Sunday, 07 January 2024 04:27

21 facts about life in the '80s that’ll seriously surprise young people

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Recently, we shared a post about things from life in the '80s that would surprise or maybe even blow the minds of young people (like that teachers/admin could paddle badly-behaving students legally in most places).

Well, members of the BuzzFeed Community chimed in with more terrific examples of things from the '80s young people likely have no idea about, and reading them was like a trip to the past for a Gen X'er like me. Check them out:

1. "There was no caller ID, so calling people you didn't like (like teachers) or even just complete randos to make some lame joke was a regular thing. And you could find your teachers' numbers because they were all printed in a big book that everyone got a copy of."


2. "My 17-year-old babysitter would send me — age 10 — to the corner drugstore with a note from 'my mom' giving me permission to buy cigarettes for her. I never got told 'no' by the cashier."

3. "When CDs first came out, they packaged them in these long cardboard sleeves. I think the stores were trying to reduce theft, because you couldn't just pocket them the way you could a regular CD. Most of the time, after you bought the CD, you just had to rip through the cardboard sleeve, but sometimes, the art was cool, and I tried to preserve it as a keepsake. Wish I still had them!"

​Note: Theft was probably a concern, but the biggest reason for the long boxes was so they would fit in the bins stores already had that were configured for records.
4. "It's difficult now to believe how little oversight we had from our parents. We'd go out into the woods for an entire day and just do whatever. We all had pocket knives, and nobody was older than 9."

5. "Classrooms often had a single desktop computer, and you and a partner had an assigned time each week when you could use it. Early on, the monitor had a black background with white, green, or amber text and images...though color monitors did come out later in the decade."

"Programs weren’t on the computer itself but on literal floppy discs around five inches square. It was rare to save data beyond high scores on video games and such."


6. "I used to sit by my boombox and listen to the radio, ready to click 'record' to put it onto a tape. I spent hours waiting for certain songs because I couldn’t just look them up, and my mom didn’t want us having 'inappropriate CDs.' LOL."


"Loving a song and waiting for the radio to play it...while having a blank tape ready to hit record! People did this unless they were wealthy and could buy a new tape or album every time they had a favorite song!"


7. "Pay phones were everywhere. They were sometimes non-functional and always disgusting — especially when the handset was still warm...ew."


8. "There were 976 phone numbers where people were charged by the minute to listen to some kind of content, such as weather forecasts, horoscopes, fandom hotlines, or adult dialogue. There were ads for them on TV all of the time."


"I remember 976-SANTA!"


"Miss Cleo!!!"


9. "There were astronomical long distance charges. I remember I got carried away on what was supposed to be a quick call with a friend out of town in another state, so we were on for, like, a half hour. I had to pay my parents back $15 for it, which was about what I made in four hours work at minimum wage at the time — and this wasn't even the '80s; it was 1998 or '99."

10. "TV used to just end at night around 12 or 1 a.m. That's something people born after a certain time can’t comprehend. I remember staying up late and seeing the sign off for mainstream stations which meant no more TV for the night. Then on the weekend, you would get up, see static, and have to wait for the station call sign to come on before cartoons would start."

11. "Watching TV was a whole different experience than it is today. Shows aired on set days at set times, and you either had to be in front of the TV (or set your VCR correctly) to catch them. Miss an episode? You better have someone catch you up on what happened or hope that the network reruns it over the summer."

"Also, channels were incredibly limited. Broadcast TV had four networks and local stations. The advent of cable was a massive deal. Your family got a little analog box with red channel numbers, and you could watch niche networks. However, a lot of those basic channels didn’t have their own content yet. For example, Nickelodeon had Canadian imports like Today’s Special and You Can’t Do That on Television and reruns of 1950s black-and-white shows like Dennis the Menace and Donna Reed. That is until Double Dare came along — and everyone daydreamed about how their family would do on that show."


12. "If you were meeting a friend, you had to be there on time. If they weren’t there, you had no idea if you were late or if they were late, so you’d have to leave the meeting point to find a pay phone and call their house phone to ask their mom or dad if they’d left yet. If they'd left already, you'd say, 'If (friend's name) calls you, please tell them I’m waiting at the meeting point.' This could go on a few times if you kept missing each other! Much better to be on time."

13. "Rudeness was better hidden, as insulting someone meant doing it face to face (which, of course, could provoke a violent reaction)."

"Nowadays, you have a whole bunch of keyboard warriors thinking they're Billy Big Bollocks because they can childishly insult you from afar, and there's not much you can do about it."


14. "INDEX CARDS! To do a school paper in 'my day,' you’d take out relevant library books and transcribe quotes onto 3-by-5 cards. Each card had the reference, the page number, etc. Then — and ONLY THEN! — would you map out the paper."

"Man, we worked hard in those days!"


And if the above didn't sound like a big enough pain in the butt, it gets worse:

15. "If you had an important paper to do at school, your teacher might require it to be typed. So you'd draft the whole thing longhand, then sit down at your parents' typewriter (or a library one, if your parents didn't have a typewriter) and painstakingly type the whole thing out. I still remember the distinct smell my parents' IBM electric typewriter made when you turned it on."

16. "Maps! There was no GPS...just maps and atlases for cities, counties, states, and national highways."

17. "You'd ask for directions a lot, and the ones people gave you could be wonky but wonderful ('Go past the Dairy Queen, but if you pass the hair salon, you went too far')."

"If only my GPS directions app could use its satellite technology AND descriptions like 'turn left at the gas station' or 'your destination is on the right, past the tire warehouse' instead of using estimated mileage or compass directions like 'head northwest 56 feet.'"

18. "Gas stations had attendants. They pumped your gas, washed your windows, and checked your oil. No extra charge. For lots of high schoolers, that was your first job."

​I remember seeing gas station attendants until at least the early '90s.)

19. "When you had to do a report and poster on another country, you'd go to travel agencies to see if they had brochures on the country for pictures for the poster."

20. "There were no noise-canceling headphones at the time, so whatever you were listening to on your Walkman would be heard by everyone, and if it was too loud, someone might ask you to turn it down."

21. "We'd call 411 'information' for a telephone number or look it up in the white or yellow pages! Now we just search the internet!"



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