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Cabarrus Magazine

FLASHBACK! Christmas: 1984

Oct 27, 2014 04:30AM ● By Jason Huddle
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By: Kimberly Cassell

Every holiday season, there’s a mad rush of excitement surrounding the latest gift trends. But let’s go back 30 years, to the happy decade that was the ‘80s. What did everyone want to see under their tree in 1984?


The Los Angeles Raiders were the Superbowl XVIII champs, Christie Brinkley was “it” in the modeling world and Clara Peller declared, “Where’s the beef?” Doctor Ruth answered all of our most intimate questions, and Ghostbuster and Footloose were movie hits while Madonna made big bucks singing Like a Virgin.

Kids who woke up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons – since there were no iPhones or Game Boys – saw commercials pushing Transformers, by Hasbro. These plastic robots could be turned into cars, planes, insects, dinosaurs and cassette tape recorders. An animated movie based on the toy was released two years later.

For little girls, Cabbage Patch Kids continued to be a big seller. No, they weren’t the prettiest dolls ever created, but most girls yearned to have one anyway. Each came with a name and birth certificate for the “adopter.”

And the popularity of Trivial Pursuit – a board game – was unmatched that year. Winning the game depended on one’s ability to answer questions in different categories…from People & Places, to Science & Nature, to Sports & Leisure.

The Rubik’s Cube was another in-demand gift, the height of its popularity being in the 1980s. The three-dimensional combination puzzle continues to sell well today with the World Cube Association maintaining world record statistics for solving.

And who could forget Tetris? A Russian programmer named Alexey Pajitnov released the video game internationally in June of ’84. Wikipedia says, “Tetriminos are game pieces shaped like tetrominoes, geometric shapes composed of four square blocks each. A random sequence of Tetriminos falls down the playing field (a rectangular vertical shaft, called the well or matrix). The objective of the game is to manipulate these Tetriminos by moving each one sideways and rotating it by 90-degree units, with the aim of creating a horizontal line of ten blocks without gaps.” Really?

In January of 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that consumers could legally tape shows and movies shown on their home televisions via the VCR, a decision that movie and TV producers felt would be detrimental to their industry…until they started selling their products to the consumer on home video. The other decision for the consumer? Beta or VHS.

Not that many could afford it then, but Apple released its first personal computer – the Mac – also in January of ’84. With a price tag of $2,495, the little desktop computer had a floppy disc drive and 128K of RAM. We all know what’s happened to Apple since then. Not to disparage the PC, Michael Dell produced customizable personal computers while still a student at the University of Texas in 1984. “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!”

ABC News reported at holiday time in 1984 that the Omnibot, made by Tomy, would make a great gift. It’s described in the Montgomery Ward catalog from that year as a sophisticated butler. “It speaks and delivers messages through on-board tape unit or through remote microphone; carries objects on detachable tray; and moves forward, backward, turns right and left,” according to the catalog.

No such thing as a kindle in ‘84…what to do? That’s right, we read books. Popular titles included The Hunt For Red October, by Tom Clancy; The Talisman, by Stephen King; and Glengarry Glen Ross, by David Mamet.

If music was more your thing, Bruce Springsteen’s album, Born in the U.S.A., dominated 1984. The title track, Dancing in the Dark, I’m on Fire and Glory Days were hit singles in a decade when you could buy one song on a 45 RPM vinyl record.

Waterbeds were still a trend in the 1980s and Montgomery Ward offered “festive satin waterbed coordinates” in a variety of colors for the gift-giver. A reversible satin comforter completed the look. The responsible waterbed owner also used water conditioner to preserve the “interior vinyl and prevent bubbles.”

And let’s not forget the fashion-forward, shoulder-pad-standard fashion trends of 1984. After all, who wouldn’t go wild when receiving stonewashed jeans, parachute pants or a Swatch watch for Christmas? Or how about athletics-inspired velour loungewear separates? You could wear your new duds while break dancing to the music blasting from your Pioneer SK31 boombox – or portable stereos – as they were called by Montgomery Ward.

Those of us who lived and loved the ‘80s may hear jokes and laughs about it now, but I “pity the fool” that downplays its importance in American pop culture. Because it was “totally tubular, fer shur.”

Seriously, in 30 years, this decade will most likely endure the same bashing over what clothing, electronics and toys were considered popular and cutting-edge. Regardless, they’re the latest and greatest to us at this point in our lives and will likely make happy – or funny – memories, so happy gift giving!

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