America Since The 1950s Quiz


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: sturti/E+/GettyImages

About This Quiz

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping ... into the future! It's hard to believe the 2010s -- or 20-teens, or whatever you like to call them -- are nearly over! Once, we were lining up for tickets to that rock festival on an upstate New York dairy farm (Woodstock, we think they called it), then we were queueing up for gas during the OPEC oil crisis, and then for a newfangled DVD player to replace our VHS machine. Now, we ... what do we line up for nowadays? Nothing. Let's just stay home and watch a cat on a Roomba via YouTube!

Changes in culture have come thick and fast. In politics, it has been a little slower. In 2008, America finally elected its first nonwhite president; however, it took until 2016 to get a woman at the top of a major party ticket (and she didn't win). Still, attitudes are changing. Gay marriage is legal now in all 50 states, and marijuana looks to be headed for decriminalization across America in the next decade or so. 

How far back do you remember into America's history? And what, specifically, do you remember? We've got a quiz that'll answer that question. It'll test you on entertainment, politics, sports, technology, and more. Are you ready? Let's go!

How many presidents has the U.S. had since Eisenhower left office in January 1961?

Kennedy took the reins from President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1961, and, as we all know, was assassinated only two years later. Ten presidents after that brings us up to Donald J. Trump.


The Rubik's Cube drove the country mad with frustration in which decade?

Although the Cube was invented in 1974, it wasn't patented for worldwide sales until 1980. From there, it caught fire, and is still popular today.


Which of these fireballing pitchers took an MLB mound first?

Nolan Ryan was the second-youngest player in the major leagues when he took the mound for the Mets in 1966. Hershiser had his day in the 1980s, Kershaw is still pitching, and Lincecum's status is unknown (as of the writing of this quiz).


A groundbreaking ad for Apple's Macintosh, aired during the 1984 Super Bowl, was based on what novel?

This was a pleasant piece of synchronicity. Apple introduced the Mac with a stunning commercial in which a young woman hurls a hammer into the ranting, televised face of Big Brother. It was great until the commercial's tagline, which suggested the Macintosh would be the reason "1984 won't be like '1984.'" What? A model of computer is going to stave off a totalitarian regime? How?


In which decade did Volkswagen reintroduce the Beetle?

Fun fact: In the movie "Fight Club," the narrator and Tyler Durden smash up a new Beetle, which reflected both Brad Pitt's and Edward Norton's dislike of the cynical repackaging of a '60s symbol for '90s consumption.


In 1976, which of these figure skaters not only won an Olympic gold medal but inspired a popular haircut?

Hamill invented a new skating move, the "Hamill camel." But it was her haircut that girls and women across America could easily emulate.


You'd most likely hear the term "domino theory" in a discussion of what?

"Domino theory" was the idea that communism would spread from nation to neighboring nation -- like dominoes falling -- unless it was stopped with force. Washington politicians were devout believers in it throughout the Cold War.


Which groundbreaking TV series bowed out in 1983, after 11 years on the air?

The '70s were "the best of times and the worst of times" for television. While a lot of "jiggle TV" and bad sitcoms premiered, shows like "M*A*S*H" upheld a brainy, playwright-like school of writing that has since disappeared from the small screen.


Which of these women was the first to be on a major-party presidential ticket, as a VP candidate?

Geraldine Ferraro was Walter Mondale's running mate on the unsuccessful 1980 presidential ticket. It wasn't exactly new for women to be on a ticket. Women like VIctoria Woodhull ran for president as early as 1872, just without the cachet of a major party behind them.


By what romantic term was John F. Kennedy's term in office called?

Kennedy's wife, Jackie, is credited with naming his White House "Camelot," after the famous court of King Arthur in British legend. It was briefly (and not very successfully) revived to describe Barack and Michelle Obama's White House.


The early-'60s "Mod" culture spread to America from which country?

Mod culture was marked with bright colors and synthetic fabrics, as punk culture would be a generation later. The "Austin Powers" movies are an excellent send-up of London's Mod scene.


Which of these actresses was NOT one of the original "Charlie's Angels"?

Cheryl Ladd was brought in later, along with angels Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts. Fun fact: Cheryl Ladd is the daughter of '40s and '50s actor Alan Ladd, and the mother of "Death Proof" actress Jordan Ladd.


What kind of candy does E.T. love in Spielberg's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial"?

Yes, in one of the 1980s most egregious cases of product placement, Reese's Pieces played a significant role in this Spielberg extravaganza. For a short time, the candy enjoyed a bump in popularity. (We'll stick with the peanut butter cups, thanks).


In 1980, the whole TV-watching world was wondering "Who shot ___?"

J.R. Ewing was the baddest of TV bad guys in the late '70s and early '80s. He survived his shooting, which turned out to have been committed by his angry mistress, Kristin.


In which sport did Carl Lewis dominate in the 1984 Olympics?

