Friday, 3 March 2017

The Weekend Edition: Our ‘80s Special

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We’re taking a break this weekend from our usual format and taking a trip down Nostalgia Lane to revisit the 1980s. Only a couple of us here (exactly two, in fact) actually lived through the ‘80s. We’ve been reminded on several occasions in the last year that the decade has become cool in a retro way. One of our offspring asked if there was anything from the 1980s lurking in our closet that might be borrowed. Another of us had our resident nine-year-old opt to attend a school “social,” the theme of which was the ‘80s. Nine-year-olds channeling their inner Madonna. And you wonder why we sometimes come across as if we need therapy?

We have a look back at the video games and fawazeer, the car (singular) we lusted over and the rise of hip-hop — plus why the ‘80s are suddenly cool again on television, Aly Shalakany’s column on Michael Milken and lots more. There’s something for everyone in this weekend’s edition.

Set the scene by visiting CNN’s The Eighties, snippets of which are scattered across the landing page for the Tom Hanks-produced series. It’s peppered with teasers like this one about mobile phones (runtime: 0:49) and the rebirth of Rubik’s Cube (runtime: 1:56). We loved this recap of 80 moments from the 1980s and this virtual reality videore-enacting the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cherry on top: Test your ‘80s knowledge with this quiz. Are you an advisor to The Donald? Show him this video of him saying he does not want to be president.

Check out the episode guide for the series. Legit copies aren’t available to us here in Omm El Donia due to region locking, but YouTube has bootlegs. (Links below were working at dispatch time.)

We ran out of space — literally — for this morning’s edition, so you’ll fund our roundup of some of the best books of the ‘80s (and one grumpy editor’s antidote for them) on our web edition. You can also tap here to go read that section right now, if you’d like.

The best part of the ‘80s? Cairo was less crowded. There was no raging debate about “fake news.” No deification of programmers. The Donald was just a real estate developer. The cops in Western cities hadn’t been militarized. And we didn’t have to wake to find that four people shared this with us — two on WhatsApp, one on email, one on iOS Messages: “Did the Oscars just prove that we are living in a computer simulation?

** Enterprise is heading to Dubai next week for the EFG Hermes One on One. We’ll be busy Monday, then lurking around the conference site from Tuesday onward. Drop us a note by hitting “Reply” to this email if you’d like to talk about catching up.

Music in the ‘80s

Tl;dr: Thriller. Whenever the history of music in the 1980s is told, there is only one definite version: There was once a guy named Michael, and then there was everyone else. Michael Jackson had done it all by the time he was 10 years old, but it was in the ‘80s when it all came together. He had shed the collective 350 lb that was Tito, Randy, Jermaine, and Marlon (took us a while to remember him) and met music legend Quincy Jones at the pinnacle of his musical abilities — just as music videos were becoming a thing. With that, he remade the world in his image. He reinvented dance with the gravity defying moonwalk (runtime: 13:42), breathed new life into MTV with the Thriller video (or the most stereotypically ‘80s [redacted] ever), and was a genre of music unto himself as far as record sales and awards were concerned. Thriller became certified 33-times Platinum last week, making it officially the highest selling album of all time.

Forget what he became in later life: Michael Jackson took entertainment to new highs before he took tabloid journalism to new lows (for many of us, it would be the first time to hear of Vitiligo). Regardless, It’s hard to imagine a time before MJ. So, we won’t. We all know his songs by heart. So in VH1 fashion, we count down the best of MJ:

  1. Human Nature (watch, runtime: 3:23)
  2. Billie Jean (watch, runtime: 4:55)
  3. Thriller (watch, runtime: 13:42)
  4. Man in the Mirror (watch, runtime: 5:54)
  5. Beat it (watch, runtime: 4:58)
  6. Wanna Be Startin Somethin (watch, runtime: 6:11)
  7. Bad (watch, runtime: 18:05)
  8. Leave Me Alone (watch, runtime: 4:38)
  9. Smooth Criminal (watch, runtime: 9:26)
  10. Rock With You (watch, runtime: 3:22)

The 1980s will forever be known to some as the Golden Age of Hip Hop. The period was marked by intense creativity in the genre; a Cambrian explosion of art, where every new artist appeared to create a sub-genre of their own. It was the decade where the music came to its own and rose from the obscurity of the neighborhood block parties to global domination of the music industry, helped in part by the popularity of MTV (shout out to Yo MTV Raps).

