The 1980s in America

The 1980s in America

The 80’s were a decade of rapid change in the U.S. and elsewhere. At the start of the decade, home computing was in its infancy, the Cold War was in full force, and the Space Shuttle program was preparing for its first launch. By 1990, the Berlin Wall had fallen, the Hubble Space Telescope was orbiting the earth, and it was the dawn of the internet age.

Children and teenagers in the 1980’s were on the leading edge of innovations in technology that changed the way Americans experienced popular culture. Many things that seem unremarkable now were groundbreaking changes for kids who grew up during this amazing decade.

    Listen to some of Ryan's favorite 80s hits!

  • Portable music. For the first time, teens could carry their favorite music with them and listen to it nearly anywhere. No longer tied to radios, record players, and clunky 8-track decks, kids (and adults!) used boom boxes and Walkmen to play their favorite tunes on the street and on the go.

  • Movies on demand. Betamax and VHS created a whole new industry of movie rental and purchasing. Before them, once a movie left the theaters you never saw it again, unless it appeared in a late-night TV rotation. Now, movie lovers could rent or own a film and watch it again and again at their convenience.

  • Cable TV. Still uncommon in 1980, by the end of the decade over 53 million American homes had cable. The huge increase in available channels and specialized programming gave 80’s teens a wider variety of video options than ever before—and revolutionized the music industry with the advent of music videos on MTV!

  • Home computers. In the 1970’s, only the nerdiest of nerds owned computing systems. But affordable options from companies like Commodore brought gaming, modems, and chat rooms into regular households—and teenagers quickly made them part of daily life!