The Quick Report

30 Things Only 80s Kids Will Remember

The 80s weren’t that long ago, but for some youngsters it might sound like prehistoric times. Here are thirty totally tubular things from the most radical decade that only 80s kids will remember.

The Sony Walkman Being Awesome

a cassette player with headphones attached to it
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It’s hard to overstate what a game-changer the Sony Walkman was. This portable cassette player allowed kids to carry their favorite tunes with them in their pocket! That might seem mundane today, but in the 80s it was a revelation.

Cabbage Patch Kids

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Pretty much every little girl in the 80s had a Cabbage Patch Kid. These endearingly ugly little stuffed dolls were customizable, with unique clothes and hairstyles available. Basically, think of these cute little guys as the 80s version of Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Garbage Pail Kids

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And, of course, the popularity of the Cabbage Patch Kids led to the creation of their karmic opposite, the nasty Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. These foul-looking collectibles were intended to gross people out and were a huge hit with boys in the 80s.

Skateboarding Being Cool

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Skateboarding as a culture was just coming into its own in the 80s and had a genuinely “cool” vibe to it. That’s not to say the sport isn’t considered cool these days, it’s just that it’s lost its underground, homemade feel it had in the late 80s and early 90s.

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Atari has been out of the spotlight in the world of video games for so long that some younger people have never even heard of the company. But, in the late 70s and early 80s, the Atari 2600 introduced home console gaming to millions of people. It also led to the medium’s first crash…

Saturday Morning Cartoons

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Between Transformers, GI Joe, and He-Man, 80s kids were spoiled with some downright fantastic Saturday morning cartoons. There was nothing quite like plopping down in front of the TV with a big bowl of the most unhealthy cereal known to man and watching cartoon heroes blow up bad guys.


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The electronic and simple game Simon enthralled kids in the 80s with its chromatic flashes and tuneless beeps. Basically, it would ask the player to remember a randomized sequence of button prompts of increasing difficulty. It was the coolest thing to have at recess, trust us.


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The Viewmaster was a pair of lenses that had slideshow-style film you’d insert into the top. Its stereoscopic design allowed for the illusion of 3D images, making these great for educational materials like animal photos or images of world landmarks.

Star Wars Being Everywhere

Star Wars book
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Star Wars is one of the biggest media franchises ever these days, but it was absolutely everywhere in the 80s. The biggest cultural difference between the current era and the 80s is that the lack of social media and internet communication made the world a bit more monocultural. If something was big, it was the only thing anyone would talk about.

Creepy Fantasy Movies Marketed for Kids

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A number of outlandish fantasy films were marketed for kids back in the 80s. Films like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The NeverEnding Story presented various dark fantasy worlds that dealt with mature themes and might have been a bit heavy for youngsters. But 80s kids ate that stuff up!

Being Afraid of Quicksand

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Between Indiana Jones and other adventure films and shows, 80s kids learned that quicksand is everywhere and that it’s super dangerous. Thankfully, the deadly substance is very uncommon in the real world, and you’ll probably never need to know how to get out of it!

John Hughes Movies

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While The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles are basically as lame as it gets now, they were the height of cool in the 80s. John Hughes’ extremely successful movies essentially define people’s memories of the 80s, with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Weird Science serving as the template for entire subgenres themselves.

Video Game Crash

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Atari was massively popular in the early 80s, but the company oversaturated the market with “shovelware” games that had nearly no quality controls. The game version of ET is the biggest example of this, as the company made far too many cartridges and sparked the Video Game Crash of 1983, cratering the industry’s earnings.


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You weren’t a cool kid in the 80s unless you had a Swatch. These colorful Swiss-made watches are a bit gaudy by today’s standards, but that kind of applies to everything that comes from the 80s when you think about it.

Cyndi Lauper vs Madonna

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It was common for fans of pop music to be either completely in on Cyndi Lauper or Madonna exclusively. In the end, though, both camps were wrong. Both women were exceptional pop artists with extremely deep catalogs of excellent songs!

Fifties Nostalgia

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There was a weird amount of 50s nostalgia rolling through the 80s. Just watch Back to the Future to see how the 80s viewed the decade! It’s strange to think that the 80s are now further behind us in time than the 50s are from the 80s.