First, a bit of history for the incognoscenti: Hip-hop, the music, grew out of the house parties of DJ Kool Herc in 1972, who would loop together the break-beats of James Brown songs. This morphed into a culture of break-dancing and tagging (graffiti). But the culture wouldn’t be complete until hype-men and MCs at parties started to get creative — and competitive — with their initially short gimmicky chants. And so, rap was born, and would remain the feature most associated with the music.

The sheer number of artists to come out at the time was staggering, but what gives the ‘80s its “golden” moniker is the extent of the diversity. For those who love the lyrical brilliance of Notorious BIG and Nas, then the ‘80s was the decade of Rakim, who truly was the wordsmith of the era. Political rap first went mainstream with the clever word play of KRS One and the raging rhymes and chaotic sound of Public Enemy. Feminism found its voice in the genre with women MCs including Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and MC Lyte. No one could tell a story better than Slick Rick. But if a chill night to a smooth, jazzy alternative is more your style, then we invite you to check out the magic that is a Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. The kings of the crossover was Run DMC.

Yes, we’re running with the story that Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer never lived.

Hip hop weathered its first big controversies in the ‘80s (the first of many), when some states tried to censor 2 Live Crew’s racy debut album As Nasty As They Wanna Be (Warning: NSFW). Hip hop won its first First Amendment case, which helped the music survive to this day, but backlash from society was never as fierce until “the world’s most dangerous group” NWA took to the scene. They were rebellion personified and their music encapsulated the anger of young, disenfranchised black youth. The group gave us both the genre of gangster rap, and the legend that is Dr. Dre, arguably, the most influential person in hip hop for the 20 years that followed.

Metal crossed over into the mainstream in the ‘80s. As with hip hop, it could be argued that heavy metal was born in the early ‘70s and possibly even has roots in the ‘60s. MIT’s crash course on heavy metal argues that Black Sabbath was the first “proper heavy metal band,” and coming into the ‘80s, the British influence continued. The birth of heavy metal’s second generation came with acts like Iron Maiden who, with other bands of their generation, effectively eliminated influence of the blues, producing a louder, faster, and aggressively bombastic sound.

“While taking cues from Hard Rock, Metal took its musical ideas into new territory, where an emphasis on volume and distortion came to represent a vision of power that resonated deeply with Metal’s overwhelmingly male fan base,” Teach Rock says on the roots of heavy metal. Socially, as Encyclopedia Britannica notes, “political and academic groups sprang up to blame the genre and its fans for causing everything from crime and violence to despondency and suicide. But defenders of the music pointed out that there was no evidence that heavy metal’s exploration of madness and horror caused, rather than articulated, these social ills.”

Early in the 80s, heavy metal had an “identity crisis” with a rift between what were known as “hair metal” bands and the wave of thrash metal, which left heavy metal by the end of the decade “schizophrenic, developing in two converging directions with each pushing conventions to extremes.” Hair metal “sold good times through simple song structures with lyrical content with a seemingly singular focus on fast cars, partying, and the good life.” Thrash metal, on the other hand, drew more from the original metal bands and “was the most extreme incarnation of heavy metal to date. Musically more rhythmic than melodic, its primary concern was complex riffs played at breakneck speed, pioneered by Metallica’s James Hetfield, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, and Slayer’s tandem of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.” The thrash subgenre challenged the norm, and bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth openly expressed their vitriol and discontent through socially conscious and politically critical lyrics. Those bands were particularly effective in sustaining their success for decades, with Metallica, in particular, having sold over 100 mn records over more than 30 years.

Despite our love for Metallica, we chose to lead this section with a screen grab from Slayer’s Seasons In the Abyss (runtime 06:36), the band’s first-ever music video, which was filmed in Cairo, and even though the album was out in 1990.

A lot of people out there mistakenly believe that House Music is a product of the now. But that seemingly futuristic, electronic sound “has predominantly black roots” and was born in poor, crime-ridden 1980s Chicago at the hands of one Bronx-bred DJ named Frankie Knuckles. As the resident DJ of The Warehouse in the early ‘80s, Knuckles had no idea that the outcome of layering disco with electronic 4/4 beats would be “thunderous” House. At the request of his crowd, the man who came to be called the Godfather of House Music started recording his DJ sets on cassette tapes dubbed “The Warehouse Mix.” Those quickly multiplied by the thousands and Warehouse Music became house music. By the mid-’80s, DJs including Jessie Saunders, Farley Funk, Marshall Jefferson, Steve Hurley, Adonis, and many more were not only mixing the sounds on the decks, but creating their own and pressing them onto vinyl. The demand for house music records grew so quickly, “we were grinding up records like Thriller to make house music,” says Rachel Cain, the co-founder of Trax Records, one of the first labels to make house records.

