Rare Vintage Photos of What Life Was Like in the ’80s

The world has changed so much in the last few decades that the ’80s almost seem like a fantasy. Was Kylie Minogue really that popular? Did we really use enough hairspray to put a small hole in the ozone layer?

It might seem impossible to us now, but back in the day computers were still a new invention, cell phones were the size of cement bricks and fashion was, well, let’s just say it was out there. Take a look at some rare vintage photos of the era that show us what life was really like.

The first Apple computer looks much different than those today!

Scott Baio, John Forsythe, and John Travolta Attend an Award Show Together

Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images

Back in 1982, John Travolta was still riding high on the success of Grease, and Scott Baio was still on our screens as Chachi in Happy Days. The two actors are pictured here with another prominent 80’s figure, John Forsythe.

Their tuxedos might seem a little dated now, but back then these three were well and truly in style as they attended the Men’s Fashion Association of American’s Image Awards on October 25 in New York City. These days, Travolta tends to keep away from red carpet events and Scott Baio’s last movie was four years ago. Forsythe passed away in 2010 at 92.

Rubik’s Cube Madness

Photo by John van Hasselt/Corbis via Getty Images

It might seem crazy to think about, but the Rubik’s Cube has been around for almost 40 years now, after making its debut at the 1980 International Toy Fair. The little toy puzzle became such an instant hit that it’s now ingrained in our culture.

The first Rubik’s Cube Championship was held the year after its release in France. This 1981 snap captures contestants as they battle to solve the puzzle in the fastest time. Judges look on pensively with their stopwatches. The competition is still going, now managed by Red Bull. 1981’s winner was Minh Thai, a Vietnamese student with a time of 22.95 seconds.

Santa Baby

Photo by Michael Daines/Sunday Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Can you imagine a woman dressed in stockings seductively advertising children’s Christmas toys in 2018? It just wouldn’t happen – and rightly so. However, the ’80s was the golden-age of glamor modeling, and no-one blinked an eye at this risque newspaper ad.

An unknown model holds a wand in the air as she leans over a selection of toys as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. These days, stars are a little more selective about the publications they strip down for, and thankfully, Christmas commercials are a little more PG. We like our stocking hung up on the fireplace, thank you very much!

Lennon Forever

Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The murder of musician John Lennon rocked the world in 1980. Lennon was shot four times by Mark Chapman in the doorway of his apartment building in New York City, the upscale Dakota. Following his death, thousands flocked to the city to pay tribute to the fallen Beatle.

Fans who couldn’t reach NYC held their own vigils, such as the above-pictured event in Los Angeles. Thousands flocked to Capitol Records on Vine Street in Hollywood, lighting candles and singing his hits as they mourned the loss of the 40-year-old star. In this candid snap, one person holds up a sign that reads “Lennon Forever, Peace on Earth.”

Beauty Pageant Winners Attend the Maybelline-Miss Universe Press Luncheon

Photo by Betty Burke Galella /WireImage

These days, there’s slightly less fuss about beauty pageants, but back in the ’80s, the winners of the contests were household names. The hair was big, the swimsuits were small, and everyone wanted world peace. It was a simple time, full of hairspray and hope…

Pictured in 1983, Miss USA Julie Hayek, Miss Teen USA Ruth Zakarian, and Miss Universe Lorraine Downes attend the Maybelline-Miss Universe Press Luncheon dressed in all their finery. Stripes were in and so was perfectly coiffed hair. The trio circulated the room doing meet and greets while balancing their heavy crowns on their delicate heads.

The First Mac Looked Much Different Than the Sleek Designs of Today

Photo by Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images

In 1985, Steve Jobs made history by releasing the first ever Macintosh computer. If only the world knew how advanced technology would become.

Pictured above is the comedy troupe The Frantics, who hosted a popular radio show on CBC. One of the members proudly holds one of the four new inventions that they used to keep track of all of their material for their show. Could you imagine using a computer that big and bulky these days, with a screen half the size of a book? It doesn’t bear thinking about. Thank goodness for the evolution of tech and all that came with it!

