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Remembering the 1980s, the decade that changed everything


On the National Geographic Channel has been a series of programmes giving us a nostalgic look at the 1980s, much of it through they eyes of sport and popular entertainment, but also featuring some of the national and international events of the era.  I remember the 80s as the decade that changed everything.  In the UK it was the decade that brought Britain back from what seemed inevitable decline into vigorous recovery.  The ailing state industries were privatized, the unions brought under law, while taxes were lowered and success was admired.  Similar things happened in the US, as Ronald Reagan led America to a new confidence and prosperity after the angst-ridden 70s.

Fashion changed, too, and the naff 70s were finally laid to rest as youngsters adopted sportier styles in place of the fake tinsel glam of the previous decade.  We were no longer held prisoner by TV schedules, as the video recorder made its debut.  The first series of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” had kept everyone in on Monday nights in 1979.  By the time its successor, “Smiley’s People,” was aired, hardly any of my friends watched it in real time.  In a similar way the Sony Walkman freed people from their home music centres, and no less importantly, freed the rest of us from the street boom boxes that preceded it.  The desktop computer made its appearance, as did the first Mackintosh versions to make it simple.  CNN finally broke the stranglehold of the big three US networks, and the rediscovered self-confidence of the decade reflected itself in movies like “Top Gun” and “Back to the Future.”

For seven of the decade’s ten years I trained Tae Kwon-Do, the first sport I’d ever taken up.  With two or three evening sessions per week, it occupied quite a slice of my time.  It was also the decade which saw several of my books published, some on economics, some on logic, and some more popular ones on intelligence (I was secretary of Mensa at the time).  Towards the end of the decade I discovered the Florida Keys and eventually had a house there.  The ability to escape parts of a depressing British winter was a great discovery.

The decade was marked by controversy.  The Falklands War, the Miners’ Strike, cruise missiles and the Strategic Defence Initiative played their part, but the decade saved its best till last as the Soviet Empire crumbled and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.  Millions of people were freed from oppression, and those who were already free were freed from the daily fear of nuclear annihilation.  Oh yes, the 1980s changed everything.


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