Despite its fast-growing popularity, House remained in the underground until 1987, when a song called “Jack Your Body” suddenly flew to the tops of the UK music charts. Just like that, the sound went global and even Knuckles himself moved to London for a few years. Since then, the genre has traveled far and changed so much, dying down in the US during the ‘90s, only to surface again in the mid-2000s. For this genre though, the struggle has always been to prove that it is not “not a passing fad,” that house was real music, capable of breaking moulds and changing perceptions (runtime 1:37:23). For the full blast, watch Unsung on Frankie Knuckles and the Roots of House Music (runtime 35:26).

Television in the ‘80s

Cartoons. Celebrities. Riri. Schweppes. Abdelrehim Amr. Catchy tunes. You guessed it: It’s our dive into the epic world of the ‘80s TV ads. “Hatlena Riri, hatlena Riri. Hatlena menno bako wetnein. El sala ‘al zein el sala ‘al zein.” Riri, everyone, the local cereal of the 80s, when folks apparently had a much longer attention span: The spot is 1:18 long (watch two ads, runtime 2:40). Remember Sherine Reda promoting Show Inn’s burgers ? And weren’t you just happy that Abdelrehim Amr Furniture guy was finally getting married? Or that Tarek Nour’s Kito guy could finally sleep after mosquitos left him alone? (0:38)

The hit of the 1980s: The Serr Schweppes (Schweppes’ secret) campaign. We’re not sure what the secret was, really, but you had a good life if you watched Dallas (Sue Ellen, J.R.) and longed to know what serr Schweppes was. Watch Tarek Nour’s epic Schweppes campaign featuring actor Hassan Abdin here (2:33). Then head to Gersy chocolate’s ad for the definition of sexy in the ‘80s or the classic that is Carpet City’s “Mahmoud eh da ya Mahmoud” ad (runtime 0:31) — both by Tarek Nour. Clearly you have Tarek Nour Communications to thank for shaping the collective memory the ‘80s generation.

Check out the collection of 1980s and 1990s ads on Essaad Younes’ Sahibet Al-Saada show (run time: 10:58).

You can tell Generation X is in charge of television today from the sheer volume of ‘80s-themed shows that have made it onto the airwaves in the last few years. We’re going out on a limb and saying it started in 1999 with Freaks and Geeks, and we’ll fast-forward through the dreck that was That ‘80s Show to Everybody Hates Chris (c. 2005), which set up a run that continues today with two of the best shows on television.

The Americans is the granddaddy of them all, hailed by everyone from the New York Times and the Washington Post to Rolling Stone as the best drama on television since its debut in 2013. The hour-long drama stars real-life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Russian “illegals” — KGB agents living undercover in the United States who wind up being next door neighbors with a senior FBI counterintelligence agent. Gritty (and appropriately violent), it’s both a Cold War thriller that begins with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981 and a meditation on the meaning of marriage and infidelity. Every character is perfectly drawn — and beautifully acted by a stellar cast. New to the show? Catch the season one trailer (runtime: 1:00). Already love it? The season five trailer is here (runtime: 1:00). Season five debuts on Tuesday, 7 March. Collider has seen the first episode and says “the best show on TV feels poised to keep its crown.” The Hollywood Reporter has a behind-the-scenes look from the season one premiere. It’s not on Egyptian Netflix, but we’re buying seasons passes on iTunes.

Netflix’s horror / science fiction Stranger Things is an exceptionally close second behind The Americans in the running for best show on TV today. Set in the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the early 1980s, Stranger Things will ring as pitch-perfect for anyone who grew up as a kid in the ‘80s riding bikes through the woods, playing Dungeons and Dragons or attending cinderblock-institutional schools — or for anyone who raised one of the aforementioned kids. The Winona Ryder vehicle’s child stars are its heart and soul: The story kicks off when a member of a tightly knit group of kids goes missing — and a nearby lab that does research on the paranormal and supernatural for the US Department of Energy is suspect. Showrunners the Duffer Brothers are clear on their inspiration: The show reeks of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. From the official Netflix description: “A desperate search for a missing boy uncovers a haunting girl with horrible secrets and a strange, unsettling origin story. This nostalgic nod to 1980s sci-fi/horror classics pays homage to ‘E.T.,’ ‘Poltergeist’ and the novels of Stephen King.” Season one (watch the trailer) was a smash hit when it launched last summer and is available on Egyptian Netflix. Season two will debut on Halloween Night this year — catch the trailer for it here (runtime: 0:36). Want more? Check out the show’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Honorable mention: Computer Show, by Sandwich Video. You aren’t a tech startup with a “neat tech product” in good standing in San Francisco if Sandwich hasn’t made a video for you, like this ‘classic’ for chat app Slack.

