Being nostalgic for when you came of age holds precious memories for people of those generations, Generation X and Baby Boomers, who miss those fun-packed experiences today. However, they have significant interest for those who came later and provide insight into what life was like in the 1980s. Looking back on the iconic trends of that era, perhaps with rose-colored glasses, people shared what they missed most of the 80s on an online forum. Walk through memory lane with us.
1. Golden Age of Arcade Games
Arcades weren’t invented in the 1980s, but older ones had games like Skee ball, mazes, pinball, and baffle ball. The golden age of arcade games combined computing technology and cultural influence to create a movement. Arcades were exciting places in malls, bowling alleys, bars, pizza joints, and restaurants. People could play and meet their friends or make new ones, while parents dropped their kids off while they shopped. The most popular games that attracted the crowds were Pac-Mac, Donkey Kong, and Tetris, but many games had various influential concepts.
2. Classic Sitcoms
There were fewer channels to watch in those days, but classic sitcoms were thriving on themes that weren’t afraid to touch on challenging or relevant issues. The most popular sitcoms were Cheers, Family Ties, M*A*S*H, Taxi, The Golden Girls, and Full House, all of which stood the test of time.
3. The Birth of MTV
MTV kicked off in August 1981 on cable TV with footage of a shuttle launch, representing the commercial and cultural era of music 80s. It began as a 24-hour platform for rock and roll music videos and promoted hits. It propelled the careers of stars including Madonna, Whitney Houston, Prince, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller into the stratosphere. MTV initially targeted a young audience from ages 12 to 34 but became a driving force that brought music videos to a mainstream audience.
4. Professional Wrestling
There was a surge in professional wrestling in the 1980s with the expansion of cable and pay-per-view. Then-wrestler Vince McMahon promoted wrestling by creating the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF. Now WWE, it ushered in sports entertainment and the likes of top star Hulk Hogan who had his popular Saturday morning cartoon.
5. Neon Lights
Neon lights came back in the 1980s and everywhere looked like Times Square. Advertisements and signage used neon lighting in an art form that made the 80s unique. Neon art spread to fluorescent colors like neon green, yellow, or blue used in clothes, shoes, makeup, vinyl recover covers, and neon wall art.
6. Vinyl Records
Vinyl records still boomed in sales in the 1980s, at the end of its golden era, which began in the 1950s when it was the primary way to buy music and was relatively cheap. Those who came of age in the 80s often lament the decline of vinyl records to compact discs or CDs in the 1980s, which were then replaced by digital downloads and streaming services. In recent years, vinyl records have come back, spurred by nostalgic baby boomers though Gen Zers are buying them too. People argue that vinyl records have better sound quality than digital audio files.
7. Live Rock Bands
One person missed the amazing rock nightclub scene of the 80s. It was the last decade when numerous nightclubs were dedicated to having live bands play covers and originals in styles from album-oriented rock (AOR) to hard rock, punk rock, and all types of heavy metal. It was the era of the ‘superclub’ with New York’s The Limelight and Palladium, which would host celebrities, including Madonna and Boy George. The rock bands of the 80s included bands like the B-52s, Bon Jovi, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Guns N’ Roses, Ramones, and Duran Duran. Best of all, ticket prices were affordable then.
8. Punk Scene
The punk scene arrived in the late 1970s but became visible in the 80s. It wasn’t limited to rock music though they had their bands like The Clash. Punk became an ideology, sub-culture, spawning poetry, literature, fashion, film, and arts. Not everyone embraced the punk lifestyle, but those that did went to places like NYC’s CBGB Music Club. Punk influenced many music genres, like heavy metal and alternative vibes.
9. 1980s Music
The modern rock music scene was exciting in the 1980s. It was post-disco and saw the emergence of electronic dance music and new wave. Many notable artists including Prince, Michael Jackson, Boy George, George Michael, Madonna, Pat Benatar, Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, The Police, Queen, Bon Jovi, and Whitney Houston.
10. Video Gaming At Home
As technology advanced, video gaming spread to homes in the early 80s on platform systems, including Sega, Nintendo, and Atari. The most popular home video games included Super Mario Bros., Tetris (Game Boy), Duck Hunt, Frogger, and Space Invaders.
11. Must-Have Toys
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Besides having Atari or Nintendo Entertainment System (and later, Nintendo Game Boy) to play arcade-style games at home, Cabbage Patch Kids and Masters of the Universe figures were popular. Rubik’s Cube emerged, challenging everyone with its color-coded titles.
