Inventions of the 80s

Imagine this: You’re at Cape Canaveral waiting to watch a Space Shuttle launch. You have a great view since you recently ditched your crappy glasses for brand new contacts. On your drive over to the coast you played through your new CD collection- Duran Duran, Madonna, Depeche Mode, and Aerosmith. On the way back you might listen to some Michael Jackson or Poison. If you’re feeling extra sullen, maybe you’ll put on The Cure or The Smiths. Hoping to capture the trip, you brought along a disposable camera, a cheap investment for life-long memories. Your mind drifts to your new PC sitting back at home. While you’re excited to see the shuttle launch, you’re also excited to peruse the manual of the PC you just bought. After all, you’re one of your first friends to finally get one. Now if only you could figure out how to type in commands to make it work…

Does this sound outdated? If it does–you’re right. This imaginary scene was set in the 80s. At the time, everything mentioned above was new to the market. Other inventions of the time included the nicotine patch, Prozac, HDTVs, DNA fingerprinting, and a (permanent) artificial heart.

In list form, here are 10 Inventions from the 80s and some of their details:


1. Space Shuttles
-“Orbiting scientific laboratory capable of hosting numerous experiments designed to increase our understanding of the universe.”
-Inspired by the lunar missions of the ’60s and ’70s
-First launch was Colombia on April 12, 1981
-There have been 130 launches since the first in April of 1981


2. Disposable Contact Lenses
-Made losing lenses less costly
-Lenses could be disposed of after one use; did not require regular cleaning and care like previous lenses


3. Compact Discs
-Revolutionized the music industry
-Easier to store than vinyl albums and did not degrade over time (like cassettes and 8 tracks)

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4. Disposable Cameras
-Cornered the tourism industry; perfect for traveling/travelers
-Cheap and easy to use. Taking photographs no longer required a huge investment.


5. Personal Computers (IBM and Macintosh)
-IBM was synonymous with personal computers in the 1980s; ancestor to the Windows-based PC used today
-Apple launched the Macintosh, the first personal computer to use a graphics-based user interface (used icons to represent programs and featured a mouse)
-Most computers required users to type in commands to launch programs

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Movies of the 80s: National Lampoon’s Vacation

You may know that John Hughes wrote 16 Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller, but did you also know he wrote National Lampoon’s Vacation starring Chevy Chase? There have been a total of seven National Lampoon movies made with the original company and dozens of others made as spin-offs. John Hughes only wrote and directed three of them; 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, European Vacation (’85), and Christmas Vacation (’89).  

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The movie National Lampoon’s Vacation originally appeared as a story in National Lampoon’s Magazine. It was written by Hughes and titled “Vacation ’58.” In fact, you can still read the original short story at the following link:

When a story starts off with the sentence “If Dad hadn’t shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever,” how can you possibly resist?

Prior to National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes had only directed a handful of other projects. They include the TV series Delta House, and the films Class Reunion and Mr. Mom. At the time, he did not have the star power he would later go on to achieve.

The synopsis on IMDB says “The Griswold family’s cross-country drive to the Walley World theme park proves to be much more arduous than they ever anticipated.” This brief description doesn’t even begin to cover the “adventures” the Griswolds go in in pursuit of Wally World. Substitute “Disney World” for “Wally World” and you may get a better sense of the movie. If you have grown up in or near Orlando you may have trouble understanding the lengths the Griswolds go to in order to visit a theme park. As someone who was born and raised in Winter Park, I didn’t quite understand the draw of driving cross-country in a crowded car with your siblings just to visit an overcrowded and overpriced amusement park. The hour-long drive I had to undergo as a child in order to visit Mickey Mouse seemed daunting enough. However, if you’re not local, you might have a better understanding of the excitement that surrounds a family trip to one of the most popular amusement parks in the world. Either way, this film is still funny thirty years after its release.

Chevy Chase, of Saturday Night Live fame (and currently NBC’s Community), stars as Clark Griswold. He really was an excellent comedic actor when the film came out. His timing was fantastic and he played a perfect frustrated and overly-stressed father.


If you haven’t seen the film, it’s worth a watch; it currently has a “fresh” review of 94% on, which is extremely positive. As alluded to, the movie is about a family trying to make their way to Wally World, “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park.” Chevy Chase’s character, Clark insists on driving, despite his wife’s insistence that they fly. This is a decision he will ultimately come to regret. He and his two children pack up their station wagon and attempt to drive cross-country (from Chicago to LA) to visit the infamous theme park. Multiple mishaps occur along the way, resulting in maximum frustration (and plenty of humor for the viewer). Surprisingly, the movie has a body count. Without spoiling anything, I will say that two characters die. This only serves to amplify Clark’s anxiety and nearly drives him (no pun intended) mad. By the time the remaining family members do reach Wally World, chaos–and hilarity–ensues.

Bands of the 80s- Pet Shop Boys

Who is listed as the “Most Successful Duo in UK Music History?” You might not know the answer, but many children of the 80s do. The answer is the band “Pet Shop Boys.” In fact, they’re still around today and most recently released an album in 2013.

