Pop Culture In Review for the Year 1982

The early 80s were a bit different from the latter half of the decade. We can understand the difference better when we look at what each year had to offer individually. Read on to see what important events and occurrences happened in the year 1982, while the decade was still relatively young:


The Debut of ‘E.T’

Almost everyone who’s familiar with American movies and their history knows about E.T. The acronym stands for ‘Extraterrestrial’, while the movie itself is about a weird, wrinkled, but still lovable alien.

Debuting in June 1982, this movie was a Steven Spielberg creation with Melissa Mathison as the writer. Its plot was fairly simple, though dynamic for its time. A little boy by the name of Elliot and his sister (six year old Drew Barrymore) find and befriend E.T, a lost and somewhat confused alien. Not only is the story still heartfelt and cherished today, but this was also one of the first proper roles given to Drew Barrymore as a child actress.

When this movie was released, it became a hit almost immediately. Its numbers even surpassed those of Star Wars, making ‘E.T’ the highest-grossing film up until that point. The sci-fi movie even held on to this title for more than a decade, losing it in 1993. Overall, this film was among the most popular ones in the whole decade and perhaps for science fiction fans everywhere. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four of them.


Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album

One of the best-selling music albums of all time is ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson. This was released during November of 1982. The pop album consisted of nine songs and was the sixth studio album by Jackson. The producer of this album was musician Quincy Jones.

The album’s tracks were also major hits in their own right. These include familiar titles such as ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Human Nature’, and ‘Beat It’ along with the obvious ‘Thriller’. The title song was also the basis of the iconic horror-themed video that lasted for about fourteen minutes. To this day, the choreography and costumes of the ‘Thriller’ video are still an important part of music history. The song and its video have been parodied, paid tribute to, and copied in several ways to this date. When it was first released on MTV, the music video also took the channel by the storm.

Ebony and Ivory

If you were around in the early 80s or have read up on it, you’d know that two of the most famous musical figures of that time were Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. McCartney was an ex-Beatle and still very much active on the music scene, while Stevie Wonder was winning hearts with his melodious voice. Wonder was also a synthesizing genius and a child prodigy, though he went blind shortly after birth.

When two musicians are as well-loved as this duo, it’s big news when they come together to make a song. This is just what happened when McCartney and Wonder collaborated on ‘Ebony and Ivory’. The lyrics and music made the song into a number-one hit in 1982. It’s a self-empowerment work that talked about racial equality. Even in 2013, more than three decades later, this song was ranked 69th on the all-time Billboard Hot 100 charts.


The First Artificial Heart

This year, medical history was made as doctors were able to successfully implant an artificial heart in a human body. The design of this implant was by Robert Jarvik.

The recipient of this permanent artificial heart was Barney Clark, a dentist hailing from Seattle. He was interviewed shortly after the procedure, where he expressed a wish to help out in advancing scientific achievements. However, he only survived for about 112 days on this mechanical organ. Nevertheless, this was a great step forward and proved that a heart implant was possible.

The First Smiley

Computer use was gradually becoming more common in the 1980s, though the smart technology of today was still a far-off dream. In 1982, a computer scientist named Scott Fahlman first suggested that certain characters can be used as a smiley face or to express other emotions. This scientist was from the institute Carnegie Mellon and was probably the first to hint at what we call emoticons or emojis today.

The Start of Freeware

We use a lot of stuff on the Internet for free these days, but few know that the concept started in 1982. Back then, two software experts by the name of Jim Knopf and Andrew Fluelman managed to distribute an application they had developed. This application allowed the copying of certain programs. This software soon became known as freeware.

A couple of years down the line, the term ‘freeware’ would be changed to ‘shareware’. This name was Bob Wallace’s idea.

The ColecoVision

The ColecoVision, one of the most popular gaming consoles in the 1980s, was released by toy and gaming company Coleco in August 1982 in North America. The ColecoVision was considered to be more powerful than the Atari 2600 (the best-selling gaming console in the late 1970s) and featured ROM (read-only memory) cartridges that house different kinds of games that were developed by Coleco and other partner gaming companies. If you want to know more about Coleco and their venture in the gaming market, you can read our article titled “Learn About Coleco, A Former Giant in the Toy and Gaming Industry.


The NASA STS-3 Mission

NASA’s STS-3 mission began on the 22nd of March, 1982. Overall, it was the third-ever mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia. The launch was in Florida, from the Kennedy Space Center. Jack R. Lousma was the commander, and C. Gordon Fullerton was the pilot.

Sally Ride was also part of this mission as a support crew member. In the following year, she would go on to be the first-ever American woman who visited space.

This mission was a success, with the crew completing their objectives as well as many experiences while in orbit. The landing of the STS-3 was also successful and located in New Mexico at the White Sands Space Harbor, March 30th, 1982. All in all, the mission lasted for about eight days.


The Epic in Miami

In January 1982, there was a classic playoff between the Dolphins and the Chargers team. This was later said to be the NFL game of the whole decade. The weather was scorching, but the Chargers’ win at the Miami Orange Bowl was an epic one. It’s no wonder that the whole event was later dubbed ‘The Epic in Miami’.

The final score stood at 41-38, and the victory was decided only after an exciting game with a fine performance by Kellen Winslow. In fact, many also refer to this event as ‘The Kellen Winslow Game’. Many players and coaches refer to the game as the greatest ever in NFL history. After the spectacular playoff, it was even said that this was a game no one should have lost.

