1980s

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"'80s" and "Eighties" redirect here. For decades comprising years 80–89 of other centuries, see List of decades. For the song by Killing Joke, see Eighties (song).
Space Shuttle ColumbiaEnd of the Cold WarIran–Iraq WarFall of the Berlin WallLive AidIBM Personal ComputerChernobyl disaster
From left, clockwise: The first Space Shuttle, Columbia, lifted off in 1981; American president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev eased tensions between the two superpowers, leading to the end of the Cold War; The Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is considered to be the most momentous event of the 1980s; In 1981, the IBM Personal Computer is released; In 1985, the Live Aid concert was held in order to fund relief efforts for the famine in Ethiopia during the time Mengistu Haile Mariam ruled the country; Ukraine and much of the world is filled with radioactive debris from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster; The Iran–Iraq War leads to over one million dead and $1 trillion spent.
Millennium:2nd millennium
Centuries:19th century20th century21st century
Decades:1950s 1960s 1970s1980s1990s 2000s 2010s
Years:1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Categories:BirthsDeathsArchitecture
EstablishmentsDisestablishments

The 1980s was a decade that began on January 1, 1980, and ended on December 31, 1989.

The time period saw great social, economic, and general change as wealth and production migrated to newly industrializing economies. As economic liberalization increased in the developed world, multiple multinational corporations associated with the manufacturing industry relocated into Thailand, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. Japan and West Germany are the most notable developed countries that continued to enjoy rapid economic growth during the decade; Japan's would stall by the early 1990s.

The United Kingdom and the United States moved closer to laissez-faire economic policies beginning a trend towards neoliberalism that would pick up more steam in the following decade as the fall of the USSR made right wing economic policy more popular.

Developing countries across the world faced economic and social difficulties as they suffered from multiple debt crises in the 1980s, requiring many of these countries to apply for financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Ethiopia witnessed widespread famine in the mid-1980s during the corrupt rule of Mengistu Haile Mariam, resulting in the country having to depend on foreign aid to provide food to its population and worldwide efforts to address and raise money to help Ethiopians, such as the famous Live Aid concert in 1985.

Television viewing became commonplace in the Third World, with the number of TV sets in China and India increasing 15 and 10 fold respectively.[1] The number of televisions in the world nearly doubled over the course of the decade from only 561 million in 1980 to 910 million in 1987 and around a billion by 1989.[2]

Major civil discontent and violence occurred in the Middle East, including the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet-Afghan War, the 1982 Lebanon War, the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the Bombing of Libya in 1986, and the First Intifada in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Despite a peak in tensions in the early part of the decade, by the late 1980s the Cold War was coming to an end.[3] In the eastern bloc hostility to authoritarianism and the rise of nationalism in communist-led socialist states, combined with economic recession resulted in a wave of reformist policies instigated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the USSR - such as perestroika and glasnost, along with the overthrow and attempted overthrow of a number of communist regimes, such as in Hungary, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China, the Czechoslovak "Velvet Revolution", Poland and the overthrow of the Nicolae Ceauşescu regime in Romania and other communist Warsaw Pact states in Central and Eastern Europe including the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It came to be called the late 1980s' "purple passage of the autumn of nations". By 1989 the Soviet Union announced the abandonment of political hostility toward the Western world and the Cold War ended with the USSR's demise after the August Coup of 1991. The changes of the revolutions of 1989 continue to be felt today.

The 1980s saw the development of the modern Internet, starting with the specification of File Transfer Protocol in 1980 [4] and ARPANET's move to TCP/IP around 1982-83.[5] Approximately 1.1 million people (86% of them in the United States) were using the Internet at the end of the 1980s.[6]Tim Berners Lee created a hypertext system called ENQUIRE in 1980 and began his work on the World Wide Web in March 1989; after its first demonstration at the end of 1990 it was released to the public in July 1991 and by approximately 1995 became widely known, beginning the ongoing worldwide boom of Internet use.

People born in the 1980s are usually classified along with those born in the 1990s as part of the Millennial generation.[7]

The issue of global warming first came to the attention of the public in the late 1980s,[8] largely due to the Yellowstone fires of 1988.

Politics and wars[edit]

Terrorist attacks[edit]

The most notable terrorist attacks of the decade include:

Wars[edit]

The most prominent armed conflicts of the decade include:

International wars[edit]

Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, 1988.