Rubik’s Cubes

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Rubik’s Cubes appeared seemingly out of nowhere and frustrated an entire generation of kids with their seemingly impossible puzzle. Just rearrange the blocks so that they’re all the same color on each side! Many frustrated kids would simply replace the stickers on their cubes rather than puzzle out the real solution.

Scratch n’ Sniff

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Every weird toy in the 80s seemed to revolve around some kind of tactile experience. That focus was turned on its head with the appearance of scratch-and-sniff stickers. These odd toys would emit powerful smells when scratched, and this being the 80s, many of them were purposefully gross.

D&D Being Niche

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Dungeons and Dragons is huge these days, but in the 80s it was downright niche. In fact, being into D&D in the 80s was much more difficult than today because you couldn’t find a playgroup online. You had to meet real-life enthusiasts who lived near you in order to play!

Branded Lunch Boxes

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While they’ve become collectables in the modern era, branded metal lunch boxes were actually used to carry lunches in the 80s. If you had a cool Star Wars or Transformers lunchbox in the 80s, you were the coolest kid in the cafeteria.

Passing Notes

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In the 80s, kids couldn’t text each other during class to gossip about various recent developments. Instead, they had to pass folded notes around. These had the unfortunate side effect of potentially being intercepted by the teacher. Kids these days don’t know the gut-wrenching embarrassment of having your love note read aloud to the class!

Max Headroom

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The bizarre and avant-garde Max Headroom was extremely popular in the 80s. Many kids who saw the character assumed that “digital” personalities like him would be the future of entertainment. These days he serves as a unique glimpse of what looked futuristic in the 80s.

Movie Stars Being a Big Deal

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The erosion of the classic movie star was subtle, but began in the 90s with the rise of IP-based films. Comic book movies, in particular, have made movie stars matter much less than the source material the film is based on. In the 80s, however, star power alone could sell a movie. From Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Eddie Murphy and Jackie Chan, there were some massively famous actors who could get people to watch just about anything.

Bill Cosby Being Famous

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Speaking of star power, there was a point in time when Bill Cosby’s self-titled show was the biggest thing on TV. It’s weird to look back and see the now-disgraced actor holding so much cultural cachet. Again, this has a lot to do with the monocultural nature of the pre-internet world.

Nintendo Reviving Video Games

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The Video Game Crash of 1983 threatened to smother the medium before it even got off the ground. Thankfully, Nintendo’s NES console arrived in the US in 1985 and changed the course of history by introducing a generation of gamers to franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid.

Game Boy

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If the Sony Walkman was a revolution for music, you can imagine what a seismic shift the Game Boy was in 1989. This gray slab of technology could play Mario, Tetris, and Metroid games that fit in your pocket. That’s basically the coolest imaginable thing to a kid in the 80s.

Nintendo Power

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Before the internet, kids who got stuck on a game wouldn’t be able to just look up a gameplay video to figure out what to do next. That’s where Nintendo Power Magazine came in! The monthly publication included tips and tricks for how to beat the trickiest levels, and even offered secrets and cheat codes to bring new life to games you’d already beaten.

Sega Being a Console Maker

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Kids born in the 80s also remember a time before Sony and Microsoft waded into the console wars. In the 80s, Nintendo’s main competitors were the aforementioned Atari and another Japanese company, Sega. While Sega still exists today, they’ve pivoted to making just software. Back in the 80s, their Master System and Genesis consoles gave the NES a run for its money!

Read More: 10 Things Kids Don’t Have at School Anymore

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Perhaps the strangest thing about the 80s from a modern standpoint is how monumentally popular rock music was. Hair metal bands, in particular, were serious chart-toppers. KISS, ACDC, Def Leppard, and Guns N’ Roses ruled radio airwaves and defined the sound of the decade.

Read More: 20 Things Only 90s Kids Will Ever Understand

Hip Hop Being Obscure

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Moreover, while hip-hop is the defining sound of the modern era, the genre was in its infancy in the 80s. Influential early pioneers of the genre like Run-D.M.C, N.W.A., Public Enemy, and De La Soul laid the groundwork for the ways the genre would evolve in the decades to come.

Read More: Ranking the Best Picture Winners From the ‘80s