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Rewind to 1981

Back in the early ‘80s, digital technology was starting to really find its feet. The revolution starts here

It’s 1981, you’ve got a ridiculous haircut and The Times of London has been sold to an Australian. Luckily, these things have been invented to distract you…

Gadget – IBM 5150

It’s hard to know how to introduce this tawdry grey box. It’s the first PC, the direct ancestor of all modern PCs. IBM used open architecture that resulted in the rapid breeding of IBM-compatible PCs from other manufacturers. A few years later Bill Gates would buff his DOS into a Windows shine and the world would follow wherever he and the children of the 5150 went.

Film – An American Werewolf in London

“Stick to the road and beware of the full moon.” This is the advice our intrepid tourists ignore on the Yorkshire moors. One is killed, the other ends up in hospital in London. In case the title hasn’t given it away, he’s a werewolf. And his mate comes back as an increasingly decomposed corpse. Sounds gruesome, but it’s a great British comedy horror.

Album – Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Eno had already chalked up a number of collaborative credits with Talking Heads, so creating an album with the band’s frontman seemed a natural progression. What was less expected was the ensuing record being a beacon of two such long, illustrious musical careers.

Game – Frogger

Why did the frog cross the road? Because he wanted to beat the high score on Konami’s Frogger at his local arcade. Obviously. He had to cross a river, too, hopping across limitless supplies of timber and synchronised-swimming turtles. It was never explained why the amphibian died when it fell in the river.


Watch – Casio C-701

It didn’t matter than you needed the fingers of an ant to do a sum. If you had a Casio calculator watch, you were cool. Or would be cool one day. In 1981, having a calculator watch would have got you called a spod. And beaten senseless at lunchtimes. You got the last laugh in maths exams, though.


And finally

Digital radio standards started being investigated, Bucks Fizz won the Eurovision Song Contest for Britain and there were riots on the streets of Brixton, Liverpool and Leeds. Better natured crowds turned up for the royal wedding (Charles and Diana) and the first London Marathon, in which 7500 people took part.