The most notable wars of the decade include:

Civil wars and guerrilla wars[edit]

The most notable Internal conflicts of the decade include:

Coups[edit]

The most prominent coups d'état of the decade include:

Nuclear threats[edit]

The Israeli Air Force F-16A Netz '243' which was flown by Colonel Ilan Ramon during Operation Opera.

Decolonization and independence[edit]

Prominent political events[edit]

Americas

U.S. President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty, 1987.

Europe

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the beginning of German reunification.

Asia

Disasters[edit]

Natural disasters[edit]

Non-natural disasters[edit]

The space shuttle Challenger disintegrates on January 28, 1986.

Assaults[edit]

The 1980s were marked by several notable assassinations and assassination attempts:


Technology[edit]

Electronics and computers[edit]

Arcade games and video games had been growing in popularity since the late 1970s, and by 1982 were a major industry. But a variety of factors, including a glut of low-quality games and the rise of home computers, caused a tremendous crash in late 1983. For the next three years, the video game market practically ceased to exist in the US. But in the second half of the decade, it would be revived by Nintendo, whose Famicom console and mascot Mario had been enjoying considerable success in Japan since 1983. Renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System, it would claim 90% of the American video game market by 1989.

Personal computers experienced explosive growth in the '80s, going from being a toy for electronics hobbyists to a full-fledged industry. The IBM PC, launched in 1981, became the dominant computer for professional users. Commodore created the most popular home computers of both 8-bit and 16-bit generations. MSX standard was the dominant computer platform in Japan. Apple phased out its Apple II and Lisa models, and introduced the first Macintosh computer in 1984. It was the first commercially successful personal computer to use a graphical user interface and mouse,[9] which started to become general features in computers after the middle of the decade.

Walkman and Boomboxes, introduced during the late 1970s, became very popular and had a profound impact on the Music industry and youth culture. Consumer VCRs and video rental stores became commonplace as VHS won out over the competing betamax standard. In addition, in the early 1980s various companies began selling compact, modestly priced synthesizers to the public. This, along with the development of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), made it easier to integrate and synchronize synthesizers and other electronic instruments, like drum machines, for use in musical composition.

High definition television (HDTV) of both the analog and digital variety were first developed in the 1980s though their use did not become widespread until the mid 2000s.

Space exploration[edit]

The Space Shuttle Columbia seconds after engine ignition, 1981

American interplanetary probes continued in the '80s, the Voyager duo being the most famous. After making a flyby of Jupiter in 1979, they visited Saturn in 1980–1981. Voyager 2 reached Uranus in 1986 (just a few days before the Challenger disaster), and Neptune in 1989 before the probes exited the solar system.

No American probes were launched to Mars in the 1980s, and the Viking probes, launched there in 1975, completed their operations by 1982. The Soviets launched two Mars probes in 1988, but they failed.

The arrival of Halley's Comet in 1986 was met by a series of American, Soviet, Japanese, and ESA probes.

After a five-year hiatus, manned American space flights resumed with the launch of the space shuttle Columbia in April 1981. The shuttle program progressed smoothly from there, with three more orbiters entering service in 1983–1985. But that all came to an end with the tragic loss of the Challenger on January 28, 1986, taking with it seven astronauts, including Christia McAuliffe, who was to have been the first teacher in space. In full view of the world, a faulty O-ring on the right solid rocket booster allowed hot gases to burn through the external fuel tank and cause it to explode, destroying the shuttle in the process. Extensive efforts were made to improve NASA's increasingly careless management practices, and to make the shuttle safer. Flights resumed with the launch of Discovery in September 1988.

The Soviet manned program went well during the decade, experiencing only minor setbacks. The Salyut 6 space station, launched in 1977, was replaced by Salyut 7 in 1982. Then came Mir in 1986, which ended up operating for more than a decade, and was destined to be the last in the line of Soviet space stations that had begun in 1971. One of the Soviet Union's last "superprojects" was the Buran space shuttle; it was only used once, in 1988.

Automobiles[edit]

The American auto industry began the 1980s in a thoroughly grim situation, faced with poor quality control, rising import competition, and a severe economic downturn. Chrysler and American Motors (AMC) were near bankruptcy, and Ford was little better off. Only GM continued with business as usual. But the auto makers recovered with the economy by 1983, and in 1985 auto sales in the United States hit a new record. However, the Japanese were now a major presence, and would begin manufacturing cars in the US to get around tariffs. In 1986, Hyundai became the first Korean auto maker to enter the American market. In the same year, the Yugoslavian-built Yugo was brought to the US, but the car was so small and cheap, that it became the subject of countless jokes. It was sold up to 1991, when economic sanctions against Yugoslavia forced its withdrawal from the American market.

