WILSON: A history lesson — The decade of so what

wasn’t impressed with the 80’s. A lot of things happened during that decade — but I wasn’t all that impressed.

In 1981, a little firm that started out as the International Business Machines Corporation, sometimes known as IBM, introduced the IBM 5150 — the very first personal computer (now known as the “PC”). Computer geeks from subsequent generations fawn over this accomplishment as if it was the birth of the “Computer Age.” Big Deal! A year later, Commodore International introduced a little toy known as the Commodore 64 — an 8-bit home computer that sold for $595. So what? My grandson has toys with greater computing capabilities than any ‘80s era PC Clone (at a cost of almost as much). Heck…I have a phone that can take pictures of my favorite subject (usually, my thumb), can tell me how to get lost anywhere in the world, and keeps me instantly informed of which reality TV celebrity broke up with which unemployed actor.

The Cold War came to an end in the 1980s. Who cares? It wasn’t much of a war, anyway. Armies didn’t clash on fields of battle, blood didn’t flow in the streets and entire cities weren’t decimated into piles of rubble — like with a real war. Instead, nuclear weapons were manufactured by the buckets full and aimed in the general directions of millions upon millions of innocent people, President Reagan toyed with the idea of putting weapons in space and aiming them at a little place called the Soviet Union, and we all went to sleep with the thought that tomorrow morning might not come.

Perhaps the most important geo-political event of the ‘80s occurred when the United Kingdom retained its last vestige of colonial power by spending two and a half months struggling to kick third-world Argentinian butt in the Falkland Islands — a very important, militarily strategic, bunch of South Atlantic rocks (mostly inhabited by sheep).

I think I read, somewhere, that sometime during the ‘80s, Al Gore invented global warming and “Big Hair” bands — but we wouldn’t know that, today, if he hadn’t, also, invented the internet. As for the internet — again, I must say, big deal. Anyone with a modicum of I.T. skills can have a blog and aver to being an expert in anything. Please note that I do not have a blog (due to a lack of that modicum of I.T. skills), but I do know how to right click on simple words to substitute more confusing words (like “modicum” and “aver”).

Also, sometime during the “So What?” decade, Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire, Milli Vanilli pretended to sing, and the Artist Formally Known as Prince spelled his name with a symbol that looked like a fish in the throes of a hiccupping fit. Upstarts from Hip-Hop, Punk, and Techno music clashed with the Outlaws of Country (Waylon, Willie, and the boys) and the Old Men of Rock (Mick Jagger, Roy Orbison, and Wolfman Jack). However, much more importantly, Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck changed his name to Yngwie Johan Malmsteen — now that was a big deal.

In spite of the ever so boring so-whatness, the decade was not without its important moments. Three of my offspring (David, Nichole and Jacob) were born during the 80’s. These three occasions far exceeded the impact of a distant fourth most important event of the period – Weird Al Yankovic writing and starring in the world-renowned film, “UHF.”

Larry Wilson  is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com

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