24 Craziest Things That Happened In The 80s That You’ve Probably Forgotten About

The 1980s was a whirlwind of a decade. Often known as “the decade of decadence,” the 80s were a transformative period marked by some crazy and significant global events.

The decade witnessed turbulent political relations, the monumental collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the emergence of AIDS, and the birth of the internet. This dynamic decade was a truly era-defining period for Generation X that made significant contributions to the world we live in today.  

Let’s look at some of the craziest moments from this wild decade that you won’t believe happened!

The Walkman, 1980

red walkman and headphones
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Developed by Sony in the late 1970s, the Walkman was launched in Japan in the summer of 1979 and introduced to the USA in 1980, revolutionizing the way we listen to music.

Birth Of Cable News, 1980

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The birth of cable news revolutionized our media consumption, offering 24/7 coverage and introducing a diverse range of perspectives like never before. CNN launched the world’s first 24-hour news network on June 1, 1980. 

Mass Exodus Of Cuba, 1980

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In April 1980, a mass exodus of over 125,000 Cubans fled the communist regime under Fidel Castro to Florida from Mariel. 

Because of the risks and overcrowded conditions of the 1,700 boats that made the journey, 27 migrants tragically lost their lives before reaching the U.S. The exodus of political refugees later inspired the iconic film Scarface, released in 1983.

The Eruption Of Mt St Helens, 1980 

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One of the craziest natural disasters of the decade. In May 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington, blasting over 1,000 feet off its top. The violent eruption that sadly killed 57 people created a massive crater and spread volcanic ash across multiple US states.

Olympic Controversy, 1980

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It was a controversial year for global athletics. In the 1980 Moscow games, Sebastian Coe won the 1,500-meter final in a standout moment. This was despite a U.S.-led boycott over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, which saw 65 nations abstain from the games.  

Polish Shipyard Strike, 1980

Polish shipyard
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In a pivotal moment during Cold War politics, the Solidarity movement in Poland, spearheaded by Lech Walesa, initiated a shipyard strike in Gdansk in August 1980. This strike was a demand for improved working conditions under the Soviet regime and resulted in agreements that dealt a significant blow to Soviet authority. Ultimately, this industrial action played a crucial role in hastening the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

Pac-Man Mania, 1980

Man playing Pac-Man
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October 1980 saw the birth of the legendary video game “Pac-Man” in US arcades. The game quickly became a global hit and sold over 100,000 arcade units in just 15 months

Fun Fact: Initially named “Puck-man,” the name is derived from the Japanese word “paku,” meaning “to chomp”.

Death Of John Lennon, 1980

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On a fateful day in December 1980, Beatles legend and international heartthrob John Lennon was fatally shot outside his New York apartment. Lennon’s tragic death deeply shocked fans worldwide, marking the end of an era and a somber moment that resonated throughout the decade.

Assassination Attempt On Pope John Paull II, 1981

pope john paul II
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In an event that shook the world, Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt on his life by Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter’s Square. Despite sustaining serious injuries, including two bullets to his side, the Pope forgave Agca, later advocating for his eventual release from prison. 

This event highlighted the Pope’s resilience and helped deepen his global influence. Throughout the 1980s, he continued to champion anti-communism and strengthen interfaith connections.

A Royal Wedding, 1981

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
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In the fairytale wedding and event of the century, an estimated 750 million people tuned in to watch the union of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981. 

Diana’s huge train and quintessentially 80s wedding gown shaped the fashion of the decade and captured hearts around the world. Their fairytale wedding shaped the sentiment felt towards Diana as she would soon become the “people’s princess”.

A Female First, 1981

Sandra Day O'Connor
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On September 25, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court under President Ronald Reagan. The significance of her role paved the way for women to come and motivated the second-wave feminist movement. 

First Publication On AIDS, 1981

AIDS logo
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On May 18,  New York City doctor Lawrence Mass wrote an article in The New York Native discussing the rise of compromised immune systems in gay men. This was the first mention of what would soon come to be known as the AIDS epidemic which persisted throughout the decade.