Stephen King, the literary embodiment of the 1980s, is getting in on the act: The author has teamed up with Lost director JJ Abrams to launch a 1980s-themed show titled Castle Rock. The Verge has the story — and a teaser video. It’s not clear when the Hulu original, first teased in mid-February, is due to debut — not even a Hulu press release handed out a week after the video appeared on Youtube has much to say on that front. King fans will recognize Castle Rock as the setting for Cujo, The Dead Zone and Needful things, among other works.

Then there are the shows that actually originally aired during the 1980s that are returning to television (and laptop) screens. Full House, which made its debut in 1987, returned last year as the Netflix original Fuller House with many of its original cast members. The show that catapulted Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and John Stamos to stardom is just one of many shows from the 20th century getting remade, alongside Knight Rider, Hawaii Five-O, and Dallas (whose revival, according to the LA Times, is quietly in the works).

So why is the decade so appealing for television revivals? “It appears more networks are banking on nostalgia” in the slew of shows being commissioned these days, pundits say. “What we see on our screens and hear through our earbuds is dictated in large part by what inspired the creators and individuals who support their visions, many of whom are in their 30s, 40s, and early 50s and may have a particular affinity for this time period,” Vulture’s Jen Chaney muses.

Cars of the ‘80s

Forget Knight Rider’s KITT — the only car we wanted in the ‘80s was actually made in the 1970s. A second-hand, 1970s-vintage Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible, to be precise. Corvette Forum is your starting point for exploring the subculture. Close second: The Jeep CJ-7, preferably in soft-top. The notion that it’s now selling as a classic car makes one of us feel old.

Film & Theater in the ‘80s

Once upon a time, Adel Imam’s face was not a permanent fixture of Ramadan television. The ‘80s were a simpler time, when Nelly (and, later on, Sherihan) brought families together in front of the TV screen to watch Fawazeer, arguably the most iconic show in Ramadan entertainment history. Nelly’s run with Fawazeer started in 1980 with Fawazeer Arusty (watch, runtime 09:11), but more popular was the 1981 edition of the Ramadan riddle show, Fawazeer El Khatba (watch, runtime 07:59). The show continued to adapt and develop throughout the decade, with the addition of the unforgettable character Fatouta, played by Samir Ghanem, in 1982, and Sherihan taking over from Nelly in 1985. So iconic and memorable is the show that its influence extends well beyond the confines of the decade: In 2013, PepsiCo created a joint Pepsi and Chipsy Ramadan ad featured Nelly and Samir Ghanem alongside other icons of Egyptian Ramadans past (watch, runtime 3:00).

Hollywood is ruining the 80s: Hollywood Executives are the locusts of creativity, consuming some of the most brilliant cinematic memories from our childhoods and repackaging what comes out the other end to win over bright-eyed Snapchat users. The reboot-franchise machine is working on overdrive, ruining cult classics and masterpieces alike, from our favorite cartoons (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) to beloved video games (the Super Mario movie coincided with a global spike in child prescription med abuse). Below, we call these executives to account for their crimes against ‘80s pop culture:

The Terminator: Somewhere in the 1990s, it became possible in our dimension that the same man who made the Terminator made Titanic. It is perhaps no surprise that every subsequent film in the franchise since has been worse than before (especially after Linda Hamilton left). The worst came with 2003’s Terminator 3, where suspension of disbelief wasn’t even paid lip-service: We’re supposed to believe a lifeless machine that goes back in time can look 60-something. At this point, not even Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor can save the series.

Die Hard: Nothing makes you feel like you’re packing on the years like watching Bruce Willis do the same. The first two movies of the franchise were everything that was right about an action flick in the ‘80s: John McClane didn’t look like he had been nursed on steroids in his infancy in preparation for the day he needed to take on 180,000 terrorists single-handedly. He was simply the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then it happened again. And again. And again.

Star Wars: Some fans will say this new trilogy is alright, but that’s wishful thinking — like taking back your ex for the fourth time. They gave it to JJ Abrams after all — convicted of first degree homicide for the slaying of Star Trek. Only two positive things can be said about the new trilogy: It cannot be worse than the last one — and Carrie Fisher will not be forced to watch it play out.

