The Eighties, an era filled with a congestion of life that was ever evolving and reshaping the world around us. A time when an epidemic would take a strong foothold on the world and seeping it’s way into the political arenas as well as bringing forth a discrimination that divided all on few facts and a lot of insinuations. None the less, the eyes of age would still be watching, recording and eventually like everyone else, be drawn into the fray.
It was an era of socioeconomic, boring at best. A decade of many historical moments but yet, a time with no real theme. Just plain Eighties! Or was it?
Political Drama – Ending A Cold War
No fanfare needed, as noted above, a rather boring time with an American president (Ronald Reagan) taking a more staunch stance against the Soviet Union after scrapping detente. It is said that the world was closer to nuclear war at this point in time than it had been in the last 20 years. With each side posturing (US, USSR) either something had to give or given how the decade would end, someone pulled out the fuse.
A majority of the decade focused on multinational companies vying for positions in untested parts of the world for resources and different populations to market to. Global expansion was the underlying theme and that alone would bring huge successes for many, and leave behind those that did not have the capital or the balls to foray into the new markets.
It was a changing time for many countries as difficulties in the form of debts would begin to strangle some less fortunate developing populations. For them, applying for financial assistance was a hard pill to swallow as many leaders were seen as losing the faith and trust of their citizens. Change would have to happen in order to avoid chaos.
A Virus – Pointed Fingers
Clinically observed for the first time in 1981, science and the medical fields would become heavily burdened, both in man-hours and financial resources, to get some sort of traction on how to develop medicines to counteract this vicious killer.
Every one suspected that someone they knew was sure to have it based on insinuation, tell-tale marks, and personal biases. Ostracism, avoidance, rejection and discrimination became a norm in the more modern populations for those who were diagnosed with AIDS while those in third world countries, would keep vigils to help those infected while they withered away until death.
In modern terms, it is now known that through research, the origination of this devastating virus (HIV) leads us back to the 1920s. But before we get here (1980s), the eyes of age would see many in the world populace die from a terrifying chronic disease. Using current numbers (2016 source: WHO), it is now known that the explosion of HIV/AIDS has grown to over 70 million people worldwide being infected and approximately half (36 million) having died.
With Sub-Saharan Africa still at the center of the worldwide epidemic, a strain continues throughout the world, always with an eye to the future for a cure that will put an end to this silent killer.
Thar She Blows – “Vancouver This Is It”
Local in origination (Southwest Washington state, USA) yet with a worldwide impact! Mount St. Helens (aka: Louwala-Clough, Lawetlat’la (Cowlitz,) Loowit (Klikitat) depending on your ancestry) stood an impressive 9,600 ft above sea level prior to it’s now famous eruption. Loosing 1,300 feet off top of the volcano, today it stands at 8,300 ft. With a plume that reached 60,000 ft, having an impact around the world seemed inevitable. From planes to trains and automobiles, no entity could escape being affected if you were in the path.
To those of us that witnessed the 1980 eruption, it was a very humbling experience in our lives. A future wife (that I had not met yet), she and her family would be forced to evacuate from the path of destruction like many others in the area. For myself, I would witness this powerhouse of nature from the north, in Seattle.
There were unusual changes in the nature after the eruptions as slow moving insects and larger than normal plant leaves were plentiful even several hundred miles away. Natural fertilizer seems to come to mind.
Subsequent eruptions witnessed from the south (Portland, Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington) would leave its marks on everyone in the region mostly from the resulting ash fall. On one such eruption, my entire family (I had married by then) would watch another event from our front porch (in safety) and all of us witnessed a site that was unexpected.
There was something in the sky and it was unusual. As reported by a member of the staff from USGS, we too saw a UFO. With plenty of binoculars available, standing on the porch, it flew out of the cone and high in the sky above our heads. All eyes were not on the erupting volcano as we were witnessing two separate (presumed) events at the same time. It was history in the making again, at least in our eyes.
A Fast Moving World – Time Slows Down
So much was going on around the world it began to get difficult to keep track of it all. After all, it was the Eighties. If you were young and had an education, a label you would inherit, “Yuppie” (baby boomers with an education (USA). Self centered and materialistic, this would be the new norm of the decade.
The following is a list of other events from the Eighties for your entertainment.
