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Centuries: 19th century - 20th century - 21st century
Decades: 1950s 1960s 1970s - 1980s - 1990s 2000s 2010s
Years: 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989

The 1980s refers to the years from 1980 to 1989.

Like the 1960s, the decade was an era of frantic change, characterised by political and economic decentralisation, especially in countries with mixed and command economies. Political events and trends of the 1980s culminated in the toppling of military governments and authoritarian regimes, and the downfall of the military juntas of Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. In most of the third world, the decade was characterized by debt crisis that began in 1982, with Mexico leading the developing world in poor economic health throughout the decade, and other third world powers like India began to experiment free market economics with comparably good results we see today.

The 1980s are also generally considered to be the transition between the industrial and information ages. The petroleum supply disruptions which had marked the 1970s were not repeated, and new oil-field discoveries boosted supply and helped keep energy prices relatively low in most places during the decade. The 1980s saw rapid developments in numerous sectors of technology which have defined the modern consumer world. Electronics such as personal computers, gaming systems, the first commercially available hand-held mobile phones, and new audio and data storage technologies such as the compact disc, are all still prominent well into the 2000s. On the strength of their high-technology industries, the Japanese economy soared to record highs in the 1980s, prompting many American companies to frantically study and adopt Japanese management practices.

The decade was one of contrasts. Whilst investors and executives bestrode the world's stock exchanges, social consciences were much in evidence: celebrities gathered to bring forth awareness of a new disease AIDS to global attention; to record major charity records and perform major charity concerts such as Live Aid; environmental concerns became ever more pressing in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster; the deployment of cruise missiles in Western Europe led to a resurgence of CND protests and marches and the start of the long vigil of the Greenham Common women in England; and political correctness became common verbal and ideological currency. Women entered the workplace in large numbers, the new wave of third world immigration, and African Americans enjoyed relative advances, but minority groups continued their struggle against discrimination).

In the United States, the decade was symbolized by the presidency of Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989 (termed "Reagan Years") as it epitomized the rise of conservatism as the dominant creed in American political and cultural life. This extended somewhat into the early 1990s, but the recession of the late '80s and early 1990s caused significant backlash against then-president George H.W. Bush and the Republican Party. Some historians may feel the 1980s' economic policy of "reaganomics" gave more power to corporate businesses, while it had decreased the country's working-class and worsened conditions in US inner-cities under the illegal drug epidemic and homelessness became a common sight on American streets.

Much of the 1980s was characterized by social conservatism throughout the world. This was due to the rise in cost of living in the wake of the oil shock of the previous decade, the influence of Reaganomics in the USA and Thatcherism in the UK and the 80s 'debt crisis' of the third world. However, The late 1980s played host to several dramatic events with an ethos of hope for change, in what came to be called as the "the purple passage of the late 80s", that led towards the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of cold war. The era was characterized by the blend of conservative family values alongside a period of increased telecommunications and a shift towards liberal market economies and the new openness of perestroika and glasnost. The transitional passage also saw massive democratic revolutions like the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China, the Czechoslovak velvet revolution, and the overthrow of the dictatorial regime in Romania and other communist Warsaw Pact states in Central and Eastern Europe. These changes continued to be felt in the 1990s and on into the 21st Century.

In the UK, this decade is often referred to as "the decade that taste (or style) forgot" due to the questionable fashion, hairstyles and music. Other nicknames include 'the Me Decade' and 'the Greed decade', reflecting the economic and social climate. In the US, "yuppie" entered the lexicon for the 1980's well-publicized rise of a new middle class, yet are in the upper economic strata. Yuppies are affluent college graduates in their late 20's/30's entered the workplace in prestigious office professions, and had more purchasing power in trendy, luxurious goods. Although most yuppies are political and economic conservative, the 1980's was a time of social and cultural liberalism, to ultimately change the American character.


[edit] Bookending events

Significant events that occurred around 1980 which would influence the course of history and character of the decade, include:

Significant events that marked the passing of the decade include:

[edit] Notes

Margaret Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom encompassed the entire period, from 1979 to 1990. Ronald Reagan's presidency lasted from 1981, a year after the decade began, to 1989, a year before the decade ended.

