May 13, 2024 | Sammy Tran

14 Crazy Things You Forgot Happened In The 80s

What Actually Happened In The 80s?

It's very easy to look back at the timeline of the 1980s and feel utterly bewildered. From the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II to America's bizarre obsession with Cabbage Patch Kids, the decade was certainly a mixed bag.


The Obsession With Cabbage Patch Kids

In the US, the Cabbage Patch Kids toy line took the nation by storm. During the fall and winter of 1983, the collective obsession and demand for these dolls was so great—people rioted.

Cabbage Patch Kidsfishhawk, Flickr

The Obsession With Cabbage Patch Kids

Most retail stores only had about 200 to 500 Cabbage Patch dolls in stock—and this caused a problem. There were thousands of shoppers hoping to get their hands on the product, leading to vicious fights among customers.

Cabbage Patch Kids toysbrokinhrt2, Flickr

Richard Pryor Set Himself On Fire

Perhaps one of the most bizarre and sad stories to come out of the 1980s was when the comedian Richard Pryor soaked himself in rum—and then lit himself on fire.

Richard Pryor And Lou Gossett JrLos Angeles Times, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Richard Pryor Set Himself On Fire

In a scene that could have been straight out of a horror film, Richard Pryor ran through his LA neighborhood on fire. Thankfully, the authorities were able to help the disturbed actor, but more than half of his body was severely burned.

Pryor's daughter later revealed that her father's moment of psychosis was due to substances.

Richard Pryor in suit Yvonne Hemsey, Getty Images

The Attempted Assassination Of Pope John Paul II

In 1981, a terrifying incident occurred in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City. Mehmet Ali Ağca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II, shooting him four times.

Pope John Paul II seconds before being shotLevan Ramishvili, Flickr

The Attempted Assassination Of Pope John Paul II

Despite his injuries, the Pope pulled through the harrowing incident. What's more? He openly forgave Mehmet Ali Ağca. Later, after Ağca served his time, the two even became friends.

Pope John Paul II and  Mehmet Ali AğcaVrede van Utrecht, Flickr

The CDC Finally Recognizes The AIDS Virus

Many believe that the AIDS virus should have been recognized by the CDC sooner. It wasn't until September 1982 that the CDC first used the term "AIDS" and reported on the cases of the virus.

symbol of fight against HIV, AIDSAlexxndr, Shutterstock

The CDC Finally Recognizes The AIDS Virus

Recognition of the AIDS virus was especially momentous as there was a lot of misinformation surrounding it. Some didn't even believe it existed, while others erroneously called it a "gay sickness."

Concept for HIV treatment and preventionKateryna Kon, Shutterstock

Apple Fired Steve Jobs

Back in 1985, there was some serious trouble afoot for Apple Computers. The poor sales of the 1984 Macintosh Computer led to disagreements between Steve Jobs and John Sculley.

Portrait of Steve Jobs on a black background.Mark Mathosian , Flickr

Apple Fired Steve Jobs

Though Steve Jobs had helped build Apple Computers, he had no choice but to resign. But as we all know, this wasn't the end of his story. In 1996, Jobs returned to his post and turned Apple around, transforming it into the powerful and innovative tech company it is today.

Steve JobsTom Munnecke, Getty Images

The Tragic Challenger Mission

On January 28, 1986, millions of school children eagerly anticipated the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. But only 73 seconds after it took to the air, disaster struck.

Space Shuttle ChallengerNASA, Wikimedia Commons

The Tragic Challenger Mission

Horrifyingly, the Challenger began breaking apart 46,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. All seven crew members lost their lives, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.

Challenger Flight 51-L CrewNASA, Wikimedia Commons

The Failure Of "New Coke"

In trying to compete with Pepsi, Coke made an error in judgment. In 1985, the company introduced "New Coke"—but it was a total flop.

New CokeLike_the_Grand_Canyon, Flickr

The Failure Of "New Coke"

New Coke had "reinvented" Coke's formula. It had a new flavor, but most people weren't on bard. Just three months later, Coke brought back the beloved original formula, now called "Coca-Cola Classic." The sales jumped back up, causing some to wonder if "New Coke" was just part of a marketing strategy to boost sales.

Coke Disc Todd's Cafe signLibrary of Congress, Rawpixel

People Deeply Criticized Dungeons And Dragons

During the 1980, religious fundamentalists were not fans of Dungeons and Dragons—a popular game loved by nerds everywhere. The religious overtones of some of the game's characters, as well as the fantastical creatures, caused some to believe that the pastime was downright unholy and linked to the devil. But that wasn't all.