Ghostbusters: No, we don’t hate the reboot because it now stars women. They were hilarious. But they weren’t the original guys. We’ve been waiting on a Ramis, Murray, Aykroyd reunion since Ghostbusters 2 in 1989. Ultimately, the new movie simply wasn’t good enough to justify forgetting the pain of that long wait.

Endangered species list (ie: dying to be killed by remake): Back to the Future; Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Every 1980s Martin Scorsese film.

Eddie Murphy was to comedy in the 1980s what Michael Jackson was to music. This might be hard for some of our younger readers to understand. Eddie Murphy peaked way before the Norbit, the Nutty Professor, and his brief experimentation with trans ladies of the evening. Thirty years ago, Eddie Murphy was the name in comedy. Pick any movie of his from the era (you can skip through Harlem Nights). You know what, we’ll just pick for you and you can thank us later.

Two movies that you must get a hold of immediately are Coming to America and Trading Places, the latter being a favourite for is Wall Street angle. Honorable mentions include the first two Beverly Hills Cop movies. He was king of the standup with Raw (watch if you can bear the poor quality of the bootleg, runtime: 1:44:43) and Delirious (watch, runtime: 1:48:10) being classics we picked up from our older siblings when our parents weren’t looking. His brief stint on Saturday Night Live saw him emerge as the first black comedy superstar from its graduating class. Age will do things to you. Forgive him, and watch the man at his best.

Tech in the ‘80s

Video games came of age in the ‘80s — and defined the players who themselves came of age wearing neon, watching Miami Vice, cringing at their younger siblings’ Mini Pops albums and (for a mercifully brief period of time) sporting rat-tails. The first honest-to-God computer game launched at the 1940 World’s Fair, according to the National Museum of Play, but it wasn’t until Nolan Bushnell and Al Alcorn got together in 1972 to create Pong, the first modern arcade game and a breakout hit. (The history of Pong is a bit more controversial than that — true game nerds will want to check out Wired’s How Pong and the Odyssey Console Launched the Videogame Era.)

Bushnell and Alcorn founded the company that became known as Atari, turning video games into a popular sensation and planting the seeds of what was a nearly USD 100 bn industry last year. Video games crept into living rooms around the world with the Atari 2600 (pictured above), which launched in 1977. Space Invaders crashed into arcades in 1978, and Intellivision challenged Atari with better graphics the next year.

But it wasn’t until 1980 that a missing slice of pizza inspired Namco’s Toru Iwatani to create Pac-Man, which was a smash-hit in arcades and, a few short months later, became the first arcade game to cross over to a home console when it made its debut on the Atari 2600. Donkey Kong, Tetris, Tron, Castle Wolfenstein, Q*bert and F-15 Strike Eagle followed, and video games became key sales drivers for 1980s personal computers including the Commodore Vic-20, Commodore 68 and TRS-80 Color Computer.

Recommended reading: Tap herefor a brief history of gaming, courtesy TechCrunch or here to read about coming of age with video games. Or go read about a new non-profit that’s looking to “preserve the hidden history of video games” at Polygon or Engadget.

Our favourite video game movie of all time Lara Croft or Wing Commander or Resident Evil. It’s War Games, the 1983 classic starring a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, wherein Broderick’s character nearly triggers global thermonuclear warfare IRL when he kicks off a computer game on early dial-up. Watch the Shall we play a game? scene (runtime: 2:37)

Random factoid: A young Steve Jobs was an early Atari employee. He tricked Steve Wozniak, with whom he would later found Apple Computer, into making the prototype for Breakout “in four sleepless nights on Atari’s factory floor.”

The ultimate Google Easter egg: Search for “Atari Breakout” and then click on “Images” to play a game of Breakout with the search results.

Lite nostalgia fix: Play classic 1980s arcade and home video games here. (Be patient: it’s a bit wonky, but has the widest selection, from Donkey Kong and Pac-Man to Zaxxon.) A handful of other links that run better, but have been re-rendered for modern screen resolutions. You’ll want to run the links in Chrome on a Mac — most require Flash.

Nostalgia fix for committed gamers: Go download Pac-Man (the original, for iOS or Android), the amazing Pac-Man 256 (iOS or Android) or Wolfenstein 3D (iOS, but a bit long in the tooth — it’s the 2014 edition).

Nostalgia fix for superfans: Discover the “8-bit wonderland” that is Nintendo Classic, a micro-sized version of the original console that comes pre-loaded with 30 games including Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda and Pac-Man. Learn more on Nintendo’s website or go order one now on Amazon — it’s finally in stock.

