Parents of kids in the eighties and nineties had a tendency to watch the news with their kids in the room. It was not out of any kind of maliciousness. It was just the habit and procedure of the time. Many parents simply were adjusting to the increasing pace of the world, fitting in things whenever they could.
That fact alone plays into the Gen Y, which we have determined are those of us born in 1979 – 1983. It is likely why so many of us feel the need to fit something into every hour that we can. We saw our parents rushing to adjust to a new pace of life, and we were hardwired to go that pace.
Not Great, Bob
The news of the two decades that shaped us was a new kind of dark. Sure our parents grew up watching the horrors of Korea and Vietnam on television. We were lucky enough to avoid that. Watching war on the news daily seemed to make the lines of what to let kids watch blur for them.
So, often as a family, we all sat down to watch the news. What did we see in the news? Well, a whole lot. Much of it was not really great. Though we are a generation of only a few years, every year in those two decades shaped us. So here is what we grew up with.
The Decade Of Technology, Terrorists and AIDs
The decade of the 80s was nothing if not diverse. From the advent of the 24-hour news cycle to the devastation of AIDS and ever-advancing technology, it was a decade like none before it. When Americans were introduced to the fact that they could have the news come all day and night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Let’s check out the news of the decade that served as our formative years.
What was happening in the year the first Gen Yers came into the world? Let’s take a look back at the news of the year.
Michael Jackson’s first genuine hit album, “Off The Wall,” came out, and ESPN became the first dedicated sports channel to hit cable television. There was a tragic collapse during a concert in Cincinnati, OH, at the Riverfront Coliseum, injuring dozens and killing eleven fans of the band WHO.
Margaret Thatcher was elected to the position of Prime Minister in the UK. In Ekaterinburg, Russian, there was the first anthrax epidemic after an accident at the biological weapons plant there. As they struggled to deal with their ever-growing population in China, they put the one family, one-child policy into existence.
A fire in one of the reactors at the nuclear plant in Pennsylvania would become known as the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident. Voyager 1 sent back clear pictures of the rings around Jupiter. The Skylab Space Station came crashing down into the Indian Ocean, and tHe USSR and the US signed the SALT II treaty.
The decade started off great with the Miracle on Ice in the Lake Placid Winter Olympics but quickly went downhill. Then in April of 1980 came the advent of the 24-hour news channel when Ted Turner announced the creation of CNN.
As it turns out, CNN would get a lot of play over the decade. For the rest of 1980 – the eruption of Mt. St. Helen, Pac-Man was released, J.R. Ewing was shot, and John Lennon was assassinated by Mark David Chapman.
In 1981, the news was about John Hinckley Jr. shooting at President Regan and his Press Secretary James Brady. Pope John Paul II was wounded in an assassination attempt. The CDC released a report detailing a mysterious immune disease (which would eventually be HIV/AIDs). MTV’s launching, the first personal computer, the IBM Model 5150, was released. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
To round out the decade – a successful assassination of the Egyptian President, England finally allowed women to serve as Priests and the first royal wedding to captivate Americans – the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer.
The Commodore 64 was introduced in a Las Vegas electronics show. It was a pretty fantastic advancement and would eventually become the highest-selling PC model ever. The Falklands war both began and ended in a span of barely three months.
This was also the year of the first successful implant of an entirely artificial heart. The world’s fair in Tennessee, the establishment of the Vietnam Wall, “Thriller” helped Michael Jackson burst onto the screen, and Walt Disney gave us EPCOT.
It is also the year that we met ET and realized how brilliant Steven Spielberg was and when the first national newspaper was introduced under the moniker “USA Today.”
It’s also the year I came into the world, firmly cementing myself in this forgotten generation of Gen Y.
This is the last year I consider those born to be a part of Gen Y. So, what was happening as the last of us came into the world?
Though it would be a long while before it became what we know it now, the first day of 1983 is the day of the advent of TCP/IP protocols by ARPAnet. These are still the fundamental building blocks of the data exchange online. This is the year when Republican gold boy President Ronald Reagan finally took steps to make January 20 a federally recognized holiday, marking Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a day to celebrate his life and contributions. It would not take effect until 1986.
MASH ended after an 11-year run, with over 106 million viewers and a very controversial storyline. Return of the Jedi roared into theaters, Sally Ride soared into space, making history as the first American female astronaut in space aboard the Challenger shuttle.
241 US military members were killed in a terrorist attack when aMarine barracks were bombed in Beirut. A one-week conflict took out the month of October when the US invaded Grenada. In September, KAL-007, a plane from the Korean Air Lines, crossed into Soviet airspace and was shot down when intercepted. There were no survivors.
Finally, in Hawaii, Mount Kilauea began erupting. It continued actively erupting until 2018 in the Pu’u ‘Ō’ō eruption, which is currently the region’s most prolonged and biggest spewing of lava.
And so on
So that is what was happening in the years when we came into existence. These may have happened before or just after we were born, but these headlines ultimately helped to shape us. They set up the rest of the time that we would grow up in. Without these moments, we would not be who we are today.
These moments are all intertwined with everything that makes us such a small and unique group of generation definition. Next time, we will see exactly how and why I think this…
That is how I see it, at least.