Portal:1980s

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The 1980s Portal

From left, clockwise: The first Space Shuttle, Columbia, lifts off in 1981; American president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev eases tensions between the two superpowers, leading to the end of the Cold War; The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is considered to be one of the most momentous events of the 1980s; In 1981, the IBM Personal Computer is released; In 1985, the Live Aid concert is held in order to fund relief efforts for the famine in Ethiopia during the time Mengistu Haile Mariam ruled the country; Ukraine and much of the world is filled with radioactive debris from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster; The Iran–Iraq War leads to over one million dead and $1 trillion spent.

The 1980s (pronounced "nineteen-eighties", commonly shortened as the "'80s", pronounced "eighties") was a decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1980, and ended on December 31, 1989.

Selected article

Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after take-off.
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:39 EST (16:39 UTC). Disintegration of the vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The O-ring was not designed to fly under unusually cold conditions as in this launch. Its failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank. This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB's aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter.

The crew compartment and many other vehicle fragments were eventually recovered from the ocean floor after a lengthy search and recovery operation. The exact timing of the death of the crew is unknown; several crew members are known to have survived the initial breakup of the spacecraft. The shuttle had no escape system, and the impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface was too violent to be survivable.

The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed by United States President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found NASA's organizational culture and decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident, with the agency violating its own safety rules. NASA managers had known since 1977 that contractor Morton Thiokol's design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings, but they had failed to address this problem properly. They also disregarded warnings (an example of "go fever") from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning, and failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors.

Selected image

Soul Train publicity photo.
Credit: Friends and Associated of Soul Train

Soul Train publicity photo.

Selected biography

Classic Game Postmortem: Yars' Revenge Howard Scott Warshaw
Howard Scott Warshaw (born July 30, 1957), also known as HSW, is an American psychotherapist and former game designer who is best known for his work at Atari in the early 1980s. There, he designed and programmed the games Yars' Revenge, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, all for the Atari 2600 video game console. He has also written two books as well as produced and directed three documentaries.

Before entering game design, Warshaw was "Colorado born, Jersey raised, and New Orleans schooled." He attended Tulane University, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree, with a double major in Math and Economics. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and received a scholarship for his graduate work in Computer Science. One year later he received his Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering.

After graduation, he began work at Hewlett-Packard as a multi-terminal systems engineer. In 1981, he went to work for Atari.

Warshaw's first success, Yars' Revenge, first started as an Atari 2600 adaptation of the arcade game Star Castle. However, as limitations became clear, Warshaw re-adapted the concept into a new game involving mutated houseflies defending their world against an alien attacker. The game's working title was Time Freeze. Playtesting by Atari found that the game was popular with women. The game was a major success and is still regarded as one of the best games made for the Atari 2600. This led Warshaw to be picked as the designer of the game adaptation of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was also a commercial success and was critically acclaimed at the time.

It was his success on Raiders that led to Warshaw being chosen to design and program the ill-fated Atari 2600 adaptation of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Problems began early as he was only given five weeks to go from concept to finished product. Warshaw was assisted by Jerome Domurat, a graphics designer at Atari. Although the game was finished on time, it was poorly received and seen as being confusing and frustrating. Atari took a major financial loss on the project which, combined with other poor business decisions and conditions, led to the company being divided and sold within two years.


Did you know...

that NetHack was originally released in 1987?
...that NetHack was originally released in 1987?
Other "Did you know" facts... Read more...

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