1980s collage - Now 6, Grange Hill, Frogger, Bonnie Tyler, Look-In, Smash Hits


by Mark Nobes, chief editor

Despite modern technology making our lives easier in many ways, recent surveys have shown that many people over a certain age believe life was actually better without it. Indeed, many believe that the internet has made life worse in many ways, destroying communities and making people more anti-social.
Okay, so that's not 100% true, but personally I hate the smart phone culture. You see so many people (not just young people) walking around with their heads buried in a phone, ignoring everything around them. Indeed, in my village, even people riding horses are using them, paying little attention to the beautiful scenery or, worse still, the traffic. Surely it would be more pleasurable for the rider to interact with the horse and their surroundings? Using a phone surely makes riding a horse kind of pointless?
Forgive me if I sound like Victor Meldrew, but there is so much to rant about these days! So without further ado, let's take a look at ten reasons everything was so much better in the 1980s...

1. People were more friendly

Now, I'm not claiming that we all lived in a happy clappy world where everyone was skipping down the road together or sitting around a camp fire singing "Kumbaya". The fact that everyone used to talk to each other everywhere you went is certainly not true. 
However, certainly in the village that I grew up in, a good many people used to say "hello" or maybe have a brief conversation when you walked pass them. The percentage of people communicating with you (or even acknowledging that you exist!) was certainly a lot higher in the 1980s.
Do you remember when you would see a pile of kids bikes outside someone's house? During my childhood, we knew just about everyone in the road and we would often play together, riding bikes, climbing trees, playing conkers etc. And yes, we would eventually end up at someone's house and leave our bikes in a pile outside.
Now, maybe you do the same thing, but sometimes I drive through the road where I used to live just to rekindle a few memories, and these days it is almost always deserted - just where are all the youngsters? It's a far cry from how it used to look back in the day, and it makes me feel very sad.
Our village has changed quite dramatically, with many of the people I grew up with being forced to move out due to the price of housing and the extortionate council tax bills. They have been replaced by wealthier people who seem to isolate themselves from the local community, preferring to socialise with their own type. Even the annual torch procession was cancelled in 2019 for the first time ever due to a lack of volunteers. It was also cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 and it makes me wonder if it will ever return?
I guess, in some cities (particularly London) people have never really been that friendly. That was certainly the case on the few occasions I visited London in the 80s. Sitting on a tube train was like being at some kind of mobile funeral -  a most unpleasant experience. The one major difference was that instead of being fixated on their smart phones, people had their heads buried in a newspaper or magazine. Some just stared into space like zombies.
One area where people were certainly more patient and courteous was on the roads, which brings me nicely onto the next subject...

2. There was less traffic on the roads

No one could argue against this point. The roads were certainly quieter and, therefore, safer back in the day. I remember a time when I would join groups of kids and we would ride around the village on our bikes quite happily, without having to contend with too much traffic. 
Now you hardly see any kids on bikes. Whether that's because their parents won't let them for fear of their safety, or because they are at home using technology in some way, I do not know.

I've certainly noticed that in the last couple of years it takes me an age just to get out onto the main road, with an almost endless conveyor belt of traffic to battle with. I've also noticed that the quality of driving has deteriorated, too. People are driving faster and have become very impatient. I find driving quite an intimidating experience, and you need nerves of steel to deal with the aggression on the roads these days!

Once again, technology plays a part in the bad driving. Everyday, I notice at least one person swerving around in the road because they are focused on their sat nav or smartphone. Either that or they're high on drugs!
I find myself yearning for the days when you could go out on certain roads and see hardly a soul. The sun was beating down, your right arm was resting out of the window with a cool breeze blowing through your hair (today I have a lot less hair for the wind to blow through), and Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" was belting out of my stereo - pure bliss!
1983 Ford Escort XR3i (14364790292)
By Kieran White from Manchester, England (1983 Ford Escort XR3i) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3.Petrol was dirt cheap

Yet another reason why driving was a more pleasurable experience is that fuel was cheaper. My first vehicle was a moped, and I used to fill the tank for around £1 and this would last the week! When I eventually bought a car in 1987 (a Metro City X), £10 would easily fill the tank. In relation to the wages that you earned, it certainly felt like a smaller percentage of your pay packet was going on fuel.
Although many car manufacturers claim that cars do many more miles per gallon these days, I am convinced that I find myself visiting the forecourt more often than I did back in the 80s. Maybe I'm just a miserable old git with a bad memory, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way! 