- John Lennon (Beatles) is assassinated (Dec. 1980)
- 1 Gigabyte hard drive is introduced ( weighed in at 500 lbs and the size of a refrigerator) (1980)
- Pablo Escobar / Medellin Cartel, spend $2,500 per month on rubber bands to put around the bundles of cash on hand ( personal net worth estimated at $25 billion)
- President Ronald Reagan is shot but survives (1981). James Brady, White House Press Secretary, would take a bullet to head.
- Prince Charles weds Diana Spencer in a Royal wedding not equaled since
- World population reaches 5,304,000,000 (yes that is 5 billion)
- First test tube baby is born ( Elizabeth Jordan Carr)
- Argentina & Great Britain go to war over the Faulkland Islands
- Canada gains full independence from United Kingdom
- Tylenol scare (US) from potassium cyanide laced capsules (1982)
- 1st artificial heart transplant ( Barney Clark)
- Soviet Union shoots down Korean airliner (1983)
- World’s 1st industrial disaster occurs in Bhopal, India. 500,000 people exposed to methyl isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide plant.
- Crack cocaine makes its first appearance in Los Angeles (1984)
- Wreckage of the Titanic is discovered (1985)
- Mikhail Gorbachev takes the reign of leadership in Soviet Union (1985)
- (1986) Space shuttle Challenger explodes, MIR space station is launched, Iran-Contra affair, Chernobyl nuclear accident, Haley’s Comet makes it presence known.
- (1987) Mathias Rust lands in Red Square, Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie is convicted in France, Ronald Reagan urges Soviet Union to “Tear down this wall” (Berlin Wall)
- (1988) US navy ship shoots down Iran air flight 655, end of Iran-Iraq war leaving more than 1 million dead, Phantom of the Opera debuts on Broadway in New York City.
- (1989) Berlin Wall is brought down, Communist governments in Europe begin to crumble. Tienanmen Square (China) event where hundreds of students peacefully protesting are killed by the government. Alaska (US) take a huge hit in the form of a massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez. World wide web is invented by British scientist – forever changing the world.
It was exciting times and to those of us sexagenarians that were present, it was our youth still, our prime and these eyes of age would be doing some dirty dancing or doing a little moonwalking. Another wall made its presence in the music form from a band known as Pink Floyd, all the while, West Germany would nobly defeat Italy in a FIFA tournament for the world title.
From “Purple Rain” to “What’s love got to do with it”, the search for Spock, was still ongoing. Clara Peller was still looking for and asking “Where’s the beef” while Michael Jackson was busy with making commercials and burning his scalp during a taping of a Pepsi ad.
What more could there be? Wasn’t this enough for one lifetime? After all, we were an aging population and there is only so much a person can take. Not so, after all, this was only the Eighties and it was time to grow up even more. Grow into a new era with a whole new set of problems and of course a lot more history.
Welcome To The 90s – The End Of A Century
A new era, a new way for keeping up with everything. The 90s started out by introducing the world to the Gregorian calendar. It has become known as the most widely used civil calendar( aka: solar calendar) and named after Pope Gregory XIII. This calendar represents a slight shift in time, more specifically, length of time in the year equivalent to 0.002% in correction. This was to provide a stabilization in equinoxes as well as solstices.
First introduced in 1592, now Easter would fall on the correct time of the year as celebrated by the Catholic church. Not all countries would convert all at once but would eventually come around to the adaptation. The number of leap years would be reduced from 100 to 97 and overall better alignment the length of a year, (365 days 6 hours) to become (365 days 5 hours 49 minutes 12 seconds) thereby shaving a total of 10 minutes 48 seconds from each year.
Why now? Why not wait out the decade and make the changes at the start of the new century? Life would continue to move on and the eyes of age would still be there to witness, to touch, to remember and share with all, what we saw and lived.
New Eyes – No Repeats
They say that history repeats itself and yet, this has to be seen. Right away the decade started off in the right direction with good intentions with the release of Nelson “Mandiba” Mandela after spending 27 years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the state and originally sentenced to life in prison. Later (1994) Mandela would become the president of the African National Congress (ANC) until the end of the decade.
With a new set of years ahead, people would become busier. Life would become more accelerated and in order to get more accomplished, parents would need a built in babysitter of sorts. This is a time when a huge proliferation of games would hit store shelves as a ready remedy. Keep the kids busy and you can get more done. This would also be the year when the Hubble Space Telescope would be launched and give us new eyes on other histories, mainly the universe.