Nostalgia fix for apprentice geeks: Go play classic MS DOS games (including Pac-Man) on the Internet Archive; others are available for download. MacGames.net has resources for those of you looking for early Apple II or Mac games.
Nostalgia fix for hardcore geeks: Go buy an original console on Ebay and coax it back to life. Check out listings for Coleco and Atari 2600 systems.

When music first became portable: Remember how it felt the first time you had a personalized soundtrack to the views you came across every day? Or the thrill of being gifted an amazing mixtape? Sony’s Walkman revolutionized how the world listens to music. “The 1980s could well have been the Walkman decade … Its launch coincided with the birth of the aerobics craze, and millions used the Walkman to make their workouts more entertaining,” wrote Meaghan Haire for Time in 2009.

The story of the Walkman: Kozo Ohsone, general manager of the tape recorder division, based the first prototype on Sony’s Pressman, a portable cassette recorder mainly targeting journos. Sony went on to release the first portable cassette tape player — the blue and silver Walkman TPS-L2 — on 1 July 1979 for USD 150, according to The Verge’s Carl Franzen. It weighed 14 ounces and had two headphone jacks for shared listening. 200 mn Walkman cassette players were sold until Sony decided to retire the cassette player from the market in 2010, The Telegraph reported. Of course there were other Walkman forms: CD, Mini-Disc, MP3. But, you know, ‘Walkman’ means ‘cassette’.

The inventor: The Walkman inventor, Andreas Pavel, had called it the “stereobelt,” “which he saw more as a means to "add a soundtrack to real life" than an item to be mass marketed,” wrote Larry Rohter for The New York Times back in 2005. Pavel speaks about the first time he made it work, with his girlfriend in Switzerland in February 1972, and it’s magical. "I was in the woods in St. Moritz, in the mountains," he told the NYT. "The snow was falling down. I pressed the button, and suddenly we were floating. It was an incredible feeling, to realize that I now had the means to multiply the aesthetic potential of any situation."

Jumping back to the now: Did you know you could still buy a Walkman? There are new releases, just a digital music player really, by Sony, from USD 65 for to a gold-plated USD 3,200 Walkman. Then there is the ‘Vintage’ Walkman — we’re not sure how far exactly Vintage goes back — on eBay ranging from USD 1.06 to USD 1,800 for, uhm, collectors.

Want to feel old? Check out this video, which went viral years ago. Watch as (lazy, unappreciative) kids were baffled by this strange device and express disbelief at the painstaking act of fast-forwarding your way through to the next song (runtime 7:22). Wait for the “Oh, my grandpa used to have this!”

In tech, everything old is new again — even on the business / finance side: Venture capital was a thing in the 1980s, as we were reminded by the exhaustive Heat Death: Venture Capital in the 1980s. Better still: Long before Y Combinator, Atari’s founder had a tech incubator in our favourite decade, as the inimitable tech historian-slash-journalist Benj Edwards tells us in The Untold Story of Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell’s Visionary 1980s Tech Incubator for Fast Company.

Want to take a trip down Tech Nostalgia Lane? You could do a lot worse than to check out any one of:

Bonus: 15 Hilarious Technology Ads From the 1980s (print, via Mashable) or 1980s Tech Ads (video, New York magazine, runtime: 1:05).

Business in the ‘80s

By Aly El Shalakany

When we think of revolutions, we think of protests and a common calling by the masses to radically change things or to replace the political regime altogether. But revolutions can happen in the business world as well and the roaring 1980s saw extreme turbulence on Main Street and Wall Street that had a profound impact on the way we do things that have lasted until this very day.

On Wall Street, banking was transformed from a boring, low-risk, steady as you go type of business into an innovative, ultra-aggressive, winner takes all culture that could make you a multi-millionaire or out of a job before you turned 30. In this new age, nobody was safe, and the decade quickly witnessed its first high profile victim in Salomon Brothers, a top investment bank and cornerstone of Wall Street since 1910, as a result of aggressive risk taking that is best captured by Michael Lewis’ Liar’s Poker. But nothing quite symbolized this new world order like the “Highly Confident” letter issued by the Junk Bond King himself, Michael Milken.

To continue reading Aly El Shalakany’s column,
Beyond the Rubicon: Highly Confident, please click here.

There is only one movie to watch about finance in the ‘80s: Wall street. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: Greed is good.

There are exactly two books you must read about finance in the ‘80s: Michael Lewis’ Liar’s Poker, the inside story of the dealing rooms at Salomon Brothers in New York and London in the mid-1980s. And Barbarians at the Gate, the inside story of the leveraged buyout that defined the decade. Together, they redefined business journalism as we know it today.