4. There were more magazines to read

I used to be an avid reader of computer magazines, and I remember when certain publications used to be almost as thick as an Argos catalogue, with many hundreds of pages to read. I remember that Personal Computer World was so heavy that you needed an olympic medal in weightlifting just to get it out of the shop. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but the mags were certainly very good value for money.
Sadly, as the internet took over our lives, this led to the inevitable decline in magazine sales. In December 2016, the final issue of one of my favourite magazines, Micro Mart, was published. The weekly readership had dropped to just 5,422, and the low number of pages made it hardly worth buying.
There were also different publications for each computer, from Zzap!64 for the Commodore 64 to Crash and Sinclair User for the ZX Spectrum - there was something for everyone. With many mags there would be a free cassette of games included. Failing that, you would need to type them in using the free BASIC listings provided. Call me a geek, but I used to find it quite enjoyable!
Do you remember all of the pop music magazines? Smash Hits, Record Mirror, Number One, NME. There were so many to choose from. Sometimes they would have a flexi disc stuck to the front.
It is sad that the enjoyment of going to your local newsagents and spending quite some considerable time browsing through a vast selection of magazines has disappeared. There are very few to choose from, and those that are available are very expensive and have very few pages compared to back in the 80s.  
More space seems to be dedicated to superficial celebrity magazines these days. Quite frankly, I couldn't care less what those talentless reality show stars are up to. There is also an overwhelming choice of cheap TV listings magazines, whereas, back in the day there were just two - Radio Times and TV Times. It was so much simpler back then, you bought the Radio Times for the BBC listings and TV Times for the ITV listings. Which brings me one to my next subject...
Zzap! 64 issue one (May 1985)

Issue 1 of Zzap! 64 from May 1985

5. TV shows and Films were so much better!

Okay, so we have countless TV channels available on Freeview these days and a vast amount of programmes to choose from. The problem is, they're mostly a load of old rubbish! The saying "less is more" springs to mind. We have endless channels full of repeats of everything you've already watched on the main channels, or classic shows that you already watched in the 80s!
Then you have an overwhelming number of pay-to-view stations such as Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Fire TV begging for your money to watch American boxsets that I have absolutely no interest in. And what happened to all the good comedies? The Two Ronnies, Only Fools and Horses, One Foot in the Grave etc. 
The more channels that appear, the less time I find myself watching the TV, and what I do watch is classic comedy from the 60s to the 90s on ITV3 or Yesterday.
Even the soaps had much better story lines back in the 70s and 80s. Do you remember when Coronation Street was on just a couple of times a week? The quality of the writing was so much better because the script writers had more time to be creative. When Ken Barlow married Deirdre on 27 July 1981, that episode was watched by over 24 million viewers - more people than watched the Royal wedding!
The array of programmes for kids was huge, too. Blue Peter was essential viewing at tea-time, as was Grange Hill. Saturday mornings were filled with over three hours of live entertainment in the form of Swap Shop, Saturday Superstore, Tiswas and No.73.
There also seems to be endless second-rate daytime game shows. They were so much more enjoyable when I was young, and the presenters had strong personalities and their own unique catchphrases. For instance, there was Jim Bowen telling his contestants to "come and have a look at what you would have won" on Bullseye. And we all remember Bruce Forsyth's legendary catchphrases on Play Your Cards Right and The Generation Game.
And then there were the films. Today, it seems, that Hollywood is obsessed with CGI and remakes. Films just seem so flat today with a lack of imagination or creativity. Think of movies like Star Wars, The Terminator and Back To The Future, these were films many of us have watched time and time again. I can't think of any modern films that I truly would like to see again. 
CGI was used well in the 90s, and Jurassic Park was superb. However, they are now overused, and I find many films looking unrealistic, kind of like computer games. The Hulk is one such example. To be honest, I actually prefer the 70s TV series starring Lou Ferrigno. Yes, it's obvious he was painted green, but it still seems a whole lot better having a real person playing the role than a computer generated character.

6. There were more police around

I guess, if you're a criminal then this is a bad thing! But yes, there were certainly more police around back then. You were also able to use the term "policeman" without the fear of some feminist group squawking that you were being sexist and telling you to call them a "police officer". Whether it's on the roads or in your local town, these days you have more chance of seeing Elvis doing the fandango than you have seeing a police officer.
I remember when there was a police station in just about every town or village, and at least one bobby walking the streets. Indeed, the sergeant used to live in a house built especially for him in our road, which made you feel very safe indeed. We also knew all of the officers names, and the majority of kids (including myself) were actually pretty scared of getting on the wrong side of the law. I remember being caught for riding my bike on the pavement and the sergeant telling me that "I know who your parents are, sonny jim. I'm sure they wouldn't want to know what you've been up to" which was enough of a deterrent to teach me not to do it again!
Ferguson Videostar video recorder

Ferguson Videostar - a solid piece of kit!

