- Author Steve Bidmead
- Published July 2, 2014
Emoticons, computer viruses, war, intruders in the Queen’s bedroom – bad things happened in 1982. We forgive it, though, because the year also brought us some cool inventions
The 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair witnessed some important new inventions. For the very first time, visitors could experience the unique disappointment of Cherry Coke, for example. But, more importantly, the Fair also featured the debut of something that changed our tech forever – touch-screen technology. After a decade of research and development, Elographics Inc unleashed upon the public for the first time a touch-activated curved-glass sensor called AccuTouch. The public liked it a lot – and hasn’t stopped fondling its gadgetry ever since.
15-year-old boy unleashes hell
Elk Cloner, the first large-scale, self-spreading computer virus, was created – as a joke – by 15-year-old school pupil Rich Skrenta. We’re not laughing, Rich. It attached itself to the Apple II operating system then spread by floppy disk. At the 50th time a game was started, a poem would appear instead, reading: “Elk Cloner: the program with a personality. It will get on all your disks, it will infiltrate your chips, yes it’s Cloner! It will stick to you like glue, it will modify RAM too, send in the Cloner!” Nope, still not funny. Skrenta went on to work for Commodore and is now a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Suppose that’s a little bit funny.
Biggest star of the 80s
The Commodore 64 home computer was launched in 1982, becoming the biggest-selling single computer model of all time (17 million sales). The C64’s superior sound and graphics meant that it dominated the low-end computer market throughout the 1980s, leading the company to manufacture as many as 400,000 units per month. One of the big selling points was that it could be plugged into your TV, making it a hybrid computer/console. Its popularity almost brought the US economy to its knees (no, not really) when Commodore offered $100 cashback to purchasers trading in an old computer. Enterprising retailers started offering Timex Sinclair 1000s for just a few dollars so that shoppers could immediately trade them in. Sinclair fought back with the Spectrum ZX but the aggressive price war sparked the end of numerous smaller competitors.
Attack of the emoticons
According to Wikipedia, an emoticon is a “meta-communicative pictorial representation of a facial expression which in the absence of body language and prosody serves to draw a receiver’s attention to the tenor or temper of a sender’s nominal verbal communication”. In other words, it’s a little face you type when you can’t be bothered writing any more. Scientist Scott Fahlman first suggested the idea as a means of clarifying the tone of posts on a message board at Carnegie Mellon University in 1982. In a distinguished career, Fahlman did lots of other, serious stuff concerning things like semantic networks, but emoticons are his legacy. They are undeniably useful, whether you’re a computer boffin or just a journalist relying on Wikipedia for his research
Heart v head
The world’s first artificial heart was ‘installed’ into retired dentist Barney Clark, who had been suffering from severe heart failure, in 1982. The Jarvik 7 (designed by American scientist Robert Jarvik) kept Clark alive for a further 112 days, although the patient repeatedly experienced internal bleeding and asked to be allowed to die. Although many artificial hearts have been created, none has proved a 100% satisfactory replacement for the real thing – they tend to be used as temporary ‘bridges’ prior to a transplant.
Dawn of the disc-world
The world’s first commercially-available CD player was the Sony CD101, which hit the shelves of Japanese shops on 1 October 1982. With its fluorescent display panel, infrared remote control and horizontal tray-loading system, it set the standard for CD players and was sold until 1985. Confusingly, on the back of the player were two separate on/off buttons, one for ‘Auto Pause’ and the other for ‘Anti Shock’. Whatever they may be.
In the news
War, what is it good for?
In the case of 1982, it was pretty good for liberating a bunch of Falkland Islanders. On 2 April, Argentina had invaded the Falklands, prompting British intervention. The South Atlantic Conflict featured some noteworthy skirmishes, including the Battle of Goose Green, when men from 2 Para, the Parachute Regiment defeated a much larger enemy force. And then there were the secret – and amazingly accurate – Vulcan bomber missions, which put a few dents in the strategically important Port Stanley airfield. These sorties involved Vulcans, each armed with 21 450kg bombs, flying 8,000 miles from the UK and back (then a record for a bombing mission) accompanied by 13 Victor air-to-air refuelling tankers. Within three months of the invasion, the Argentine forces surrendered and the country’s military dictator resigned.
Falklands glory, then, for maligned British PM Margaret Thatcher. Earlier in the year, though, Maggie had a scare when her son Mark went missing after getting lost during the Paris-Dakar Rally. He was rescued a few days later by the Algerian army. “I did no preparation. Nothing,” he admitted, adding: “The biggest story of 1982 was the Falklands war. The second biggest also involved my mother… and me!” Wow.
Wakey-wakey, your majesty
An interesting year for the British royal family. Not only was Prince William born – as was his future wife Catherine – but, one night that summer, intruder Michael Fagan interrupted the Queen’s beauty sleep. The unemployed decorator (Fagan, that is, not the Queen) had scaled Buckingham Palace’s wall, negotiating the revolving spikes, climbed a drainpipe, clambered through an unlocked window and had a little wander about before coming to Liz’s bedchamber. Nipping in when the armed police guards changed shift, he sat on the Queen’s bed although, contrary to popular belief, the pair did not engage in a friendly chat – in fact, the groggy monarch legged it immediately. Fagan, who had necked half a bottle of royal wine during his exploration, was charged with theft and committed for psychiatric evaluation.
China in hand
In 1982, the population of the People’s Republic of China exceeded one billion, making it the first nation to reach that astonishing landmark. Today, around 1.4 billion live there, some of them not involved in the manufacture of consumer electronics. Second on the list is India, with 1.25 billion. Then you have USA (320m), Indonesia (252m) and Brazil (203m).
Wanna Be Startin’ Something’?
With around 60 million sold, Michael Jackson’s Thriller remains the biggest-selling album of all time. Recorded in LA with producer Quincy Jones, it was released by Epic Records a few weeks after the record’s first single ‘The Girl Is Mine’ (with Paul McCartney). Jackson is said to have written that song while watching cartoons with the former Beatle. Which is a bit weird. To be fair, the King of Pop composed most of the album’s best tracks himself, including ‘Beat It’ and ‘Billie Jean’.
Next week, you guessed it, 1983…
This year’s tech innovations are coming from LG: see LG’s OLED TVs – seriously amazing screen quality and colours. Find out more here >>>