As the decade progressed, cars became smaller and more efficient in design. In 1983, Ford design teams began revolutionizing existing automobiles with a new philosophy which was called "Aero". The idea was to design cars to incorporate pro-aerodynamic round styling to increase airflow and decrease drag while in motion. The Thunderbird was one of the first cars to receive these design changes and it was an instant hit. Later, in 1985, Ford released the Taurus which was considered a dramatic step in automobile design; its aerodynamic style was so popular and revolutionary at the time that other manufacturers scrambled to emulate it. This eventually caused a design revolution which is still evident to the present.

GM began suffering significant losses in the late-1980s, partially the result of chairman Roger Smith's restructuring attempts, and partially because of increasingly stale and unappealing cars. For example, "yuppies" increasingly favored European luxury cars to Cadillac. In 1985, GM started Saturn (the first new American make since the Edsel), with the goal of producing high-quality import fighters. Production would not begin until 1990, however.

Chrysler introduced its new compact, front-wheel drive K-cars in 1981. Under the leadership of Lee Iacocca, the company turned a profit again the following year, and by 1983 paid off its government loans. A seemingly endless succession of K-cars followed. But the biggest success was the arrival of the minivans in 1984. These proved a huge hit, and despite competition, they would dominate the van market for more than a decade. And in 1987, Chrysler purchased the Italian makes of Lamborghini and Maserati. In the same year, Chrysler bought AMC from Renault laying to rest the last significant independent U.S. automaker, but acquiring the hugely profitable Jeep line and continuing the Eagle brand until the late 1990s.

The DeLorean DMC-12 was the brainchild of John DeLorean, a flamboyant former GM executive. Production of the gull-winged sports car began in Northern Ireland in 1981. John DeLorean was arrested in October 1982 in a sting operation where he was attempting to sell cocaine to save his struggling company. He was acquitted of all charges in 1984, but too late for the DeLorean Motor Company, which closed down in 1983. The DMC-12 gained renewed fame afterward as the time machine in the Back to the Future motion picture trilogy.

Porsche introduced the 959 sports car in 1986, the fastest car in the world back then, which had the ability to reach a top speed of more than 200 mph (320 km/h). Never before car manufacturers managed to exceed the 200 mph barrier. Just one year later, Porsche's rival Ferrari startled the world introducing the F40, at that point the fastest car in the world, even faster than the 959 from Porsche.

The imposition of CAFE fuel-mileage standards in 1979 spelled the end of big-block engines, but performance cars and convertibles reemerged in the 1980s. Turbochargers were widely used to boost the performance of small cars, and technology from fuel injection began to take over from the widely used application of carburetors by the late 1980s. Front-wheel drive also became dominant.

The eighties marked the decline of European brands in North America by the end of the decade. Renault, Citroen, and Peugeot ceased importation by the end of the decade. Alfa Romeo would continue until 1993. Fiat also ceased imports to North America in the eighties.

Economics[edit]

Society[edit]

The 1980s was also an era of tremendous population growth around the world, surpassing even the 1970s and 1990s, thus arguably being the largest in human history. Population growth was particularly rapid in a number of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian countries during this decade, with rates of natural increase close to or exceeding 4% annually.

Popular culture[edit]

The most prominent events and trends in popular culture of the decade include:

Music[edit]

See also 1980s in music, Timeline of musical events, 1980s
Madonna is considered one of the most successful female Pop artists of the 1980s.
Michael Jackson was considered one of the most successful male Pop and R&B artists of the 1980s
Stage view of Live Aid concert at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium in the United States in 1985. The concert was a major global international effort by musicians and activists to sponsor action to send aid to the people of Ethiopia who were suffering from a major famine.

In the United States, MTV was launched and music videos began to have a larger effect on the record industry. Pop artists such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Duran Duran, Prince, Madonna, and Queen mastered the format and helped turn this new product into a profitable business. New wave and Synthpop were developed by many British and American artists, and became popular phenomena throughout the decade, especially in the early and mid-eighties. Music grew fragmented and combined into subgenres such as house, goth, and rap metal.[13]

Michael Jackson was the definitive icon of the 1980s and his leather jacket, glove, and Moonwalk dance were often imitated. Jackson's 1982 album Thriller became—and currently remains—the best-selling album of all time, with sales estimated by various sources as somewhere between 65 and 110 million copies worldwide.