[edit] Technology

[edit] Science

[edit] War and politics

[edit] Economics

[edit] Political correctness and trends

  • Political correctness becomes a concern in mainstream politics.
  • American Conservatism peaked in 1984, but nearly declines in 1990.
  • Social attitudes of the White American majority on African Americans eased and became more tolerant of people of color. This goes to every other ethnic, racial and national minority, probably the majority of people are baby boomers who changed these attitudes. The 1980s is a time when bigotry was passe and prejudice lost moral acceptance, and multi-culturalism became popularized.
  • The rise of right-wing talk radio began by Rush Limbaugh from his flagship station, WABC in New York City in 1986, before he became nationally syndicated by 1989. Limbaugh and other conservative talk shows changed much of public opinion on divisive national politics to this day.
  • Gay issues rise to public awareness through the tabloid talk show genre popularized by Oprah Winfrey which gave gays, bisexuals, and transvestites an unprecedented degree of high impact media visibility, the Bowers v. Hardwick Supreme Court decision, gender bending perceptions of Boy George, George Michael and Prince, as well as the increased consciousness of the AIDS epidemic and its perception as a "gay disease."
  • A much remarked upon new trend in the 1980s in Britain was openly gay pop stars such as Boy George, Dead Or Alive and the Pet Shop Boys.
  • Women's Liberation movement increases women's role in the workplace, and establishes new precedents for US women. As a carry-over from the 1970s, more and more women take to calling themselves "Ms." versus "Mrs." or "Miss." The same occurs in Germany, with women choosing "Frau" instead of "Fraulein" in an effort to remove marital status from title. In most western countries, women had the option to keep their maiden name after marriage, like Canada, where the law no longer automatically changes women's last names unlike in the US.
  • Child abuse gained public attention, as much child molestation had concerned parents and teachers ("Don't talk to strangers" took a serious tone than ever), and social welfare for handicapped children, no longer forced into obscurity, teasing or mental institutions.
  • No-Fault divorce laws pave the way for increased divorce rate, as depicted in the movie, Irreconcilable Differences and divorce is now widely acceptable in western countries, but then some "family values" conservatives objected to divorce among other moral and cultural issues.
  • National safety campaign to increase seat belt use to save lives in automobile accidents, became popular and mandatory in most US states and countries by 1990. Similar efforts to push child safety seats and bike helmet use, mandatory in a number of US states and some countries.
  • Alcohol education and drug education expands; examples are M.A.D.D., Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign and D.A.R.E.. By 1990, every state in the US officially declares the drinking age 21, the only country to ever do so, but critics blame American moralism against young people in parties for the legislative action other than to curtain drunk driving accidents.
  • More Americans rejected smoking, perceived as unhealthy and deadly than in previous decades, after the 1984 reconfirmation by the US Surgeon General reinstates the 1964 warning of cigarettes. "Smoking" and "non-smoking" sections in American restaurants are common, state efforts to combat underage smoking gets tough such as enacting bans of cigarette sales to minors under age 18, and most pregnant women began to shun smoking in order not to harm their developing fetus/unborn baby.
  • Opposition to nuclear power plants further grows, especially after the catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine, USSR sent a cloud of radiation fallout across most of Eastern Europe, and the 1988 US government inspection of nuclear power facilities.
  • Environmental concerns are growing. In the United Kingdom environmentally-friendly domestic products surge in popularity. Western European countries adapted "greener" policies to cut back on oil use, recycling most of the nations' trash, and more conservation efforts of energy and water sources. The "Eco-activist" trend reached the US in the late 1980's.

[edit] Popular culture

[edit] Fashions

See also: 1980s fashion
  • Dance clothing - Inspired by the 1980 movie Fame and the 1983 movie Flashdance. The dance clothing trends included ripped sweatshirts, legwarmers, and headbands.
  • New Wave fashion - Early New Wave fashion trendsetters such as Blondie inspired the two-tone hair style with an emphasis on black and white clothing.
  • Power Dressing was a major fashion statement of the decade, characterised by the use of increasingly large shoulder pads - the origins of this trend are often attributed to the American television series Dynasty and, specifically to one of its stars - English-born Joan Collins, who caused quite a stir as the scheming character Alexis Carrington.
  • Name brands such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
  • Pop stars of the era such as Duran Duran and television shows like Miami Vice brought the pastel suit trend to the male fashion world, often accompanied by "designer stubble" and blonde highlights.
  • For the first generation of MTV video artists, fashion was an important component of the visual pop star package. Artists such as Madonna and Michael Jackson inspired their own fashion trends.
  • Through much of the 1980s, hair became very big and poofy. The permanent wave, blonde highlights for men and the mullet were all very big. The Jheri curl becomes an African American hairstyle popularized by entertainers such as Michael Jackson and El Debarge.
  • Ray Ban sunglasses were very popular. First the Wayfarer style, as worn by Tom Cruise in the film Risky Business, then the Aviator style, as worn by Tom Cruise in the 1986 movie Top Gun.
  • Swatch watches were new trendy, popular watches.
  • High-tech, high-priced athletic shoes made a splash, including Reebok Freestyle and the first Air Jordan.
  • Stone-wash and acid-wash jeans.
  • Parachute pants a la MC Hammer.

[edit] Music

Thriller, released in 1982, is the world's all-time best selling album with over 104 million sold copies.
See also: Timeline of trends in music (1980-1989)

[edit] Television

The Cosby Show debuted in 1984 and was rated number 1 in the Nielsen Ratings for five consecutive TV seasons.

[edit] Film

The Terminator premiered in 1984 and was one the most successful films of the 1980s.

[edit] Video games

  • Video games become popular, along with video arcades. Although graphics are incredibly primitive by 2000s and even 1990s standards, they would improve much during the latter part of the decade.
  • Space Invaders, invented in Japan in 1978 and first previewed at a UK trade show in 1979, makes a huge impact on the early 80s gaming scene.
  • Pac-Man fever craze early in the decade, especially around 1982-1983
  • Super Mario Bros. games become popular starting in 1986 and continue to be popular today.
  • Atari fails to institute proper quality controls on the software for its popular Video Computer System game console (known for much of the decade as the Atari 2600)- the glut of terrible software causes a massive collapse of the home console industry. Nintendo's Famicom/NES console release rectifies this problem by only being able to play games personally approved by the company, and revives home gaming. PC Engine and Sega Mega Drive were next generation game consoles that were released during the last years of the decade.
  • Home computers became popular in 1980s and during that decade they were mostly used for gaming. These days prevailing IBM PC standard was born in 1981 but had a status of non-entertainment computer throughout the decade. Along with IBM PC computers, Commodore 64, released in 1982, was the most popular 8-bit generation home computer and its follower, Amiga (1985), was the most popular 16-bit home computer.

[edit] Others

[edit] People

[edit] Entertainers

[edit] Sports figures

[edit] Films

[edit] Television shows

See Also: 1980s in television

[edit] See also

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