Life Wellbeing One man’s love affair with the 1980s
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One man’s love affair with the 1980s

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Everywhere I look, I’m seeing the 1980s and loving it.

From Casio watches, skin-tight exercise gear, cassette tape business cards and the return of 80s drum machines and synths, people in their 30s and 40s are reclaiming a decade that was once derided as a miserable time in culture.

I’d go even further – I may not get much support here, but I feel 1985 was pretty much the high-point of human endeavour.

Back to the Future, The Goonies, Teen Wolf, Rocky IV, my old 8-bit computer, Brigitte Nielsen, Mr Mister’s Broken Wings – so much darned good stuff was floating around.

Of course, that’s just my year for ‘peak nostalgia’. Everyone’s is different.

The word nostalgia was originally used to describe feelings of intense homesickness in battle, but we know it to mean a general interest in, and fondness for, the past – the good old days of our youth.

Russian scholar Svetlana Boym, who has written extensively on nostalgia, said it is more prevalent in times of great upheaval. How else could times like these be described?

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Teen Wolf: Just missed out on an Oscar nomination. Photo: AAP

War, terrorism, environmental catastrophe – sometimes it can feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It makes sense that people draw comfort from the innocence of childhood.

It’s a certain kind of magic, the feeling you get when you hear a song from your youth – like Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now.

Smell is another trigger of mine: I can’t walk past a freshly mown lawn without being transported back to childhood and the endless games of football on the school oval.

It’s tough to put a finger on when the nostalgia bug really bit me hard, but I think it was around the time I turned 30.

I once spied a much younger colleague of mine wearing a Casio Telememo 30 watch (a revolutionary digital timepiece that had space to hold 30 phone numbers), the same kind I had when I was a lad, and I almost tore it off his wrist to get a better look.

“I used to have one of these,” I said, beaming. He looked at me like I was mad.

Earbuds are out. Scan the headphones the music lovers are sporting on the train and they’re all throwbacks to the 1980s – big, bold and brightly coloured.

The latest Smith Journal, a publication that always manages to make me melt with a splendid piece of nostalgia, carries a feature with sketches of iconic boom-boxes of the 1970s and 80s.

On Christmas Day 1985, the He-Man, A-Team and MASK toys on the brown couch of my boyhood home took a back seat.

Sitting there in an unremarkable box, a far cry from the sleek Apple packaging of today, was my first computer: an Amstrad CPC 464. I was smitten.

It helped, of course, that every other kid on Boylestone Road had been bitten by the same computing bug.

Wikipedia
The author’s old computer. Photo: Wikipedia

Brothers Gareth and Mark had a ZX Spectrum, Barry had a Commodore 64 but my chief ally was Iain Wilson at the top of the hill.

Iain had a CPC 464, with the colour monitor, and was a year older. He had a joystick, and a collection of brilliant games. We started swapping tapes and tips.

As with everything else from childhood, you step away as you get older. With no one to share my passion, I lost interest in computing, replacing it with music and then sport.

I didn’t actually own another computer until I moved out of home and bought an IBM-compatible PC. Since then computers have been something I swear at, rather than fill me with any kind of joy – until I discovered emulation.

In computing, an emulator is a program that enables the operating system of one system to be replicated on another.

I can now enjoy the games I played in my Amstrad on my laptop, every little blip and loading screen rendered perfectly as they were. I still get stuck in all the same spots, and the games are just as brilliantly simple and infuriating as I remember them.

This is just my tale – the children of today will be nostalgic before they know it.

First generation iPods are probably a collector’s item, and one day my nieces will be on eBay trying to buy an iPad, just like the one they had when they were little.

It’s the nature of things.

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