Can You Answer These Questions About the Year 1985?


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: A&M Films

About This Quiz

The 1980s were a grand time in American history. The excessive corruption and stagflation of the 1970s were tackled with new laissez-faire policy that, while it sowed the seeds of all sorts of terrible problems later, created an initial boom that lasted some years and propelled plenty of people to prosperity. The looming specter of climate change was something you could still pretend wasn't happening, and while the first big backlashes against civil rights, feminism and so on were still underway, they hadn't made many major pushes or rolled back too many gains. The Cold War was still cause for concern, but the Soviet Union was clearly tottering and ready to fall. America was a shining city on a hill, and it was a time to be enormously optimistic (unless you were a gay man, of course, in which case it was a time of gross neglect and terror).

Culturally speaking, the 1980s are now regarded by many as, to some extent, a decade that taste forgot. Just about everyone had a perm and the neons were blinding. Shoulder pads worthy of a footballer were de rigeur, and it was still acceptable to smoke basically anywhere. Exciting advances in technology brought computers into homes, and all sorts of fabulous gadgets like the cellular phone were launched.

How well do you remember the middle year of the decade? Let's find out!

What software program that is now on hundreds of millions of computers was released in its earliest iteration?

Do you remember DOS? Of course not, nobody does. That's because Windows came along and saved us from having to type in all sorts of codes.


What was the average price of a new home in the USA, in thousands of dollars?

The number is a lot higher now, relative to ... well, just about everything. If you wanted to buy a house in the USA, the '80s was the last time it was genuinely easy to do for a middle-class family on a single income.


What controversial border was finally reopened?

Gibraltar is British but Spain wants it back. The people of Gibraltar don't want to go back, hence the issue. Things have been a lot better since 1985, though.


What popular comic strip made its debut in 1985?

Calvin and Hobbes made their debut in November. At its peak the comic was in over 2,000 newspapers!


What was the name of the Greenpeace ship blown up by French intelligence?

It sounds hard to believe, but the DGSE (French CIA) literally sent an agent undercover onto the Rainbow Warrior. They put limpet mines on the hull and blew it up!


What road in the US highway system was shut forever?

Spanning 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, Route 66 was iconic. It featured in thousands and thousands of songs.


Who became leader of the Soviet Union?

Mikhail Gorbachev was the new Soviet leader, replacing Konstantin Chernenko. Only four years later, the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War was over.


What wondrous game device launched and changed every American kid's life?

Nintendo was just glorious to those who had never had videogames at home before. The first homes to get them could guarantee popularity for their child no matter what his or her personality - until the price came down enough for everyone else to get one.


For what mission were a group of Japanese heroes selected?

Japan did not have its own space capacity, but it was working with allies using its NASDA agency. By 1992, Japanese astronauts were in space!


What disastrous product nearly sank a very large beverage company?

Coca Cola made a terrible mistake with this horrible stuff. It was undrinkable and awful, and swiftly withdrawn.


What movie received the dubious honor of eleven Oscar nominations with no wins?

This movie based on Alice Walker's book was heavily accoladed but did not win the Oscar. However, it was the fourth highest grossing movie of the year!


What basketball player was the NBA's Rookie of the Year?

Michael Jordan was the first true megastar in basketball. His endorsement deals set a new precedent for what top athletes could earn.


What tragedy in Mexico City killed 9,000 people?

A monster 8.1 earthquake struck Mexico City. Mexico is a vastly wealthier nation now than it was then, and building codes are greatly improved, but at the time it was not very able to cope and thus 9,000 people died.


Who won men's Wimbledon?

Becker was only 17 when he won Wimbledon. That made him the youngest player ever to clinch the men's title and launched a star.


What operation was launched to rescue Jewish Ethiopians in Sudan?

Many members of the Ethiopian Jewish minority were in Sudan when civil war broke out and caused a famine. Israel sent an airlift to rescue them and bring them to Israel for a safer life.


