy, and The
King and I all did well at the box office.
Sell-out musicals were ahead for La Cage aux Folles, Sunday
in the Park with George, Andrew
Lloyd Webber's mega hits Cats, Starlight Express, Les
Miserables, and The
Phantom of the Opera. Dramas included M. Butterfly,
Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and Walk in the Woods. In
1980, the American Ballet Theater turned
40 and Mikail
Baryshnikov became director.
innovations and trends included anti-family sitcoms like Roseanne
Children; tabloid tv with Geraldo,
Sally, and Oprah;
comics included Gary Shandling, Jane Curtin, George Carlin, Jackie
Mason, Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, and Tracy Ullman; info-tainment
with Ted Koppel, CNN Cable News,and
with Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters. 60
Minutes which had first aired in 1968 was bigger than ever.
It was a media decade with superstars. The decade of the sitcome,
here is a list of the top ten TV shows of 1989.