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Fri, 16 Feb 2018

I Miss the Eighties

With apologies to my younger readers.

I miss the 80s. I spent my formative years in the 80s, in the US. I went to high school, got my first computer, had sex for the first time, started driving, got drunk for the first time, got high for the first time, had my first girlfriend, and went away to college (not necessarily in that order).

Of course people will accuse me of looking back with rose-colored glasses. What was bad about the 80s? Let's see...recession, high interest rates...mullets...expensive long distance phone calls...gas prices...Reagan, Challenger...still I can't say that since then we haven't been through equally fucked-up decades. Hell, the one we're in right now is one for the record books.

Is it true that as you age, you look back with fondness at the prime decade of your youth? Perhaps but not always. Sometimes things _were_ better.

So what was good about the 80s? Well, if you were financially astute, high interest rates were a boon. Many a boomer retired on money they invested in US savings bonds. Savings accounts were a thing. Sadly, I was too young and too self-involved back then to even consider retirement planning.

TV - sorry, no this was bad in the 80s also.

For music, we had Neil Young and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and no one was auto-tuned. What they sang was what you heard. Sometimes it was good.

Analog phones - holy hell, it used to be that you could call someone and actually understand them. What was a voice codec? No one knew, thankfully. You could dial '0' and speak to a real human, for free. 411. You could take a phone off the hook. Someone else's long-distance corporate calling cards.

Home computers - the first one I owned was a Commodore 64, although I had played with Vic-20s and TRS-80s before that. Computers were simple, back then you could hack _everything_. No hardware or software was off-limits, there was no DRM, no "trusted computing". I mean the C64 booted into a BASIC REPL, for fuck's sake. They were inviting you to program it. Nowadays everything is a black box, locked tight and certain to spy on you. Stallman was right.

More? Let me think...if you were in the Boy Scouts, you did a lot of wilderness camping and hiking. Helicopter parents were not invited. The cover of your handbook was a Norman Rockwell painting, not a glossy marketing photo-shoot. It may have also contained actually useful information.

What else? There were no cell phones. People went on trips and used real paper maps, as opposed to driving into lakes. There was email if you were at a university or government lab or large company, but no spam. You could go home from work and be assured of not being bothered by work. You could fix cars yourself. If you got in a car crash, your car was likely made of steel and tended not to crumple (ignoring the fact that no one wore seat-belts, I know, still the cars were tanks). If you landed a steady job in the 80s it very likely offered a generous pension plan. Well-funded public libraries. The internet (as opposed to the world-wide web, which as we all know came later and was/is a disaster). BBSs. SDF - it's amazing that SDF has been around since the 80s, not that I was a member back then, but still, amazing.

I keep threatening my wife to "live" in the 80s again as a fun escape. It would be the merest shell of its former self, unfortunately. More's the pity.

posted at: 21:46 | path: / | permalink | 80s, eighties, nostalgia, retro