While the world would be listening to popular music on the radio, a girl named “Sue” would make her debut as a different type of T Rex that was used to being heard. She would roar loudly from her historic past all in the form of silence. She was the largest, most complete and best preserved of its kind. Not sure we can say the same for the band.
A Man Called Bill – A New Vision
Very popular and charismatic, William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton would become President of the U.S. (1992), but not before the eyes of age continued its rampage on the world.
A war in the desert known as Operation Desert Shield (Gulf War) would ramp up boots on the ground from 35 nations in defense of Saudi Arabia from an assertive move by Iraq. This would be a short-lived war (Aug 1990 – Feb 1991 Desert Storm) ) but would forever leave a scar in history. New technology would be put to use and the world was now able to see daily offerings from the Middle East to satisfy its hungers.
All the while, gene therapy would make it’s medical debut in helping treat ailments by altering DNA. At the same time in other parts of the world, drug smuggling would make huge inroads into the U.S. and many other unsuspecting countries to fuel the demand for heroin, cocaine and marijuana. This battle alone would last well into the future and still goes on today.
Once Bill Clinton took office in 1992, he would use his influence to find a way to denuclearize both North Korea and South Korea. The North would balk and would prefer to back out of any treaty. Enter the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to work tirelessly to find a means of peace between the North and South. By 1994, the agreement would be disavowed by N. Korea which would lead to a threat of war against the U.S. (So now in today’s terms, (2018) we now know that history does repeat itself.)
President Clinton would continue to work on many projects and eventually the enactment of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) would go into effect, giving the world a new balance in trade. And all the while, outside the White House, Major League Baseball would see its first ever strike resulting in a season canceled for the much beloved sport.
Its Coming To An End – She Kept The Dress
Many other pieces of history would make their presence known in the world before the end of the decade and that would also include an embarrassing tidbit brought on by a White House intern (Monica Lewinsky) that she had kept the dress from a sexual incident with President Clinton that could prove the DNA.
Here are more events of the 90s:
- Civil War/Genocide in Rwanda resulting in 500,000 killed
- England and France announce the opening of a tunnel linking both countries for vehicle traffic
- Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin sign the Kremlin Accords (stops both sides from pre-programming nukes at each other)
- Northridge, California earthquake injures 7,000 and leaving 20,000 homeless. Damages estimated at $30 Billion
- Nirvana plays final show in Munich, Germany and front man Kurt Kobain found dead from suicide a month later
- eBay launches giving the world a new way to trade and barter online
- U.S. loans Mexico $20 Billion to avert financial collapse
- Tobacco lawsuits are allowed by the courts
- World’s first “bionic eye” is given to a Washington State blind teenager.
- Bill Clinton elected to a second term as President
- Thomas Hamilton kills 16 students and 1 teacher in Scotland before committing suicide
- Mad Cow disease makes itself known in the UK resulting in a ban on imported beef.
- Hello Dolly! Sheep is cloned for the first time
- U.S. loans Russia $10.2 Billion for economic reforms
- Nintendo 64 begins to be shipped from Japan
- 1st Harry Potter book is released (1997)
- Pegasus rocket carries remains of 24 people into space, including those of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, in 1st space burial.
- World population surpasses 6 billion
- Barbie doll turns 40
In the category of other, here are a couple of facts about the 90’s
During the 1990s, there were 14,768 recorded earthquakes around the world. The number of deaths reported totaled 114,246. You can find out the earthquake activity in your area and see on a daily basis to keep you aware of new situations.
Also, during the 90s, there were numerous wars going on in the world and for the decade, the numbers were atrocious. A total of 5,989,782 deaths were reported to only sate man’s affinity for terrorism and self greed and pure evil. The trait still has not eluded us as of today.
While there is so much more going on in the world, the time had come to prepare for a new millineum and that in itself would present us with entire different possible problems and new histories to contend with. There would be many scares imagined and many sales for the just in case something happened. None the less, the world would celebrate the new age with open arms and the eyes of age would not stop looking at developing history.
In the last part of this series, we will look at time nearer to our current day and take a look ahead beyond our current years.
Thank you for your patience as this is a long piece and your comments about history and what you may have personally encountered would be more than welcomed. It is the untold stories that are the most endeared and sought after so that other generations can have the chance to understand what our time on this earth is/was like.
This is the second in a 3 part series and you can read part 1 here.
Thank you, and that’s my show