Coyote Alumni

1914 - 1917
1924 - 1927
1930's Decade
1940's Decade
1950's Decade
1960's Decade
1970's Decade
1980's Decade
1990's Decade
2000's Decade


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            FACTS about this Decade

  • Population: 226,546,000
  • National Debt: 1980 - $914,000,000,000
  • National Debt: 1986 - $2,000,000,000,000
  • Average salary: $15,757
  • Minimum Wage: $3.10
  • BMW was $12,000; Mercedes 280 E was $14,800
  • Life Expectancy: Male 69.9 Female 77.6
  • Attendance: Movies 20 million/week
  • Daily 100 - Interactive quotes from the 80s


     The 1980s became the Me! Me! Me! generation of status seekers.   During the 1980s, hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and mega-mergers spawned a new breed of billionaire.  Donald Trump, Leona Helmsley, and Ivan Boesky iconed the meteoric rise and fall of the rich and famous.  If you've got it, flaunt it and You can have it all! were watchwords.   Forbes' list of 400 richest people became more important than its 500 largest companies.  Binge buying and credit became a way of life and 'Shop Til you Drop' was the watchword.  Labels were everything, even (or especially) for our children.  Tom Wolfe dubbed the baby-boomers as the 'splurge generation.'  Video games, aerobics, minivans, camcorders, and talk shows became part of our lives.   The decade began with double-digit inflation, Reagan declared a war on drugs, Kermit didn't find it easy to be green, hospital costs rose, we lost many, many of our finest talents to AIDS which before the decade ended spread to black and Hispanic women, and  unemployment rose.  On the bright side, the US Constitution had its 200th birthday, Gone with the Wind turned 50,  ET phoned home, and in 1989 Americans gave $115,000,000,000 to charity.  And, Internationally, at the very end of the decade the Berlin Wall was removed - making great changes for the decade to come!   At the turn of the decade, many were happy to leave the spendthrift 80s for the 90s, although some thought the eighties TOTALLY AWESOME.

     Science and technology made terrific strides in the eighties.  Large numbers of Americans began using personal computers in their homes, offices, and schools.  Columbia, 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 teacher Christa 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 children, Sandra 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 scandals, Geraldine 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 when Rock 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 Reagan's Just 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. paraphernalia, Cabbage 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 opulent clothing 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  included slam 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 wave, punk, 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, Arthur,  Stephen 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 Trek, Good Morning Vietnam, Fatal Attraction, Rain Man, and Driving Miss Daisy.

     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.

     Television innovations and trends included anti-family sitcoms like Roseanne and Married...with Children; tabloid tv with Geraldo, Phil, Sally, and Oprah; stand-up comics included Gary Shandling, Jane Curtin, George Carlin, Jackie Mason, Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, and Tracy Ullman;  info-tainment included Nightline with Ted Koppel, CNN Cable News,and 20/20 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.

For more info about the eighties decade go to Kingwood College Library