The biggest businesses in Egypt in the 1980s were pyramid schemes. You had the likes of El Rayan, El Saad, and El Sherif offering over 25% “guaranteed returns” on savings in an age when the risk-free rate was closer 9% — and people bought-in en masse. As the market was liberalized, following Sadat’s trade liberalisation policies in the 1970s, Egypt started to expand and had its investors searching for profitable and flexible financing solutions, which were not yet available at the time. The 1974 investment law, still the law of the land at the time, did not provide the solutions needed to capture and promote this wave of investment. The schemes at the time that tried to fill that gap operated as wealth management funds, claiming to invest in local projects and promised high returns (not interest, because of the religious tinge they decided to give their schemes).The cautious avoidance of the word “interest,” and its connections to usury, gave El Rayan and company a crucial competitive advantage. While commercial banking was still trying to loosen the shackles of socialist policies, they were facing the headwinds of religious opposition to charging or receiving interest. These funds pounced on this opportunity and fomented support from religious scholars, who showed them some love, gave them positive PR, inaugurated their projects, sitting on their companies’ boards, and even investing their very own money with them. It took a while for the state to take action, but they eventually investigated the “funds” and their managers, and later prosecuted them for fraud. As it turns out, the pyramiding was rife. The funds were paying the unimaginable returns using new deposits, while successfully siphoning leaked money abroad for an escape plan. El Ryan was caught trying to escape and slapped with a 15-year prison sentence. Meanwhile, Ashraf El Saad had successfully managed to flee and lived in exile.

El Ryan was released in 2010 to have a popular soap opera made based on his short-lived success story — and had enough time to be interviewed by CBC’s Lamees El Hadidi and ONTV before his death in 2013.

Fashion in the ‘80s

The 1980s were not exactly the heydays of fashion. After all, this was the decade that brought us big poufy hair and oversized earrings, capacious shoulder pads that could easily fit the contents of a woman’s handbag, neon leotards, metallic leather skirts, sequins, feather boas, spandex, and so many other outrageous trends that would need more space to list than we can devote. Despite all the fashion fails, bits of the 80s have been weeding their way back into the trends of our time, “but before you get your Aqua Net and leg warmers ready: not everything is making a comeback,” Lauren Alexis Fisher writes in her guide to ‘80s fashion for Harper’s Bazaar.

So what cool things did that “over-the-top” decade leave us? Rayban Wayfarers were resurrected from the (near-)dead in the ‘80s. We also got: scrunchies, slogan t-shirts, the skinhead look, miniskirts, loafers, leggings, and last, but not least, the Miami Vice look. Check out this list of 80 cool fashion trends from the 80s on Complex.

Books of the ‘80s

We’re running out of space — quite literally — so our roundup of Books of the 1980s appears only on the web edition of Enterprise. Tap here to go read it.

Regardless of which decade you grew up in, there’s a large chance you came across Shel Silverstein and his inimitable style sometime during your childhood or pre-adolescent years. A jack of all trades, Silverstein was a poet, singer, songwriter, cartoonist, and an author of children’s books to boot. His poetry collections “captured the innocence of a child’s imagination … without talking down to kids or being trite and sentimental,” as one Silverstein fan puts it. A Light in the Attic was released in 1981, but the book of poems — much like Silverstein’s other works, like The Giving Tree (1964) and Where The Sidewalk Ends (1974) — is timeless.

…Much like basically everything children’s book wizard Roald Dahl has ever written. Dahl dominated the decade with the release of three of his most famous children’s books: The BFG (1982), The Witches (1983), and Matilda (1988), all of which featured the appropriately childlike illustrations of Quentin Blake.

The 80s also saw landmark works from Latin American authors, including Gabriel García Marquez’s timeless Love in the Time of Cholera, and Isabel Allende’s debut novel, The House of the Spirits. Both García Marquez and Allende were heavily influenced by the political upheaval in their native countries of Colombia and Chile, respectively. “García Marquez and a plethora of other gifted Latin writers exposed the savagery and wretchedness of rural poverty in their novels. We also learned to recognise the murderous brutality of military strongmen and the futility of civil war through his words,” the BBC’s Wyre Davies wrote of the Colombian literary genius after his passing in 2014.