Madonna and Whitney Houston were regarded as the most ground breaking female artists of the decade. The keyboard synthesizer and drum machine were among the most popular instruments in music during the 1980s, especially in new wave music. After the 1980s electronic instruments were no longer popular in rock but continued to be the main component of mainstream pop.

Hard rock, heavy metal, and glam metal became some of the most dominant music genres of the decade, peaking with the arrival of such bands as Mötley Crüe, Hanoi Rocks, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Poison, Europe, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, and virtuoso guitarists such as Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen. The scene also helped 1970s hard rock artists such as AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, KISS, Ronnie James Dio, and Judas Priest reach a new generation of fans.

By 1989, the hip hop scene had evolved, gaining recognition and exhibiting a stronger influence on the music industry. This time period is also considered part of the golden age of hip hop. The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash, the Furious Five, Boogie Down Productions, N.W.A, LL Cool J, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim, Ice-T, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, 2 Live Crew, Tone Lōc, Biz Markie, the Jungle Brothers, The Sugar Hill Gang and others experienced success in this genre.

Country music came to the forefront with youth appeal and record breaking marks with groundbreaking artists, such as Alabama and Hank Williams Jr. to achieved multiple platinum and award status.

The Techno style of electronic dance music emerged in Detroit, Michigan during the mid- to late 1980s. The House music style, another form of electronic dance music, emerged in Chicago, Illinois in the early 1980s. It was initially popularized in mid-1980s discothèques catering to the African-American, Latino and gay communities, first in Chicago, then in New York City and Detroit. It eventually reached Europe before becoming infused in mainstream pop and dance music worldwide.

Punk rock continued to make strides in the musical community; it gave birth to many sub-genres like hardcore, which has continued to be moderately successful, giving birth in turn to a few counterculture movements, most notably the Straight Edge movement which began in the early era of this decade. College rock caught on in the underground scene of the 1980s in a nationwide movement with a distinct D.I.Y approach. Bands like the Pixies, R.E.M., The Replacements, Sonic Youth, XTC, The Smiths, etc. experienced success in this genre. The 1980s also saw the birth of the grunge genre, with the arrival of such bands as Soundgarden, Green River, Melvins, Screaming Trees, Malfunkshun, Skin Yard, The U-Men, Blood Circus, Nirvana, Tad, Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone and Alice in Chains (who formed in 1987, but did not release their first album until three years later).

Several notable music artists died of unnatural causes in the 1980s. Bon Scott, at the time lead singer of rock band AC/DC died of acute alcohol poisoning on February 19, 1980. John Lennon was shot outside of his home in New York City on the night of December 8, 1980. Tim Hardin died of a heroin overdose on December 29, 1980. Bob Marley died from a lentiginous skin melanoma on May 11, 1981. Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his father at his home in Los Angeles on April 1, 1984, one day before what would have been his 45th birthday. Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist Randy Rhoads died in an airplane crash on March 19, 1982. Metallica bassist Cliff Burton was killed in a bus accident in Sweden on September 27, 1986. Andy Gibb died in 1988 as a result of myocarditis.

1985's Live Aid concert, featuring many artists, promoted attention and action to send food aid to Ethiopia whose people were suffering from a major famine.

Film[edit]

Main article: 1980s in film

This was the period when the 'high concept' films were introduced. The movies were supposed to be easily marketable and understandable, and, therefore, they had short cinematic plots that could be summarized in one or two sentences. The modern Hollywood blockbuster is the most popular film format from the 1980s. Producer Don Simpson[15] is usually credited with the creation of the high-concept picture of the modern Hollywood blockbuster.

The 80s also spawned the Brat Pack films, many of which were directed by John Hughes. Films such as Class (film), The Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mannequin (1987 film), Porky's, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo's Fire (film), Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, and Valley Girl were popular teen comedies of the era and launched the careers of several major celebrities such as: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Sean Penn, and Nicolas Cage. Other popular films included About Last Night..., Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Footloose, Raging Bull and St. Elmo's Fire which also launched the careers of high profile celebrities like Demi Moore, Joe Pesci, Keanu Reeves, Kevin Bacon, Rob Lowe, and Patrick Swayze.

Horror films were a popular genre during the decade, with several notable horror franchises being born during the 1980s. Among the most popular were the Child's Play, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, and Poltergeist franchises. Aside from these films, the concept of the B horror film gave rise to a plethora of horror films that went on to earn a cult status. An example of such is the 1981 film The Evil Dead, which marked the directorial debut of Sam Raimi.

