the year 1987

I have been thinking about revisiting the year 1987. It was an eventful year in many respects, with significant developments in a range of fields, from politics and entertainment to technology and sports. Imagine stepping into a time machine and being transported back to the year 1987. The first thing that strikes you is the fashion – big hair, neon colors, and leg warmers are everywhere. As you explore the streets, you notice people listening to music on their Walkmans and using payphones to make calls. The world feels both familiar and foreign, with technology, politics, and entertainment vastly different from what you are used to. It’s an exciting and intriguing time to be in, with so much happening and so much potential for change on the horizon.

Here are some of the key highlights from that year: Let’s assume you were born in that time. Revisiting the year 1987 would look like:

In 1987, the world was a different place.

There was no Google yet. Or Yahoo.

In 1987, the top-selling movie was Fatal Attraction. People buying the popcorn in the cinema lobby had glazing eyes when looking at the poster.

revisiting the year 1987 with fatal attraction poster

Remember, that was before there were DVDs. People were indeed watching movies in the cinema, and not downloading them online. Imagine the packed seats, the laughter, the excitement, the novelty. And mostly all of that without 3D computer effects.

Do you know who won the Oscars that year? The Academy Award for the best movie went to The Last Emperor. The Oscar for best foreign movie that year went to Babette’s Feast. The top actor was Michael Douglas for his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. The top actress was Cher for her role as Loretta Castorini in Moonstruck. The best director? Bernardo Bertolucci for The Last Emperor.

In the year 1987, the time when you arrived on this planet, books were still popularly read on paper, not on digital devices. Trees were felled to get the word out. The number one US bestseller of the time was The Tommy knockers by Stephen King. Oh, that’s many years ago. Have you read that book? Have you heard of it? Look at the cover!

Stepehn King Tommyknockers

Revisiting the year 1987… Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Pennsylvania Treasurer Budd Dwyer shoots and kills himself with a revolver during a televised press conference after being found guilty on charges of bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and racketeering. The last Ohrbach’s department store closes in New York City after 64 years of operation. British Airways is privatized and listed on the London Stock Exchange. Supernova 1987A, the first “naked-eye” supernova since 1604, is observed. U.S. President Ronald Reagan addresses the American people on the Iran-Contra Affair, acknowledging that his overtures to Iran had ‘deteriorated’ into an arms-for-hostages deal. The Simpsons cartoon first appears on The Tracy Ullman Show. Rudolf Hess is found dead in his cell in Spandau Prison. Hess, 93, is believed to have committed suicide by hanging himself with an electrical flex. He was the last remaining prisoner at the complex, which is soon demolished. NASCAR driver Bill Elliott sets the all time fastest lap at Talladega Superspeedway, with 212.8 miles per hour. Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka executes a bloodless coup in Fiji. Nineteen-year-old West German pilot Mathias Rust evades Soviet air defenses and lands a private plane on Red Square in Moscow. He is immediately detained. The first ever Edgefest festival takes place at Molson Park in Barrie, Ontario. Guns N’ Roses release their debut album, Appetite For Destruction. The Federal Communications Commission rescinds the Fairness Doctrine, which had required radio and television stations to “fairly” present controversial issues. Unknown perpetrators hijack the signal of WGN-TV for about 20 seconds, and WTTW for about 90 seconds, and displays a strange video of a man in a Max Headroom mask. The video game of the day was The Legend of Zelda.

That was the world you were born into. Since then, you and others have changed it.

The Nobel Prize for Literature that year went to Joseph Brodsky. The Nobel Peace Prize went to Óscar Arias Sánchez. The Nobel Prize for physics went to Johannes Georg Bednorz and Karl Alexander Müller from West Germany for their important break-through in the discovery of superconductivity in ceramic materials. The sensation this created was big. But it didn’t stop the planets from spinning, on and on, year by year. Years in which you would grow bigger, older, smarter, and, if you were lucky, sometimes wiser. Years in which you also lost some things. Possessions got misplaced. Memories faded. Friends parted ways. The best friends, you tried to hold on. This is what counts in life, isn’t it?

The 1980s were indeed a special decade. The Soviet-Afghan war goes on. Eastern Europe sees the collapse of communism. Policies like Perestroika and Glasnost in the Soviet Union lead to a wave of reforms. Protests are crushed down on Tiananmen Square in China. Ethiopa witnesses widespread famine. Nicolae Ceausescu is overthrown. The AIDS pandemic begins. The role of women in the workplace increased greatly. MTV is launched in the US. There is opposition against Apartheid in South Africa as well as worldwide. Heavy Metal and Hard Rock bands are extremely popular. The rise of Techno music begins. Originally primarily played on campus radio stations, College Rock enters the scene with bands like the Pixies, REM and Sonic Youth. The Hip Hop scene continues to evolve. Teletext is introduced. Gay rights become more widely accepted in the world. Opposition to nuclear power plants grows. The A-Team and Seinfeld are popular on TV. US basketball player Michael Jordan bursts on the scene. Super Mario Bros, Zelda’s Link, and Pac-Man gain fame in video games. People wear leggings, shoulder pads and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Do you know what was on the cover of Life that year?

Life Magazine 1987

Do you remember the movie that was all the rage when you were 15? Signs. Do you still remember the songs playing on the radio when you were 15? Maybe it was How You Remind Me by Nickelback. Were you in love? Who were you in love with, do you remember?

In 1987, 15 years earlier, a long time ago, the year when you were born, the song La Bamba by Los Lobos topped the US charts. Do you know the lyrics? Do you know the tune? Sing along.

Para bailar la Bamba
Para bailar la Bamba
Se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Pa mi y pa tiv Ahi arriba ahi arriba
Ahi arriba ahi arriba
Por ti sere
Por ti sere
Yo no soy Marinero
Yo no soy Marinero
Soy Capitan soy Capitan

There’s a kid outside, shouting, playing. It doesn’t care about time. It doesn’t know about time. It shouts and it plays and thinks time is forever. You were once that kid.

When you were 9, the movie Dragon heart was playing. When you were 8, there was Jumanji. When you were 7, there was a Disney movie out called Pocahontas. Does this ring a bell?

pocahontas movie poster

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… it’s 1987. There’s TV noise coming from the second floor. Someone turned up the volume way too high. The sun is burning from above. These were different times. The show playing on TV is Remington Steele. The sun goes down. Someone switches channels. There’s Thirty something on now. That’s the world you were born in.

Progress, year after year. Do you wonder where the world is heading towards? The technology available today would have blown your mind in 1987. Do you know what was invented in the year you were born? The Cholesterol Drug Statin. Digital Light Processing. Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission.

Have you ever seen me? I’m the future
I represent how it’s gonna be, I’m the future
Born in 1987, I’m the future
Party people get ready, it’s the future

That’s from the song The Future by Bow Wow.

In 1987, a new character entered the world of comic books: Mister Sinister. Bang! Boom! But that’s just fiction, right? In the real world, in 1987, Aaron Carter was born. And Joss Stone. Tom Felton, too. And you, of course. Everyone an individual. Everyone special. Everyone taking a different path through life.
It’s 2011.

Revisiting the year 1987, we can see the world is indeed a different place.

What path have you taken?


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