What happened in the Colombian town of Armero that killed many people?

A volcano erupted and killed 25,000 people. The volcano had been dormant 69 years and people assumed it would never go off again, resulting in them not heeding warnings that it was looking more active.


What tragedy happened to EgyptAir Flight 648?

This hijacking resulted in 56 deaths during a commando raid to rescue passengers. The policy of non-negotiation was adopted, hence the raid.


What British labor dispute came to a sad end?

The miners' strike was a very sad interlude. While the mines were doomed in the long run anyway, the government was heavy-handed and heartless, and it resulted in a generation of lost opportunity. The long term result was good for the climate and overall economy, but terrible for the economy of many northern towns.


What did Brit Ernie Wise become known for?

Ernie Wise made the first mobile telephone call in the UK. The United Kingdom was a very fast adopter of cellphone technology, installing it considerably quicker than their US counterparts.


What missing ship was found?

An American and French expedition located the wreck of the Titanic. The supposedly unsinkable ship had been on the bottom of the ocean undisturbed since 1912.


What serial killer claimed his first victim?

Ted Kaczynski was the Unabomber, an anarchist and serial killer. He murdered people by sending out bombs, rather unusual for a serial killer.


What did Philadelphia police do in 1985 that was generally considered to be a horrendous mistake?

The Philly police wanted to get into a house occupied by MOVE, a Black Power group. They decided the best way was to drop a bomb onto the house from a helicopter. The resulting fire burned 53 houses.


What did US health insurance companies do that caused civil rights groups to sue?

Insurance companies bought into the myths going around about HIV at the time and started screening for it. It is worth noting that they have denied coverage to millions of people for all the above conditions and more (they are not currently permitted to do this, or charge those people more, though this law may change).


On whose orders was mob boss Paul Castellano shot?

Gotti was a very famous mobster, which is an odd thing for a criminal to be, but he was. He wound up in prison for whacking a lot of people.


What nation did South Africa invade?

This was part of the generation-long (1966-1990) South African Border War. Angola, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa were involved and it resulted in the largest battles in Africa since World War Two.


What did Michael Jackson buy for $47m?

Jackson bought the Beatles catalog for $47m. Given what it has generated since, this was an amazingly good investment.


What Bond movie starring Christopher Walken came out?

A View To A Kill starred Walken as well as the supermodel Grace Jones. It was one of Roger Moore's highest grossing outings as Bond.


What song was a massive hit for Dire Straits?

Dire Straits were a huge 1980s band. This song on their album Brothers in Arms is from the perspective of two working class men watching music videos.


What very common thing was the first of its type registered this year?

The first .com was This way of finding websites is now so common it bears little notice, but it was a huge step for the internet.


What famous redhead was born that year?

Prince Harry was born in 1985. He was the naughty prince for much of his youth until he grew up, joined the military, served honorably, then began doing philanthropy and married the incredibly popular and beautiful actress and fellow philanthropist, Meghan Markle.


Where was a hole discovered that alarmed many people?

The hole was caused by an industrial chemical called chloro-fluoro-carbons or CFCs. They were banned and it just recently healed up. This is good, because if the ozone layer goes away, so does our protection from being burned to death by the sun!


What new data storage technology was introduced to consumers?

The CD was arguably better than the cassette, which came before it. However, it was fragile and it skipped and it was super expensive. Streaming is better, trust us.


What space shuttle was launched?

Atlantis was launched in 1985 and flew into our hearts. It cost $196 billion and it was clearly cheap at the price!


What anti-pollution technology was made compulsory in Swiss cars?

The catalytic converter is a splendid device that stops a lot of grit getting out of the car and into the air. Before it came along, asthma, cancer and other diseases were much worse in areas with a lot of cars.


What song came out to raise money for people affected by famine in Africa?

This song was a huge hit and featured basically every major star of the decade. Nowadays it is seen as a smidge patronizing, but it did raise a lot of money to help people.


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