Pet Shop Boys, like Depeche Mode, fall under the genre of electronic pop. The group consists of two members: Neil Tennant (main vocals, keyboards, occasional guitar) and Chris Lowe (keyboards, occasional vocals).


Here are some facts about the band:
-Neil and Chris met in an electronics shop in Kings Road in Chelsea, London, in August of 1981
-Bonded over mutual interest in dance music
-Future hit songs such as “It’s a Sin,” “West End Girls,” “Rent,” “Jealousy” were created in Tennant’s flat in Chelsea
-Initially called themselves “West End” because of their love for London’s West End, but later came up with Pet Shop Boys, derived from friends of theirs “who worked in a Pet Shop in Ealing.”
-Their “Big Break” came when Tennant was assigned by Smash Hits (a pop music magazine) to interview The Police in New York. The duo was obsessed with their current producer “Bobby Orlando. ” After hearing the demo tape Tennant brought with him, Bobby O suggested they make a record together.

One of the duo’s first hits: “It’s a Sin” 

Pet Shop Boys recorded 11 songs with Bobby Orlando from 1981-1984; they cut ties in 1985.

In 1985 the band re-recorded “West End Girls” with another producer. The new version entered at a low position on the charts but slowly rose. However, according to Wikipedia, “by January 1986, it achieved the top spot. It was subsequently number one in the United States, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Israel, New Zealand and Norway and sold an estimated 1.5 million copies worldwide.” To date, it is their best known song.

-After the success of “West End Girls,” the duo released another single named “Love Comes Quickly” in February of 1986. Their debut album, Please, did not come out until March 1986. They initially tried to tour for this album, but expenses grew too high and it [the tour] was cancelled. They did, however, perform “Love Comes Quickly” and “West End Girls” at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.
-Their second single “It’s a Sin” (posted above) caused controversy when they were accused of plagiarism of Cat Stevens’s “Wild World.” What do you think? Here is Cat Stevens for comparison:

The band went on to release 11 more albums: Please (’86), Actually (’87), Introspective (’88), Behaviour (’90), Very (’93), Bilingual (’96), Nightlife (’99), Release (’02), Fundamental (’06), Yes (’09), Elysium (’12), and Electric (’13)

As of 2003, Pet Shop Boys were ranked (by Billboard’s Joel Whitburn as the “fourth most successful act on the U.S. Dance/Club Play charts.” Leading the list were some voices you may be familiar with: none other than Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Donna Summer.  

Medical Advancements- 1980s

Vaccines remain controversial to this day. Jenny McCarthy, formerly of MTV’s “Singled Out” has publicly spoken out against them. Among others, McCarthy believes that there is a link between autism and vaccines given to newborns. One of the vaccines she believes poses a threat is the Hepatitis B vaccine. Incidentally, in 1981, the first vaccine for Hepatitis B was created.

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by a virus (HBV). Chronic Hepatitis B can eventually cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. The acute version of the disease (which occurs when the virus attacks the liver) can cause liver inflammation, vomiting, and jaundice. Hepatitis B is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV.

Gay men and drug users are especially prone to Hepatitis B infections. The virus is spread through bodily fluids, including blood. Use of contaminated needles (among drug users) helps the spread of the disease.

According to Wikipedia the vaccine, “was withdrawn from the marketplace when Pablo DT Valenzuela, Research Director of Chiron Corporation succeeded in 1986 in making the antigen in yeast and invented the first recombinant vaccine.[32] The recombinant vaccine was developed by inserting the HBV gene that codes for the surface protein into a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This allows the yeast to produce only the noninfectious surface protein, without any danger of introducing actual viral DNA into the final product.[31] This is the vaccine still in use today.”

We are currently using the vaccine that was “tweaked” in 1986 from the original 1981 version. The initial vaccine worked by “infecting” the vaccinated recipient with a non-infectious version of a surface protein found on the HBV virus. In order to isolate this protein, scientists used an intricate filtration system. These proteins would not be infectious, as they lacked the DNA that would make them virulent. The immune system would recognize this protein as foreign and generate antibodies to destroy it. Next time the recipient encountered the virus, their body would recognize the surface proteins, re-generate antibodies and would therefore be able to properly fight off the infection.

Currently, we use the model proposed in 1986 by Pablo Valenzuela. The gene that codes for the surface protein on the HBV virus is inserted into a yeast. The yeast then generates large amounts of this non-infectious surface protein which is used to make vaccines. By using the yeast, there is less likelihood that viral DNA will make its way into the serum used for vaccination. As a result, it is nearly improbable that someone will get “sick” after receiving the Hepatitis B vaccination.

As of 1991 in the United States, the vaccine is recommended for all infants, with doses received over the course of 14 months. As of 2011, the incidence of new cases is down 90%. The map below shows the prevalence of HepB cases in 2005. Note the prevalence in the United States is one of the lowest.


Books of the 1980′s: Part II (1986-1989)

This is the follow-up post to the original Books of the 80’s post, which listed 10 books from 1980-1985 that are still around (and popular) today. Here are 10 books from the latter half of the decade you might be familiar with.

