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What Was Life Like in 1985? Loving Life Living the 1980s.

Updated on March 21, 2017
rainsanmartin profile image

YouTuber, composer, digital artist, homemaker and writer specializing in the topic of Simple Vintage Homemaking.

Life in 1985
Life in 1985 | Source

Each Year Was Unique in the 1980s

The Rubik's Cube was no longer popular in the late 1980s, just as giant metal hair styles were not yet the fad at the start of the decade. Every year had it's own unique flavor, though the years would fade to one another, as a rainbow color gradient, when viewed back through the eyeglass of time.

Step into the time machine and explore 1985. The year the cult classic film, Back to the Future debuted, and Mr. Mister released "Broken Wings". A year of musical MIDI excellence, positive outlook, and outrageous neon fashion.

The album: Songs from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears, demonstrated excellence in songwriting and music production craft
The album: Songs from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears, demonstrated excellence in songwriting and music production craft | Source

Economic Boom in the 1980s

"We don't know whether historians will call it the Great Expansion of the 1980s or Reagan's Great Expansion, but we do know from official economic statistics that the seven year period from 1982 to 1989 was the greatest, consistent burst of economic activity ever seen in the U.S. In fact, it was the greatest economic expansion the world has ever seen - in any country, at any time."

NY Times-The Reagan Boom-Greatest Ever -1990

A Typical Day in 1985-Living Life Loving the 1980s


Wake to fluorescent yellow alarm clock and start the day. After your shower, you pull Vidal Sasson mousse through your hair for maximum height, then adjust the sharp shoulder pads within your blazer. The polished beat of Tears for Fears "Shout", blasts on your Boom Box.

You walk outside to grab the morning paper which you enjoy while eating a bowl of Pac-Man Cereal, as part of this complete breakfast (who says fun cereal is just for kids!).

Drive your slick Pontiac Firebird, with the windows rolled down, to your record company position. Your future's so bright in the this economy, you've got to wear shades!


On your lunch break, you flip through the heavy Yellow Pages directory to get the name of a local repairman, whom you call on the office land-line phone. He asks for your cross street as Google Maps or GPS systems won't be available until the 2000s. You spend the rest of your lunch break studying the manual of your music keyboard.


Unwind for a few minutes after the days work by watching an episode of Family Ties and catching a feel for the latest music trends on MTV. Now off to building your dream. For one hour each night, you record songs using MIDI technology on your brand new Atari ST.

You feel confident the record executives will love your new sound. Demand for music is strong, the culture of musical excellence is at its peak, and piracy is rare.

The Commodore 64 Computer

The Commodore 64 was the most common household computer in 1985
The Commodore 64 was the most common household computer in 1985 | Source

Computing in 1985

The Commodore 64 dominated the computer market during this era, as it was highly affordable for the average household, and allowed for programming as well as video game play. The floppy disk was a common way to run software programs.

Computer Games of 1985-Classic Original Broadcast

He-Man and The Masters of the Universe

He-Man was a favorite cartoon for many adventurous hearts in 1985, and remains a classic today.
He-Man was a favorite cartoon for many adventurous hearts in 1985, and remains a classic today. | Source

Popular Cartoons in 1985

Cartoons were generally positive and colorful, the antithesis of the harsh, satirical, and sometimes grotesque style which emerged in the 1990s.

*He-Man generated a large cult following. The cartoon lives on with it's very own Facebook page of 500,000 followers.

The Mixed Tape

The tape cassette was a unique way to express yourself in 1985, via the mixed tape.
The tape cassette was a unique way to express yourself in 1985, via the mixed tape. | Source

Creating Mixed Tapes

Playlists are the common way modern listeners enjoy their favorite tunes in the the 2010s, yet in the 1980s, the mixed tape provided more creative expression. You could record 10 seconds of a movie clip, hit pause, record a full song via the radio, and finally record a 30 second commentary of your voice with the microphone output. Yes the technology today allows one to achieve the same result, yet it requires more technical ability for the average user.

Popular Movies in 1985

Back to the Future was a signature film of 1985
Back to the Future was a signature film of 1985 | Source
The mythical wonder of Legend created a cult following.
The mythical wonder of Legend created a cult following. | Source

Communication in 1985

Landline telephones which plugged into the wall were the standard of each household. Yet is was not until the late 1980s that answering machines became widely popular. In 1985 it was customary to allow the phone to ring for up to one minute to give the receiver a chance to run to the phone. Usually messages were left with whomever picked up the phone call. Though the home computer was becoming popular, it wasn't until the mid 1990s that the internet was easily made available to the public. Therefore face to face or verbal communication was more common. Imagine a world where people walk looking ahead, rather than looking faced down engrossed in their smart-phone matrix world.

Popular Movies from 1985

In the 1980s fantasy films were a favorite of many, then would be replaced by the popularity of action and disaster films of the 1990s, yet would once again become popular with the maturing of CGI technology in the 2000s and 2010s.

  • Back to the Future (In Back to the Future 2, the main character travels from 1985 to our current era of 2015!)
  • Legend
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Goonies
  • Cocoon
  • James Bond, A View to a Kill
  • Mad Max
  • Desperately Seeking Susan (with Madonna)
  • Weird Science
  • Red Sonja
  • Lady hawk
  • The Jewel of the Nile
  • Explorers
  • King Solomon's Mines
  • The Care Bears Movie
  • She-Ra The Secret of the Sword

The 2010s compared to Life in the 1980s-How People Lived Before the Internet

The following activities are easily handled via internet access. Yet in the 1980s there were other ways people went about doing these tasks. The internet, which saves hours of time every week, is easily taken for granted.

  • Research: You would go to the library or rely on your Encyclopedia Britannica collection.
  • Movie listing: Call the local theaters using the listing in the Yellow Pages or look at show times in your local paper.
  • To get directions to a friend's house: Get step by step directions from your friend directly, often resulting in getting lost at least once, because the friend would manage to forget a street name! Or for the die hard map navigators, one would search for the coordinates on a very thick Thomas Guide book.
  • Buying a gift for a relative: Walk into a brick and mortar store, purchase and wrap the gift, then pack and ship your present the old fashioned way.
  • To buy music you would walk into a Tower Records, or other record store and buy a tape, vinyl, or CD. Compact disks were still new to the general public in 1985, therefore most music fans were buying vinyl or tape cassettes at the time.
  • Paying Bills: Write out a check, pay with cash or credit card. It would be many years before online banking was readily made available to the public in the mid 1990s.

Howard Jones Performs Hide and Seek at Live Aid 1985

Keep the Memory of 1985 Alive

The internet is filled with ways to research old gear, technology, fashion, and articles. Ebay offers classic magazines that when read, can truly add to your suspension of belief, as the words and ads are in present tense. Jump into the time machine and go, it's never too late to live in the 1980's.

© 2014 Rain San Martin


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    • rainsanmartin profile image

      Rain San Martin 4 years ago from Fort Wayne

      It was so much more than a decade of "big hair" and a culture of positivity. People truly reached for and achieved excellence, the sky was the limit.

    • prestonandkate profile image

      Preston and Kate 4 years ago from the Midwest

      Fun read!


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