Dungeons & Dragons gamePhilip Mitchell, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

People Deeply Criticized Dungeons And Dragons

Sadly, some parents who had lost their children to suicide pointed fingers of blame at the Dungeons and Dragons game. In 1983, one parent even began "BADD," which was an acronym for "Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons." 

dungeons & dragonspaulzhuk, Shutterstock

Borg Versus McEnroe

Even people who weren't into sports probably knew about the famous rivalry between Björn Borg and John McEnroe. Personality-wise, the players were extreme opposites. Borg was calm and quiet, while McEnroe had a reputation for losing his temper and causing drama.

Björn Borg and John McEnroeRob Croes , Wikimedia Commons

Borg Versus McEnroe

Borg and McEnroe began competing in 1978, but in 1980, their rivalry turned up a notch. At Wimbledon, Borg beat McEnroe, and at the US Open, McEnroe beat Borg. 

Winner Björn BorgRob Croes, Wikimedia Commons

Borg Versus McEnroe

In 1983, the tennis rivals faced each other down at the Suntory Cup. This time, Borg came out on top. Despite the supposed drama between these two, the athletes are reportedly on good terms today.

John McEnroeRob Croes, Wikimedia Commons

The Antarctic Ozone Hole

In the early 1980s, scientists made a disturbing discovering about the ozone layer. Using multiple measurements, they confirmed that there was an ozone hole over Antarctica—or a thinning of the ozone layer.

Antarctica mountainChristian Stangl, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Antarctic Ozone Hole

Scientists also realized that CFCs—or chlorfluorocarbons—contributed to the degradation of the Earth's upper stratosphere. Since the 1930s, these CFCs could be found in aerosal cans, refrigerators, and air conditioners. This led to a huge change.

empty aerosol cansJoseph Sohm, Shutterstock

The Antarctic Ozone Hole

In 1987, the Montreal Protocol recognized how damaging CFCs were to the earth. The treaty helped phase out these chemicals to better safeguard the health of the planet.

Climate ChangeBernhard Staehli, Shutterstock

Sally Ride Made History In Space

In 1983, the first American woman to ever venture into space was the astronaut Sally Ride (she was also the third woman to go to space). But that wasn't her only first.

Sally Ride (1984)NASA, Wikimedia Commons

Sally Ride Made History In Space

Who was the youngest American astronaut to go to space? Sally Ride (she was just 32 years old). Who was the first member of the LGBTQ community to go to space? Sally Ride. 

Though she left NASA in 1987, Ride made history and participated in two flights aboard the Challenger.

Sally Ride, America's First Woman AstronautNational Archives at College Park, Wikimedia Commons

The Attempted Assassination Of President Reagan

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was just leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel when shots rang out. John Hinckley Jr.—a disturbed 25-year-old with a bizarre obsession with the film Taxi Driver—pulled the trigger.

President Ronald ReaganRonald Reagan Presidential Library, Wikimedia Commons

The Attempted Assassination Of President Reagan

Members of Reagan's staff and security were injured, as well as the president himself. After spending 12 days hospitalized, Reagan returned home and made a full recovery.

However, many were shocked when the culprit, John Hinckley Jr., got off by reason of insanity. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Police Crowd Around John Hinckley Jr.Michael Evans, Wikimedia Commons

The Discovery Of The Titanic Shipwreck

The famous sinking of the Titanic occurred in 1912, but it wasn't until 1985 that the shipwreck was finally found. There had been multiple failed attempts at finding the wreck, but one expedition changed everything.

Titanic Wreck BowNOAA, Wikimedia Commons

The Discovery Of The Titanic Shipwreck

Together, Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution discovered the long-lost Titanic. Since then, it has become a popular site for scientific research and tourism.

Dr Robert Ballard - Titanic Drawing OfficeTitanic Belfast, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Discovery Of The Titanic Shipwreck

Though some have discussed potentially raising the ship from the depth of about 12,500 feet, the lasting conclusion is that the wreck is simply too delicate to do so. 

the wreck of the TitanicRoderick Eime, Flickr

Black Monday

Black Monday—or Black Tuesday depending on the time zone—occurred on Monday, October 19, 1987. It was a global stock market crash that caught people by surprise.

Black Monday 1987San Francisco Chronicle, Getty Images

Black Monday

The stock market crash resulted in massive losses—an estimated $1.7 trillion in US dollars. Obviously, this sparked fear, and many were worried that there would be another Great Depression.

discussing the causes of the October 19, 1987 stock market crash in the Oval OfficeOffice of Congressman Christopher Cox, Wikimedia Commons


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