1. It (Stephen King, 1986)

2. Red Storm Rising (Tom Clancy, 1986)

3. A Perfect Spy (John Le Carre, 1986)

4. Fatherhood (Bill Cosby, 1986)

5. Patriot Games (Tom Clancy, 1987)

6. The Tommyknockers (Stephen King, 1987)

7. Misery (Stephen King, 1987)

8. Windmills of the Gods (Sidney Sheldon, 1987)

9. A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking, 1988)

10. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett, 1989)

It would appear that “thrillers” were a common theme in the later half of the 1980s decade, with many novels about spies, military, and intelligence agencies. John Le Carre and Tom Clancy quickly became leaders in the espionage genre.

Stephen King remained a popular author and published a total of 12 books over the course of the decade; some were short-story collections while others were novels. Between 1986 and 1989 the following were published: Skeleton Crew, It, The Tommyknockers, Misery, The Eyes of the Dragon, and The Dark Half. It and Misery were both adapted into films.


The “film” adaptation of It came out in 1990 as a two-part TV miniseries. Tim Curry of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fame starred as the horrific Pennywise, a clown that killed children. Images from the movie are still burned into the minds of clown lovers and haters alike. In both the book and the TV miniseries, seven outcast kids (The Loser Club) fight an evil demon that poses as a child-killing clown in 1960s Maine. 30 years later, the demon makes a second appearance and the club must once again come together–this time as adults–to defeat the monster. Surprisingly, the horror novel relies heavily on the “coming of age” theme. The miniseries downplays this aspect and received negative reviews from critics and fans alike.


The film adaptation of Misery was a much better commercial and critical success than King’s It. Misery, also out in 1990, featured Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes, an obsessed and deranged fan. You may recognize Kathy Bates from recent episodes (season 8 and 9) of The Office (US version) or FX’s American Horror Story. She won an Oscar for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Misery. Despite coming out over 20 years ago, the film still has an 88% (positive) on The novel and film adaptation are about an author that is “rescued” from a wintery, ice-fueled car accident by a crazy fan. The tagline of the film is: “Paul Sheldon used to write for a living. Now, he’s writing to stay alive.”


Patriot Games was also adapted into a film. Debuted in 1992, the movie starred Harrison Ford (of Star Wars and Indiana Jones fame) and Anne Archer. Phillip Noyce, also known for Clear and Present Danger, Salt, and the upcoming The Giver, directed the film. IMDB summarizes the movie and the book “When CIA Analyst Jack Ryan interferes with an IRA assassination, a renegade faction targets him and his family for revenge.” Clancy’s character of Jack Ryan has also been the focus of several other movies (originally based on books), including The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears.

Books of the 1980’s: Part I (1980-1985)

Many of the books published in the 1980s are still popular today. Some of the authors that gained recognition in the 1980s are still writing and releasing novels (or works of non-fiction). These authors include Stephen King, Carl Sagan, Ken Follett, among many others. Here are some books that are still going strong nearly 30 years later:

1. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum, 1980)

2. Firestarter (Stephen King, 1980)

3. Cosmos (Carl Sagan, 1980)

4. Cujo (Stephen King, 1981)

5. A Light in the Attic (Shel Silverstein, 1981)

6. The Man from St. Petersburg (Ken Follett, 1982)

7. Return of the Jedi Storybook (J. Vinge, 1983)

8. Pet Sematary (Stephen King, 1983)

9. Jane Fonda’s Workout Book (Jane Fonda, 1982)

10. Contact (Carl Sagan, 1985)


The Bourne Identity has been made into a series of movies starring Matt Damon. Ludlum, the writer of the novel, was also responsible for the rest of the trilogy, which includes The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum. The first movie came out in 2002 and was directed by Doug Liman. IMDB summarizes the movie: “A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled, and without memory, then races to elude assassins and recover from amnesia.”


Cosmos, written by Carl Sagan, has been adapted into a television show; it currently airs on FOX (Spring 2014) and features Neil deGrasse Tyson. Cosmos is listed as one of the best-selling science books of all time. It discusses 14 billion years of cosmic evolution. Both the TV show and the non-fiction book tackle matters such as the origin of life, the human brain, Egyptian hieroglyphics, spacecraft missions, the death of the sun, space and time travel, and the evolution of galaxies.


Both Cujo and Stephen King’s Pet Sematary have been adapted into movies. The first film came out in 1983 and the second in 1989. Cujo is about a St. Bernard named “Cujo” that contracts rabies and terrorizes a small town in Maine. The disease makes the dog violent and causes it to kill local residents. Pet Sematary has the following summary on IMDB “Behind a young family’s home in Maine is a terrible secret that holds the power of life after death. When tragedy strikes, the threat of that power soon becomes undeniable.” The novel and the film adaptation are about a cemetery that resurrects the dead–however, there are horrific consequences. 


A Light in the Attic is a popular children’s book and is still widely read today. It features a series of poems and illustrations for children. The author, Shel Silverstein, is credited as a poet, singer-song writer, cartoonist, screenwriter, and children’s book writer. While he died in 1999, Silverstein was also responsible for many other children’s books, including The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Missing Piece, and Falling Up.