12. No Cellphones or Social Media
Today our lives are punctuated by cell phones and social media. Without cell phones and social media, it is easier to have one-to-one conversations and make plans to meet a friend without the crowds of people that may be on the same chat. It was easy to meet up with someone at their home, yours, or a nearby park to spend the day. There is an absence of privacy where everyone shares everything making social comparisons inevitable and uncomfortable.
We get constant notifications from our phones and calls beyond reasonable times from our boss or colleagues who can contact us after hours. Although it is easier to research something through the Internet or Google, there are too many resources to tap to find the best information. What’s the fun of Trivial Pursuit when everyone can find the answer immediately?
13. Personal Computers
Home computers became more common in the 1980s when PCs became available from the Commodore, Apple MacIntosh, Tandy, and IBM and were bought in retail stores like Radio Shack. The software apps were VisiCalc or Lotus 1-2-3, and Microsoft was not yet dominant. People used computers to play games, do simple administrative tasks, and store data on floppy disks.
Boomboxes were popular and became status symbols in the 1980s. They were portable music players featuring AM/FM radios and a CD player carried by teens blasting music through internal loudspeakers in the city streets. Some had heavy visible instruments on their shoulders, and you could listen to music and dance with your friends, though some people were irritated as the boomboxes passed by.
Some people associated the boomboxes with black and Hispanic youth, coining it a “ghetto blaster,” and it was intrinsically linked to hip-hop culture. Boombox’s popularity declined with the commercialization of the Sony Walkman.
15. Sony Walkman
The original Walkman was a portable cassette player that first went on sale in 1979. Still, in the early 1980s, it became more popular as they added FM, wearable headphones, and Dolby noise-reduction features. The Walkman became virtually ubiquitous once they added rechargeable batteries. Unlike the boomboxes, you’d listen to music in privacy and small enough to bring with you to exercise, walk, shop, and ride bikes. Walkman’s success helped cassette sales outsell vinyl records.
16. Saturday Morning Cartoons
For those of a young age, childhood was terrific on Saturday mornings with our cereal and PJs. Saturday morning cartoons rocked in the 1980s with a fantastic line-up that brought Transformers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Smurfs, ThunderCats, GI Joe, Ren & Stimpy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were simpler times without cell phones or social media to tear you away.
17. Kids Playing Outdoors
Kids played more outside, rain or shine. This has become a lost experience as young kids will likely be at home on their phones and communicating on social media. In the 1980s, friends would get together with the kids in the neighborhood, wait for Mister Softee’s truck, hang out in the playground, use the sprinklers, ride bikes, skateboard, go to the movies, bowling alleys, and play sports in an open lot.
18. Department Stores Galore
Where have all the department stores gone? In the 1980s, various department stores everywhere gave way through acquisition or bankruptcy to a few monopolistic outlets like Walmart, Amazon, and Macy’s. There is less variety and competition; shopping is less fun for some.
19. Fashion Trends
Some fashions stand out from the 80s, especially the ‘Big Hair’ memorialized by the 1988 movie Working Girl and protagonist Melanie Griffth who wore the typical hairdo of the times, as curly, bouffant, and heavily styled. Sometimes the big hair was called Aquanet hair,
While punk fashion emphasized leather, metal spikes, and studs, many liked power dressing, influenced by famous Dynasty and Dallas TV shows, and wore oversized shoulder pads and fancy dresses.
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18 Everyday Things From the 90s That Are Now Luxuries
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These astronomical advances are a giant leap from before the Internet, but many things that were part of everyday life are now considered a luxury. On an online forum, people shared what they miss most today that was typical in the 1990s.
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10 Outdated Things Boomers Always Keep in Their House and Use
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As time passes and technology advances, certain generations hold on to the familiar relics of the past. One such generation is the Baby Boomers, who often have a penchant for keeping and using outdated items in their homes. From landline phones to fax machines, vinyl records to VHS tapes, Boomers embrace these relics as a reminder of simpler times and a nod to their personal preferences.
This article was produced and syndicated by The Cents of Money.
With a passion for investing and personal finance, I began The Cents of Money to help and teach others. My experience as an equity analyst, professor, and mom provide me with unique insights about money and wealth creation and a desire to share with you.