The eyes of the world were on Carl Lewis when he tried to match Jesse Owens' feat of winning four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. He did so, and continued to compete at the Olympic level until 1996.


Which director launched the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise?

Craven, who died in 2015, was a soft-spoken former English teacher. He broke into horror films with the still-controversial "Last House on the Left" before settling down to make more mainstream fare like "Nightmare" and "Scream."


Which of these was America's first man in space?

Shepard was preceded into space by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. He made his space flight the same year, though: 1961.


Richard Jewell was falsely implicated in which crime?

Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered the bomb at the entertainment venue near the Olympic Games, was believed to be a glory-seeking "lone wolf" bomber. He was later exonerated​, and Eric Robert Rudolph later confessed to the attack. Rudolph was motivated by his opposition to abortion and wanted to embarrass the U.S. government, which sanctioned it.


Who was eventually revealed to be Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto?

Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym of a person whose true identity has never been revealed, the inventor of Bitcoin. He turns up in a quiz on "America since the 1950s" because analysis of his log-on and log-off patterns strongly suggests he lives (or then lived) in the eastern half of the United States.


Which classic car came in a "1964 1/2" model?

The first Mustangs were so named because they debuted in the middle of 1964. This wasn't a typical schedule for the releases of new cars. The Mustang proved so popular, that it's still with us today.


Which sport did Tiger Woods dominate in the late 1990s through the 2000s?

Tiger Woods was a child prodigy who became one of the most popular athletes of the late 1990s. In the late 2000s, though, his carefully maintained public persona fell apart among the revelations of many extramarital affairs, followed by a DUI arrest.


Who edged out David Letterman as Johnny Carson's replacement on "The Tonight Show" in 1992?

Leno campaigned tirelessly for the job, beating out Letterman, who was the expected heir. CBS jumped to give Letterman a rival show. This period of TV history is sometimes called "The Late Night Wars."


Which book stayed on the New York Times business bestseller list for five years?

"Who Moved My Cheese?" was published in 1998 and was very widely read. It's a fable involving mice and cheese that illustrates how people do, as well as should, react to change.


Whose sportswear, often bright and colorblocked, dominated early 1990s fashion?

American designer Tommy Hilfiger was particularly popular with hip-hop artists. This positioned his designs to filter into the mainstream, as dressed-down hip-hop style, overall, was big in the early 2000s.


Who was elected president in 1976?

Carter is one of the rare presidents who became higher-profile after his occupation of the White House. He was considered an ineffective president, but is highly regarded for his post-presidential work.


How many years passed between "Star Trek" going off the air and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" premiering?

The original show went off the air in 1969. Interest in the concept didn't really revive until 1987, when "TNG" premiered. Now, of course, it's an entire franchise.


Who was Barack Obama's Republican opponent in 2008?

John McCain died in mid-2018. He respectfully referred to Barack Obama as "my opponent, not my enemy" -- a lesson which American politics seems to have lost sight of in only 10 years' time.


Whose political slogan was "It's Morning in America"?

In 1984, Ronald Reagan didn't think America needed to be made great again. He thought it already was -- thanks to four years of his leadership!


In which decade did the Atkins Diet catch fire?

While Dr. Atkins began to promote his diet in 1989, it wasn't until the early 2000s that it became a huge success. Enthusiasm cooled after Dr. Atkins died in a fall on icy pavement, which was rumored to have been caused by a heart attack. His estate denies this, but he did have a history of heart disease, casting doubt on the wisdom of "eating fat to lose fat."


The race to map the human genome was largely run in which decade?

Mapping the human genome was one of the marquee scientific accomplishments of the late 20th century. But it barely made it into that time frame. The results were published in 2000.


As of 2000, what couldn't you do on any U.S.-based airline flight?

The smoking ban began in 1988, on domestic flights of two hours or fewer. It became an across-the-board prohibition in 2000. This is only for U.S.-based airlines. Some airlines in other countries still allow smoking.


How many recent presidents were born in 1946?

In an odd coincidence, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump were all born in 1946. This means that America has elected increasingly older men to lead the country since 1992 -- not necessarily a good thing for fresh thinking. (Sorry, AARP!)


What romantic novel dominated the bestseller list in the early 1990s?

"The Bridges of Madison County" was the story of a lonely farmer's wife and a National Geographic photographer who have a life-changing affair in 1960s Iowa. It was so popular that it inspired a parody, "The Ditches of Edison County."


From which Oscar-winning picture is this quote taken: "I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast"?

"Chariots of Fire" won Best Picture of 1981. It was a biographical film about two athletes, one Jewish and one Christian, whose religious convictions both fuel and hinder their athletic aspirations. Both were Cambridge runners who went to the Paris Olympics.


In what year was the International Space Station decommissioned?

The core part of the ISS was launched in 1998, and additions were made in space thereafter. It will continue to operate for about another 10 years.


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