What Happened in My Birth Year?
In 1980, the world was a different place.
There was no Google yet. Or Yahoo.
In 1980, the year of your birth, the top selling movie was Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. People buying the popcorn in the cinema lobby had glazing eyes when looking at the poster.
Remember, that was before there were DVDs. People were indeed watching movies in the cinema, and not downloading them online. Imagine the packed seats, the laughter, the excitement, the novelty. And mostly all of that without 3D computer effects.
Do you know who won the Oscars that year? The academy award for the best movie went to Ordinary People. The Oscar for best foreign movie that year went to Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears. The top actor was Robert De Niro for his role as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. The top actress was Sissy Spacek for her role as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter. The best director? Robert Redford for Ordinary People.
In the year 1980, the time when you arrived on this planet, books were still popularly read on paper, not on digital devices. Trees were felled to get the word out. The number one US bestseller of the time was The Covenant by James A. Michener. Oh, that’s many years ago. Have you read that book? Have you heard of it? Look at the cover!
In 1980… U.S. President Jimmy Carter proclaims a grain embargo against the USSR with the support of the European Commission. Global Positioning System time epoch begins at 00:00 UTC. Nigel Short, 14, becomes the youngest chess player to be awarded the degree of International Master. The president of Sicily, Piersanti Mattarella, is assassinated by the Mafia. Israel and Egypt establish diplomatic relations. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific railroad is ordered liquidated due to bankruptcy, and debt owed to creditors. Robert Mugabe is elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. The Silver Thursday market crash occurs. Spain and the United Kingdom agree to reopen the border between Gibraltar and Spain, closed since 1969. The Dominican embassy siege ends with all hostages released and the guerrillas flying to Cuba. Mobster Henry Hill is arrested for drug possession. Pac-Man, the best-selling arcade game of all time, is released. U.S. President Jimmy Carter signs Proclamation 4771, requiring 18- to 25-year-old males to register for a peacetime military draft, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Ford Europe launches the Escort MK3, which ditches the traditional rear-wheel drive saloon in favour of a more practical and modern front-wheel drive hatchback. The St. Gotthard Tunnel opens in Switzerland as the world’s longest highway tunnel at 10.14 miles, 16.32 km, stretching from Goschenen to Airolo. The Washington Post publishes Janet Cooke’s story of Jimmy, an 8-year-old heroin addict, later proven to be fabricated. Digital Equipment Corporation, Intel and Xerox introduce the DIX standard for Ethernet, which is the first implementation outside of Xerox, and the first to support 10 Mbit per second speeds. The Staggers Rail Act is enacted, deregulating American railroads. The video game of the day was Space Panic.
That was the world you were born into. Since then, you and others have changed it.
The Nobel prize for Literature that year went to Czeslaw Milosz. The Nobel Peace prize went to Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. The Nobel prize for physics went to James Watson Cronin and Val Logsdon Fitch from the United States for the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of neutral K-mesons. The sensation this created was big. But it didn’t stop the planets from spinning, on and on, year by year. Years in which you would grow bigger, older, smarter, and, if you were lucky, sometimes wiser. Years in which you also lost some things. Possessions got misplaced. Memories faded. Friends parted ways. The best friends, you tried to hold on. This is what counts in life, isn’t it?
The 1980s were indeed a special decade. The Soviet-Afghan war goes on. Eastern Europe sees the collapse of communism. Policies like Perestroika and Glasnost in the Soviet Union lead to a wave of reforms. Protests are crushed down on Tiananmen Square in China. Ethiopa witnesses widespread famine. Nicolae Ceausescu is overthrown. The AIDS pandemic begins. The role of women in the workplace increased greatly. MTV is launched in the US. There is opposition against Apartheid in South Africa as well as worldwide. Heavy Metal and Hard Rock bands are extremely popular. The rise of Techno music begins. Originally primarily played on campus radio stations, College Rock enters the scene with bands like the Pixies, REM and Sonic Youth. The Hip Hop scene continues to evolve. Teletext is introduced. Gay rights become more widely accepted in the world. Opposition to nuclear power plants grows. The A-Team and Seinfeld are popular on TV. US basketball player Michael Jordan bursts on the scene. Super Mario Bros, Zelda’s Link, and Pac-Man gain fame in video games. People wear leggings, shoulder pads and Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Do you know what was on the cover of Life that year?
Do you remember the movie that was all the rage when you were 15? Seven. Do you still remember the songs playing on the radio when you were 15? Maybe it was This Is How We Do It by Montell Jordan. Were you in love? Who were you in love with, do you remember?
In 1980, 15 years earlier, a long time ago, the year when you were born, the song Rock with You by Michael Jackson topped the US charts. Do you know the lyrics? Do you know the tune? Sing along.
Girl, close your eyes
Let that rhythm, get into to you
Don’t try to fight it
There ain’t nothin’ that you can do
Relax your mind
Lay back and groove with mine
You gotta feel the heat
And we can ride the boogie
Share that beat of love
There’s a kid outside, shouting, playing. It doesn’t care about time. It doesn’t know about time. It shouts and it plays and thinks time is forever. You were once that kid.
When you were 9, the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was playing. When you were 8, there was Willow. When you were 7, there was a Disney movie out called Oliver & Company. Does this ring a bell?
6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… it’s 1980. There’s TV noise coming from the second floor. Someone turned up the volume way too high. The sun is burning from above. These were different times. The show playing on TV is Too Close for Comfort. The sun goes down. Someone switches channels. There’s Magnum, P.I. on now. That’s the world you were born in.
Progress, year after year. Do you wonder where the world is heading towards? The technology available today would have blown your mind in 1980. Do you know what was invented in the year you were born? The Compact Disc. Flash Memory.
It was the fearful night of December 8th
He was returning home from the studio late
He had perceptively known that it wouldn’t be nice
Because in 1980, he paid the price
That’s from the song I Just Shot John Lennon by The Cranberries.
In 1980, a new character entered the world of comic books: Bananaman. Bang! Boom! But that’s just fiction, right? In the real world, in 1980, Christina Aguilera was born. And Christina Ricci. Venus Williams, too. And you, of course. Everyone an individual. Everyone special. Everyone taking a different path through life.
The world is a different place.
What path have you taken?