While Kellen Winslow played brilliantly throughout this game (having thirteen catches and a blocked field), he also suffered from cramps, dehydration, and a pinched nerve. Eventually, his teammates had to carry him off the field. Winslow later said that he had never felt so close to death and compared himself to Mohammad Ali in Manila.


Power Dressing

The 80s were known for their fashionable statements, especially as the dressing of that time was different from most other decades. Power dressing first emerged as a concept in the 70s, but it really came into full force in the early 80s. This style of dressing was an established trend that came about when women had started moving from the kitchen and home to the office and other workplaces.

The concept of power dressing means that women donned androgynous suits that were preferably tailored especially for them. The padded shoulders were another typically 80s look.

However, this doesn’t mean that fashion for females in the 80s was all about looking like a man. The trope of powerful women carrying high heels in their briefcase was a common one in many TV shows. At the same time, women would pair their blazers and jackets with feminine jewelry and scarves to soften their overall appearance.

Leg Warmers

Leg warmers soon became hopelessly outdated, but they were quite popular at this point in time. In the early part of the 80s, many girls would be seen wearing thick socks that didn’t have any feet. What was even more mystifying was that these socks were worn over jeans. They might have been sweltering with such an outfit, but it was quite trendy back then.

These footless socks, of course, were called leg warmers. They would go over jeans, leggings, tights, and were an essential part of athletic wear as well. Since the 80s also started off with an aerobics craze, we may assume that the leg warmer trend also came from there.

Some of the most popular movies at the time include ‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’. Names like Jane Fonda were making workout videos by then, so it’s no wonder that leg warmers also crept into the fashion scene.

The Oversized Blouse

Other fashion statements in 1982 included the oversized blouse complete with a belt and batwing sleeves. Along with this, loose shirts, baggy jumpers, and other similar clothing items were utilized by young girls as dresses. All they had to do was make sure the shirt was covering their body and tie a belt in the middle. Some shorts would also slip off one shoulder, creating a new fad altogether.

The belts were a statement in themselves, being very large and apparent. They would usually be either white or a neon color, soon becoming a trend that defined the 80s.


The Late Night Show

The year 1982 saw the first-ever episode of the well-known ‘Late Night With David Letterman show’. This debut took place in February of this year and was given the slot after the ‘Tonight Show’ hosted by Jimmy Carson.

This new show was under the direction of Hal Gurney. The first guests on it were Don Herbert and Bill Murray. Overall, the efforts of David Letterman and the whole team paid off, with the show soon getting a reputation for its quirky humor and innovative, offbeat witticisms.

The Late Night Show was on the air and hosted by Letterman for more than a decade. After this, in 1993, Letterman decided to work for CBS and host another work called the ‘Late Show’. His first show still continues with hosts such as Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and Conan O’Brien.


AT & T Forcibly Broken Up

Before this year, the communications company AT & T had a firm monopoly on the market. Most notably, they were the ones in control of Ma Bell, or the Bell system. This meant that they single-handedly owned most of all the telephone services in both Canada and the United States. This situation had been in place since the 1940s, but the American government was having no more of it. The company was officially ordered to break up in January 1982.

The agreement between this company and the government came about after an antitrust case was brought into court against AT & T by the US Department of Justice. This was in the year 1974, but the results of those efforts were seen in 1982.

In fact, this was just the year when the order was given. The actual breaking up was in 1984. At that point, the Bell System was split into about seven independent operating companies. They were known as Regional Bell Companies, but were also nicknamed the ‘Baby Bells’.

Proclamation of the Canadian Constitution Act

In 1982, the then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II signed the Proclamation of the Constitution Act in April. The location of the signing was also Canada, while the document was also called The Canada Act.

This signing finalized the process of partition that Canada had been working with for several years. The result of this event was that the Canadian nation got complete independence and full sovereignty. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom was also a part of the signed proclamation. It outlined certain basic rights, around 34 in number, that are to be guaranteed to the country’s citizens.

CBS Toys Acquires the Ideal Toy Company

It was also in 1982 when CBS Toys, the toy business of radio and television company CBS, acquired the Ideal Toy Company, a toy business known for inventing the “Teddy Bear” and selling the first batches of the Rubik’s Cube. The Ideal Toy Company was founded by Morris and Rose Michtom in 1903, which was one year after they had created the Teddy Bear and sold it to numerous customers in Brooklyn, New York. To know more about the toy company, you can read our article, “Learn About the Ideal Toy Company, the Inventor of the Teddy Bear,”


The Release of Cabbage Patch Kids

One of the most recognizable toys today is the Cabbage Patch Kids doll. While it is very popular, there are only a few people that know about the year when the Cabbage Patch Kids first release. This line of dolls was first released in 1982 by Coleco Industries, a toy company that is more known for making the ColecoVision gaming console in the 80s. The cloth dolls were inspired by the soft sculptured dolls called Little People that were designed by Xavier Roberts, who also created the Cabbage Patch Kids. Check out The Most Popular Retro Dolls to know more about the Cabbage Patch Kids and other nostalgic retro dolls.

Final Word

It seems like 1982 was a strange time in history, but it was also one with important events that shaped the world. We can find a lot here to pique our interest, no matter what field holds our interest.

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