Pacman Became a Popular Arcade Game

Photo By Brian Brainerd/The Denver Post via Getty Images

It looks like a still from an old-fashioned movie, but this candid is 100% real. Arcade games were a big deal back then, and when Pacman was first released in March of 1980 gamers went wild.

It was followed soon after with the launch of Ms. Pacman, pictured above being played by Dinosaur Police Department officer Don Parrott. The officer, like many others, would spend the afternoons in his wife’s bar playing the game. The fever spread and both adults and children alike were spending more time than ever on the machines. Who can blame them? They’re still popular to this day.

Did you watch the wedding of the decade?

People Went Crazy Over Prince Charles’ and Lady Diana’s Wedding

Photo by Peter Case/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

The world loves a royal wedding, with the biggest one of all taking place back in July of 1981. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer tied the knot in an extravagant ceremony at Westminster Palace, in London. The highly anticipated union was watched by billions of people worldwide, with thousands lining the street to watch the procession.

Those that couldn’t be there in person marked the occasion in their own special ways. Pictured above is a gentleman proudly waving from the hedge he lovingly trimmed into the shape of a train, dubbed "Royal Wedding Express." Is that true patriotism or just lunacy?

Battle of the Big Hair

Photo by Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images

When it comes to ’80s hair, no one could beat Tina Turner and Cher. Arguably two of the biggest divas of all time, the pair was riding the waves of success. The two songstresses are pictured here at a New York City event in 1985.

Both Cher and Tina would enjoy numerous hits throughout the decade, becoming icons for their music and their style. Let’s face it, both are popular Halloween costume staples, aren’t they? Cher took a little time off to concentrate on other pursuits like The Witches of Eastwick,while Tina released Mad Max Thunderdome, accompanied by the hit single “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

Everyone Fell In Love With Carrie Fischer as Princess Leia

Photo by Paul Harris/Getty Images

Nothing screams ’80s glam like Carrie Fisher sitting in a wood-paneled kitchen holding a box of dried food and looking into the camera. The late, great Princess Leia had a whale of a time in the late ’70s to mid-’80s and was still popular when this snap was taken in 1987.

Note the real-life calendar on the wall (yes, people actually had those) and the wall-mounted phone. The blender in the background looks like it weighs about 80 pounds and we can’t get enough of the decoratively painted ceiling. Fisher left many legacies behind, but this photo is one of the best.

The Queen’s Cake

Photo by Tom Stoddart/Getty Images

Much like 1980’s hair, the bigger the cake, the better. Royal chef Kevin Mitchell proudly poses here holding Her Majesty’s then-favorite dishes — note the excessive garnish on the left-hand plate and the sheer size of the gateau.

The outfits, the kitchen equipment and pretty much everything in this photo just screams 1989, and we’re here for it. It looks like portion control didn’t get fashionable until the ’90s were in full swing, and frankly, we want a cake that big and a chef that dedicated. We can’t help but wonder if ma’am has changed her tastes since then.

Two Businessmen Grab a Quick Bite

Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images

That clashing tie and shirt combo. Those huge glasses. This is why we love the ’80s the way we do. These two accountants were snapped by a journalist from the Denver Post in 1988. The pair didn’t know each other, but both purchased a roasted corn on the cob from a street vendor on their lunch break.

Similar scenes were shot in other big cities, like New York and London. After all, badly-dressed businessmen have still got to eat. Isn’t it frightening that the fashion is coming back around after all this time? Something tells us we couldn’t rock it as well as these guys.

Students Looked Forward to Spring Break Every Year

Kevin Fleming/Corbis via Getty Images

Spring Break is still an important event on the calendar for a lot of students, but it’s a tradition that has been honored for decades. Youngsters gather for a couple of weeks of debauchery and it wasn’t any different back then.

