TO THE EIGHTIES:
the Eighties Americans shopped till they dropped. Shopping malls
continued to spread and banks were eager to distribute credit
cards to consumers. By the mid-Eighties, the average American
credit-card holder carried at least seven cards. Plastic money
was everywhere. The easy credit, of course resulted in an explosion
of consumer debt. People flocked to stores and malls more than
one six year period, American consumers bought 62 million micro-wave
ovens, 63 million VCRs, 57 million washers and dryers, 105 million
television sets, 31 million cordless phones, and 30 million
telephone answering machines. Americans also bought 88 million
cars and light trucks. Many of these consumer items were not
even made in America.
to the mall became the favorite leisure-time activity of many
Americans. But shopping did not stop at the mall. When they
got home, Americans turned on their televisions and went shopping
on TV as well. Now Americans didn't have to leave home to buy
the products they wanted. They could call in and purchase items
they saw on television using their credit cards. Credit cards
were popular even with unemployed college students and poor
working class people. Also retired seniors. The credit card
industry was determined to make every American citizen, a militant
consumer of goods and services, even if they had to pay high
interest rates to keep using their credit cards. Personal bankruptcies
began to sky-rocket, but the stigma of being bankrupt was becoming
less and less as American economic values began to change dramatically.
1980's was a turning point for the American economy. It was
a time were the massive use of credit and the accumulation of
individual, corporate, and government debt took off to unprecedented
levels never seen before in American history. More and more
Americans used their credit cards simply to survive between
unstable jobs, illnesses, and other personal accidents. A hidden
form of digital welfare began to enter American society as plastic
money became more and more available to anyone. The Third Wave
was riding on this new form of plastic money which would soon
become hooked up to digital computers.
beginning of the personal computer age had started in the 1970's
with the birth of the Apple II personal computer, but it was
in the 1980's that the personal computer industry finally reached
its full maturity. When IBM entered this new and growing market
in 1981, the personal computer became a household item for many
Americans. As more Americans bought computers the price of personal
computers dropped sharply. By 1990, the personal computer industry
was worth over 70 billion dollars. Demand for central processors,
modems, monitors, and printers created many kinds of businesses
and jobs, but the pace of innovation was so rapid that many
computer companies could not manage the explosive growth easily.
Rapid business booms and busts made life for many computer employees
hard as they struggled to keep up with changes in the new digital
industries with their faster and faster product cycles.
the demand for new kinds of software also became explosive.
Computers needed more and more programs to help them do more
and more things. In 1980, an unknown software company, Microsoft
obtained a computer operating system that had been developed
by IBM for only $50,000. Microsoft made some adjustments and
changed the software's name to MS-DOS. Unfortunately, IBM failed
to retain the exclusive rights to the licensing of their DOS
system, and by the early 1990's, Microsoft had become the computer
industry's richest company, with almost 90 percent of
the world's personal computers running on MS-DOS. Soon, Bill
Gates, the founder of Microsoft quickly became the richest man
in the world
the arrival of the internet later in the Nineties, the stage
was then set for users of personal computers to finally start
talking to one another. This was a dramatic acceleration of
a new kind of civilization with unknown rules that were still
evolving on a day by day basis. Yet, even the development of
this new cyberspace was seen by most American business as simply,
yet another opportunity for increased consumption and for credit
cards to make new inroads into newer kinds of buying and selling.
The American consumption machine kept right on going.
ON POPULAR CULTURE:
was the decade of the Yuppie. In order to keep buying, Americans
in the Eighties became more focused than ever on making money.
Many Americans went to college in order to get masters of business
degrees so that they could get good jobs at big companies.
YUPPIE lifestyle involved total dedication to one's career and
a willingness to work many long hours in order to stay ahead.
As more women entered the workplace, two-career families became
common. The goal of making money replaced the ideals of social
justice that had driven many young people in the Sixties and
1985, Madonna released a song called " Material Girl. "
It seemed to represent the desire of many Americans to acquire
more and more things. Madonna was one of MTV's first big super-stars.
But many others followed. Michael Jackson became one of MTV's
hottest stars with the release of his music video " Thriller.
" Break dancing on MTV made Michael Jackson a world icon.
Pop Rock became a big money maker not only in America, but all
over the world.
Yuppie wore dark-colored business suits to work, these came
to be called " power suits. " A typical power suit
consisted of a white dress shirt, a silk tie, a tailored jacket,
and leather wing-tipped shoes. Women also wore tailored jackets
along with below-knee-length skirts and white blouses. It was
important to Yuppies that others recognized their success at
first glance. Therefore they wore expensive and noticeable items
like Rolex watches and they carried their new cellular phones
in fancy leather briefcases.
men Ralph Lauren shirts and Calvin Klein underwear were popular.
All Yuppies were great believers in physical fitness. Many felt
that keeping physically fit would help them compete more effectively
in the business world. Working out in gyms became part of the
the Yuppies were busy building their careers and trying to impress
people with their clean-cut, affluent style of dress, young
generation X Americans were heading in a different fashion direction.
Teen clothing styles in the Eighties reflected several influences.
The Punk style which originated in the Seventies featured black
clothing, leather jackets, and ripped jeans. American punks,
male and female, wore earrings, sometimes several in one ear.
They also pierced their noses and other body parts. They also
dyed their hair in bright colors.
another teen fashion featured over-size clothes; and clothes
that looked old. Faded denim became popular as did the practice
of wearing torn shirts. This ragged, second-hand look known
as Grunge was the opposite of the neat style worn by the older
Yuppies. African American singers called Rappers added to this
new fashion when they then began to wear brand-name sneakers
without laces, and baseball caps turned sideways or backwards
along with colorful sweat-suits.