Another timeless piece from the 1980s is Franco-Czech author Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. When he wrote this novel in 1984, the exiled Czech intellect and former communist party member was living in Paris, after having been stripped of his original nationality and naturalized as a citizen of France, where he still lives today. Set against a backdrop of war in 1968 Prague — around the time of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the country’s descent into communism, the book explores the web of complex relationships between Tomas the surgeon and his lover Sabina, whose “lightness” about all things life-related and unapologetic affair proves “unbearable” for Tomas’ wife Tereza the photographer and Sabina’s lover Franz the professor. Ever the philosopher, Kundera uses the stories of those characters to explore concepts such as Friedrich Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence and themes like infidelity, attachment, belonging, purpose, and hedonism. For lovers of Russian literature, the influence of Leo Tolstoy on the novel is hard to miss and Kundera’s experiments with tone and perspective also break from the classical mould to channel something closer to the prose style of Vladimir Nabokov, but at a much slower, less-confrontational, and almost dream-like pace. If you’re more a movie buff than a bookworm, check out the 1988 film adaptation starring Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin (watch the trailer, runtime 1:05).

An equally powerful master of dreamy prose is Japanese wordsmith Haruki Murakami, who wrote one of his greatest and most widely recognized novels, Norwegian Wood, in 1987. The book — which is titled after a Beatles song of the same name — is arguably Murakami’s most autobiographical work and follows the life of Toru Watanabe as a college student in 1960’s Tokyo and his love for his troubled childhood friend Naoko, who slowly slips away from him and into her own world of depression and confusion following the suicide of their best friend Kizuki. While he remains faithful to Naoko after she leaves to live in a mental institute, Toru — a quiet and solitary character by nature — finds himself falling for another woman, whose fierce and outgoing nature stands in sharp contrast to Naoko’s own. Toru is then torn between the innocence and relentlessness of young love and the harshness of the reality that forces one to grow up and move on. A lover of music and subtle melancholy, “Murakami’s characters are always given the seed of rebirth, although it is often unclear whether they plant it or not,” Damie G Walter writes for The Guardian. What makes this one author’s stories so great is his ability to journey with his readers down “the cold, dark winter woods of death and grief and abuse – and do so with wisdom and warmth.”

1989 was a definitive one for Chinese-American business writer-turned-fiction author Amy Tan, who for many years before had struggled with the idea of writing her own stories and experiences as a member of an immigrant family in the United States. Tan was approaching the end of her thirties when she finally sat down to compose her debut book The Joy Luck Club, where she threads together 16 short narratives that trail the lives of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters during different stages of their lives, focusing on themes such as immigrant identity and the ensuing disconnect and clash between cultures and generations. The book, which draws a lot from the author’s own life experiences and contentious relationship with her mother, also pays tribute to the importance of storytelling in keeping heritage and tradition alive through generations, for the stories remain even if nothing else does. “The author leavens this angst with Marx Brothers humor, making you laugh, literally, even as you cry,” a 1989 review of the book from the Los Angeles Times said. This one is definitely high up on our list of recommendations for a light, yet profound, read.

** Need an antidote to all of the Amy Tan weepiness, Gabriel Garcia Marquez magical realism and Judy Collins mush? Find refuge in the musty pages of a classic junk novel, as one of our fathers refers to vintage thrillers and spy novels from the era. It was a time when (almost) all the bad guys were cardboard commies or Nazis, and the good guys were (almost) invariably flawed-but-honorable Americans. Among our favourites:

  • Anything by serial author (and MASH creator) W.E.B. Griffin, starting with his Brotherhood of War series.
  • Red Storm Rising (Tom Clancy, 1986 — a bit too sweeping and high concept to be junk, bit…)
  • Berlin Game, the first volume of Len Deighton’s intensely satisfying first trilogy
  • Frederick Forsythe’s The Odessa File was printed in 1974, but we discovered it second-hand in the ‘80s. And its protagonist is a German. But whatever — it’s so good, it get a pass.
  • The Brotherhood of the Rose , the first in a trilogy by Rambo creator David Morrell, one of the most under-appreciated thriller writers of the ‘80s
  • The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, which made its debut in 1980, heralding the original trilogy and the movie series that would follow decades later

One more thing: We discovered him long after the 1980s. In fact, we actively resisted the pull of his work throughout the decade on principle. (Which principle? We’ve forgotten.) But know this: Stephen King is the best author of the decade — period — when it comes to storytelling. You may not like the story, but the telling of it (in language, structure, characters, everything) is unparalleled.

On Your Way Out

Take a stroll in the Khan El Khalili of the 1980s: Independent agency Kinolibrary has rare colored footage of Cairo in the 1980s with street noise setting the mood, typical Khan El Khalili Arabic music in the background, along with a super orientalist narration comparing stores to “Aladdin’s treasure cave.” (runtime 0:36)

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