In this photo, four college students cruise the street of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with beers in hand! While none of them are driving (open container much?), you definitely couldn’t get away with this level of casual today.

The Original Cell Phone

Photo by Allsport UK /Allsport/Getty Images

If you think that your phone runs out of battery quickly now, take a moment to appreciate the suffering of those poor souls growing up forty years ago. The original cell phones were almost as big as your head and weighed about as a much, too.

Pictured above is French skier Franck Piccard talking on his insanely large communications device after the Men’s Super G Slalom event at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada. In those days, there was no texting, no FaceTime, and absolutely no built-in cameras. Now, there’s all that, and probably a lot more room in one’s handbag.

Actual Video Stores Were Still a Thing

Photo by Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

These days, if we want to rent a movie all we have to do is search for it on cable and press OK. Cast your mind back a few decades and you had no choice but to haul your cookies down to a video store to physically chose one.

These two gentleman are pictured here in 1985, perusing what’s on offer in the adult-only section of the video store. With the internet still a few years off, the only option they had was to go and rent a video, but the less said about that the better. With VHS tapes now extinct, it won’t be long before DVD’s follow suit and everything is digital.

Paper Towns

Photo via Bettmann/Getty Images

Walk into any modern-day office and you may see a folder or two here and there, a few notepads perhaps, but everything essential is all held on the computers. Back in the day, offices were chaos that relied on well-organized staff and a damn good filing system.

In this snap, IRS workers scramble to sort through forms they received. Everywhere you look are stacks of paperwork, folders overflowing with forms and huge, bulky computers that take up the majority of a desk. You might not like your job, but be thankful that everything you need is just a click away!

The Berlin Wall Wasn’t Yet Deconstructed

Photo by Arthur Sidey/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

It’s almost twenty years since the Berlin Wall was finally pulled down, uniting both sides of the German city. However, it served as quite the canvas for politically motivated graffiti in its day. Originally built in 1961, it wouldn’t fall until thirty years later.

This snap was taken in 1989, and is a prime example of street art in the era. Graffiti was on the rise, as were those who honed the art. More often than not, the wall would be littered with lines or quips about the political situation, as demonstrated here with “Charlie’s retired, 10 Nov 1989.”

Charity Starts at Home

Photo by Bob Rowan/Corbis via Getty Images

If you grew up in the ’80s then you’ll probably look at this sweater and be reminded of your own wardrobe. Big prints were in, especially for kids. Parents lovingly bought these horrendous sweaters for their children thinking they were doing something nice. Isn’t that nuts?

One girl is pictured here at the local grocery store, placing a tin of canned fruit into the Food Drive donation bin. A lot of stores still have donation points were you can leave an item or two for those less fortunate – that’s one leftover fashion that we can fully get behind.

Breakfast Was All About Cereal

Breakfast cereal on Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images

One major change to products over the years is advertising. Forty years ago, branding was much bolder and more abrasive, like these cereal boxes stacked in a store in 1989.

All-Bran, Special K, Corn Flakes, and Nutri-Grain all stick out like a sore thumb and of course, the fonts all seem a little dated compared to what we’re used to these days. The way stores merchandised their stock was also very different back in those days, opting to go for sheer quantity rather than considering how much they could really sell. Can you spot your favorite in the mix? It’s Nut & Honey Crunch all the way for us!

Madonna Madness

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Love her or hate her, you can’t deny that Madonna is an icon. From the moment she exploded onto the scene in the early ’80s, her risque fashion choices and catchy pop tunes made her an instant star. Madonna fever was everywhere, and fans went in hard.

Here, a fan is pictured at one of her 1987 concerts holding up a sign in the hopes that he’ll be noticed by Madge. Clearly influenced by her style, he’s decked himself out with lots of layered jewelry and an all-black ensemble. Madonna’s fashion was almost as popular as her music back then.