Several action film franchises were also launched during the 1980s. The most popular of these were the Beverly Hills Cop, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Rambo franchises. Other action films from the decade which are of notable status include The Terminator, and Predator. These films propelled the careers of modern celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, Mel Gibson, and Sylvester Stallone to international recognition.

Television[edit]

Main article: 1980s in television
Seinfeld premiered on NBC in 1989 and soon thereafter became a commercial success, cultural phenomenon, and one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.

MTV was launched in the United States in 1981 and had a profound impact on the music industry and popular culture further ahead, especially during its early run in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Some of the most popular TV series which premiered during the 1980s or carried over from the 1970s include: Alf, Airwolf, The A-Team, Dynasty, Dallas, Knight Rider, MacGyver, Magnum, P.I., Miami Vice, Diff'rent Strokes, The Jeffersons, The Facts of Life, The Cosby Show, Murder, She Wrote, 21 Jump Street, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Night Court, Who's the Boss?, Family Matters, Quantum Leap, Saved by the Bell, Roseanne, Full House, The Golden Girls,Three's Company, Cheers, Growing Pains, Family Ties, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and Married... with Children.

The 1980s was the decade of transformation in television. Cable television became more accessible and therefore, more popular. By the middle of the decade, almost 70% of the American population had cable television and over 85% were paying for cable services such as HBO or Showtime.[16]

The 1980s also saw the debut of prime-time soap operas such as Dallas and Dynasty.

TV talk shows expanded in popularity; The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson remained popular into its third decade, and some of the most viewed newer shows were hosted by Geraldo Rivera, Arsenio Hall and David Letterman.[17]

The 1980s also was prominent for spawning several popular children's cartoons such as The Smurfs, ThunderCats, Voltron, The Transformers, Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Inspector Gadget, Muppet Babies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DuckTales, Garfield and Friends, and Beetlejuice.

Sports[edit]

Video gaming[edit]

Pac-Man (1980) became Immensely popular and an icon of 1980s popular culture.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in the mid-1980s and became the best-selling gaming console of its time

Popular video games include: Turrican, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Digger, Tetris, and Golden Axe. Pac-Man (1980) was the first game to achieve widespread popularity in mainstream culture and the first game character to be popular in his own right. Handheld electronic LCD games was introduced into the youth market segment. The primary gaming computers of the 1980s emerged in 1982: the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. Nintendo finally decided in 1985 to release its Famicom (released in 1983 in Japan) in the United States under the name Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was bundled with Super Mario Bros. and it suddenly became a success. The NES dominated the American and Japanese market until the rise of the next generation of consoles in the early 1990s, causing some to call this time the Nintendo era. Sega released its 16-bit console, Mega Drive/Genesis, in 1988 in Japan and in North America in 1989. In 1989 Nintendo released the Game Boy, a monochrome handheld console.

Fashion[edit]

Main article: 1980s in fashion
Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins in 1986 with the trendy Big hair style achieved with liberal applications of mousse and hairspray.
Ray-Ban sunglasses

The beginning of the decade saw the continuation of the clothing styles of the late 1970s and evolved into heavy metal fashion by the end; This included teased hair, ripped jeans, and neon clothing.

Significant hairstyle trends of the 1980s include the perm, the mullet, the Jheri curl, the flattop, the hi-top fade, and big hair.

Significant clothing trends of the 1980s include shoulder pads, jean jackets, leather pants, aviator jackets, jumpsuits, Diane von Fürstenberg wrap dress, Members Only jackets, skin-tight acid-washed jeans, miniskirts, leggings and leg warmers (popularized in the film Flashdance), off-the-shoulder shirts, and cut sweatshirts (again, popularized in the film Flashdance).

Additional significant trends of the 1980s include headbands, Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses (popularized in the film Top Gun), Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses (popularized in the films Risky Business and The Blues Brothers), Swatch watches, slap bracelets (a popular fad among children, pre-teens, and teenagers in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was available in a wide variety of patterns and colors), and the Rubik's Cube (became a popular fad throughout the decade). Girls also wore jelly shoes, large crucifix necklaces, and braissers all inspired by Madonna's Like a Virgin video.

See also[edit]

Timeline[edit]

The following articles contain brief timelines which list the most prominent events of the decade:

1980198119821983198419851986198719881989

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]