Jane Fonda’s Fitness Phenomenon, 1982

Jane Fonda
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In the 1980s, Jane Fonda revolutionized fitness with her iconic exercise videos, such as “The Jane Fonda Workout.” Her influence transformed fitness into a cultural phenomenon, inspiring people worldwide to embrace exercise, wellness, and colorful leg warmers!

PC Machine Of The Year, 1982

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Time magazine named the revolutionary personal computer its “Machine of the Year.” This marked the first time a non-human had received the acclaimed award since its inception in 1927, underscoring the growing cultural significance of technology in shaping the modern world.

The Real Moonwalk, 1983

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - Exact date unknown - circa 1990 - Michael Jackson arriving at a celebrity event
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The inimitable legend Michael Jackson debuted his iconic moonwalk during a performance of Billie Jean in 1983. Performed on TV to an audience of 47 million, Jackson changed the history of music forever. 

McDonald’s Massacre, 1984

Mcdonald's restaurant
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In an event that truly shook the nation, in 1984 James Oliver Huberty committed what was the deadliest massacre in US history at the time. Huberty opened fire at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California, killing 21 people and injuring 19. 

MTV Awards, 1984

MTV on TV screen
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After revolutionizing the music industry following its birth in 1981, MTV hosted its first Music Awards in 1984 marking a defining moment for popular culture. 

Madonna’s truly iconic performance of “Like a Virgin,” which she performed in a wedding gown, established MTV as a trailblazer for 1980s popular culture. It highlighted its cultural impact and shaped music and entertainment for decades to come.

Live Aid, 1985

young people enjoying themselves in a concert
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January 1985, the iconic Live Aid concert featured 45 music legends, including Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Bob Dylan. The concert united the stars to record “We Are the World” for the African famine relief. This supergroup hit sold over 20 million copies, making a significant impact through music and showcasing the illustrious performances by Queen’s Freddy Mercury and Elton John. 

Titanic Discovery, 1985

Sinking process of Titanic in the Titanic Belfast, visitor attraction dedicated to the RMS Tinanic, a ship whic sank by hitting an iceberg in 1912.
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After decades of searching, on September 2, 1985, the wreckage of the Titanic was finally discovered in a joint effort by American and French researchers south of Newfoundland. Submerged over 12,000 feet deep in the Atlantic, the discovery unveiled the secrets of one of history’s most famous shipwrecks that captured the world’s imagination.

The Challenger Explosion, 1986

challenger space shuttle
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In a devastating event in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded following its launch, resulting in the tragic deaths of all seven crew members. The disaster led to the implementation of over 100 new safety changes to preserve the safety of future crews. 

President Ronald Reagan honored the crew’s bravery and thanked them for their sacrifice and service in advancing our shared future.

Nuclear Meltdown, 1986

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In 1986, the now infamous Chornobyl nuclear meltdown in Ukraine resulted in the deaths of 32 people and exposed over 2 million to radiation poisoning. The disaster became a symbol, warning of the dangers of nuclear catastrophe. The meltdown released radiation levels that were 400 times that of the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb that ended WWII.

Lady Liberty, 1986

Statue of Liberty
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In 1986 the US celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in style. A symbol of US freedom and immigration since 1886, the statue honored both Franco-American friendship and America’s centennial of independence from England.

Black Monday, 1987

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On October 19, 1987, what came to be known as Black Monday shocked the world as the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by a whopping and unprecedented 22%. This marked the largest single-day drop since 1914, creating widespread panic across the globe and damaging the financial confidence and culture of the 1980s.

The Fall Of The Berlin Wall,1989

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The fall of the Berlin Wall was undoubtedly the biggest event of the decade. In 1989 the historic fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the 30-year-division of East and West Germany and the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, ushering a shiny new era of hope across the globe. 

The monumental event was marked by celebrations in the streets and the reconciliation of East and Western chancellors in a symbolic handshake at the reopening of the Brandenburg Gate, marking a symbol of peace.

A Remarkable Decade

Back in time 90s 80s. Stylish young man in a retro jacket and a girl in red and with a vintage cassette player, against a steel wall, fashion trends, a street image
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The 1980s was a truly remarkable decade that marked a significant global transformation. From groundbreaking technological advancements, monumental political shifts, and vibrant pop culture, the decade revolutionized the world, bringing us into the modern era. 

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