A little while ago I mentioned a post that was flying around Facebook about things children of the 1990s will have to tell their kids about. First I was flabbergasted as how shallow most (well, all) the entries on that list were, I mean, c'mon Boy Meets World and Beanie Babies? I decided to make a list of things that have happened during my lifetime that either I will have to tell my unborn hatchling about, or they will have to learn from a history class that's far better than what we have in America (since the government seems to believe NOT funding education will make the schools better.)
So, in no particular order, here are some things I thought about this morning that I have experienced or saw within my life time, but will be a complete mystery to the moonkid unless I impart my wisdom.
1. The fall of the Berlin Wall (1989-1990.) When the Berlin Wall was constructed, Germany was cut in half, literally severing families from each other. During school, we learned of "East Germany" and "West Germany," as they were distinct countries rather than a unified Germany. Some who braved going over the wall had lost their lives in the pursuit of being free, or just being a whole family. Visitation beyond the wall began in November of 1989, and the wall was completely gone by October of 1990. I remember seeing families united on the news, families that had been separated nearly 30 years, and the joy the world felt that there was now a unified Germany.
2. The Space Shuttle Challenger. On January 28, 1986, all of our school tuned in to watch the Space Shuttle Challenger lift off into space, it never made it out of Earth's atmosphere. We watched in horror as all seven of the Challenger's crew were killed in the explosion. The shuttle fleet was grounded for the next two and a half years, but those of us who watched the failed launch will always remember that day.
3. Also in 1986, Halley's Comet made its orbit past the Earth. Halley's comet can only be seen from Earth every 75-76 years, so this was also a pretty big deal. In 1986, it became the first comet to be investigated in detail. It is predicted to come back in 2061, around the time my child is 48 years old.
4. In my lifetime, I also saw the end of the Cold War. Growing up, all our maps had "U.S.S.R" where "Russia" is printed today. In effect, there was no Russia, just the Soviet Union. Even residents there were not called "Russians," but "Soviets" (although occasionally you would hear the terms "Reds," "Russkies," and "Commies.") Something also in the news that we rarely even think about today is "defection," where citizens of the USSR would seek asylum in the United States (and other free countries.)
5. The invention of the personal computer. There were two primary companies in this: Apple Macintosh and International Business Machines (known as IBM.) But no one who saw the following will have forgotten it:
7. The videotape format war. Many people of my generation may have missed this altogether even back then, but I lived in a gadget household and it was well known. The videotape format war refers to the conflict between the VHS and the Betamax videotape formats. Eventually VHS won out (though true believers today will still tell you Beta was the superior format.) The war is entirely moot today, with the advent of DVDs and BluRay discs, but in the early days it was quite the war.
8. Pong. The first home video game from Atari.
9. The "invention" of the Internet. By the way "Internet" is a proper noun that should be capitalized. Anyway, I remember when Internet access came to the masses. Chat rooms were all the rage and people were inundated with Internet Service Provider's (ISP's) CDs awarding users 14 days of Internet access. Who could forget all those AOL, Prodigy, and Netscape discs. Anyone remember NetZero? The "free" Internet where your viewable screen was smaller than our old IBM but for all the glaring, flashing ads...
10. The release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I could go on & on about why this is so important, but really, it boils down to the magic I feel whenever I watch it, like it was the first time. (The original release, though I don't buy all those added scenes. Original release only!) Indeed, A New Hope was the first movie I saw in the theater, and although I was very young at the time, it started something that has affected me my entire life. And of 2010, it was the second-highest grossing film of all time, and for good reason.
11. The downfall of Western Civilization. Some say that the West never had civilization (other than that fabulous game by Sid Meier) but I would suggest that we are witnessing the downfall right now. I would posit that this downfall is marked by the absence of rational thought, the disconnection or human beings (as a result of the Internet, which is bringing us closer, right?) the loss of tradition, politeness and basic ability to spell, and the overwhelming selfishness and entitlement seen in the generation coming of age today. These experiences I have listed above served to humble me as a person and I am proud to have been a part of them, even if just as a spectator. But I see a trend today where people are missing these types events, (if they are even occurring, I suggest that breakthroughs and history are declining like the US educational system) in favor of Keeping up with the Kardashians. While the Internet has put the world at our fingertips, we have become exceedingly more self absorbed. Rather than being more worldly, it is making us more repressive and more biased. We have lost the ability to "walk a mile in another's shoes."
Some of you may read these and remember. Some of you may roll your eyes thinking how old and cranky I am. But all of these events affected my life in a profound enough way that I still think of them today, and I hope my own child will have experiences just as profound.