7. Everything was built to last

One of the finest examples of this is the pyrex dish. I posted a photo of one from the 1970s on our Facebook page, and I was surprised by the number of people who commented that they were still using theirs! Just about everything you can think of was more solidly built. 
The early video recorders and ghettoblasters were sturdy beasts with metal switches. And you may very well of had a hi-fi system with proper wooden speakers. Even big TV's had a wood casing around them, although even these became plastic (or plastic wood effect) as we progressed through the decade.
Who else had that Hoover vacuum cleaner with a metal pole and bag with a light on the front? Just about everyone seemed to have one back in the day. It was used through much of my childhood, but these days we go though vacuum cleaners like hot dinners.
Don't get me started on toasters! It seems impossible to find a toaster that will make decent toast, and you can count yourself lucky if your toaster lasts for more than a year. By the way, do you remember when Breville sandwich toasters were all the rage? Just about everyone was making toasted sandwiches! However, people soon tired of having to clean up the mess afterwards. I was always overfilling my sandwiches with cheese, which seeped out of the edges and stuck like glue to the plates.
It seems that manufacturer's deliberately make things out of cheap components to give them a shorter lifespan and, therefore, make us consume more. Yes, many goods are a lot cheaper to buy now, but you have to buy many more of them. We now live in a throwaway, plastic society that is creating massive environmental problems, particularly in terms of plastic filling our oceans. Quality has certainly gone out of style. 

8. Drinks came in glass bottles

Remember when you used to return your glass pop bottles to get the 10p deposit back? It was such a good idea. Whether it was Corona pop or milk, everything came in glass bottles. Not only was this better for the environment, but it tasted better, too. Milk, in particular, tastes like the plastic container it comes in, and goodness knows what chemicals are leaking into it. There is now a waste epidemic, with millions of tonnes of plastic bottles thrown into landfill or into the nearest hedgerow. Yes, some get recycled, but there are a good many that aren't. And besides, glass bottles can be used again and again.
Having your milk delivered to your door in an electric milk float was so much more environmentally friendly, and also convenient. You would put your empties out and the milkman would take them away, wash them out and re-use them. Just why did we have to start putting it into plastic containers?
One thing I don't miss is having the birds peck the foil top to get at the cream!

9. There was no internet

Yes, I know, this a bit hypocritical when I rely on the internet to run an 80s website. However, I think you'll agree that life was actually a whole lot more fun without it. Rather than going on social media and worrying about how many followers you had, you would actually go out and meet up with some real friends.
Everyone was much more sociable before the arrival of the internet. To buy anything you would need to actually go to the local shops and have a good old natter with the shopkeeper or the locals in the shop. If you wanted to read a book, then you would go to the library and take out a few books. If you wanted to listen to new music, you would have to go out and buy a record or cassette and socially interact with people.
Yes, on the one hand I am very grateful for the internet for giving me a platform to express my views and earn a living, but on the other hand it has made me lazier and more anti-social. I'm just very glad we didn't have it back in the 70s and 80s, as you had no choice but to leave the house if you wanted to buy something or make friends.
I guess, many of us have become slaves to the internet, and now that many high street stores have closed down, we are forced to buy certain items online. I really miss being able to pop into Woolworths or Our Price and having a good browse. 
Smash Hits '87 LP

10. Way better Music!

Do you remember when everyone knew just about every song in the charts? There were so many great songs and artists that you would never have enough blank tapes to tape them all off the radio. When you were running low, you would find yourself in a panic trying to decide which songs to miss out. Would it be Irene Cara or Yazoo?   
When you hear an old song in a TV advert (which is quite often), do you find yourself nodding your head or tapping your foot? You may even have an irresistible urge to get out of your chair and dance along to it. Actually, the urge is there, but now I just don't have the inclanation! 
The same can't be said for more modern pop music, and I just find it incredibly irritating. Songs today just seem so bland, badly structured and lacking a decent melody. Most of them just sound like someone screeching loudly over a badly programmed drum machine. When was the last time you heard a decent bassline or guitar solo? Bring back 80s rock, I say!
What I miss the most are the music charts. Today they are meaningless, but there was a time when you would need to sell at least 250,000 copies to get a number one in any one week. Indeed, there were many records that went on to sell well over a million copies. Back in the 80s, the charts were based on real physical sales by people who had actually made the effort to pop down to Woolworth's and buy their singles on vinyl. There was something very special about receiving a pay packet at the end of the week and then taking out a tenner to spend on some vinyl or even cassettes. You could also read the sleeve notes and listen to the B-side, and an extended mix if you bought the 12". 
I could probably go on forever writing reasons that life was better in the 80s. However, I have to end somewhere, but maybe I'll come back to this post in the future and add some more!
Please do leave your comments below. I would love to hear what you think about life back in the 80s.