30 Things Turning 30 This Year

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Though we often forget it in favor of its younger and more popular sibling (1984), 1983 was a banner year for American culture: It is the birth year of the first McNugget, the D.A.R.E. program, and the first modern incarnation of the Internet. So if you're turning 30 this year, you're not alone—here are 30 things to celebrate with.

1. The McNugget

Evan-Amos / Wikipedia

McDonald's executive chef Rene Arend created the Chicken McNugget way back in 1979, but it wasn't available in McDonald's restaurants nationwide until 1983 because there simply wasn't enough processed chicken to go around. Oddly enough, that McNugget shortage was what led Arend to create the McRib in 1981. Arend told Maxim in 2009, "There wasn't a system to supply enough chicken. We had to come up with something to give the other franchises as a new product. So the McRib came about because of the shortage of chickens."

2. D.A.R.E.

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Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) was established to teach school kids to avoid drugs, gangs, and violence. It was one of the most visible parts of the U.S. "War on Drugs" for kids, who sat in D.A.R.E. sessions in elementary school and wore the trademark black tee shirt with red writing. Although D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983, it's often linked with Nancy Reagan's famous "Just Say No" slogan, which first appeared in 1982.

3. The Swatch Watch

Khalid Mahmood / Wikipedia

The Swatch Watch was introduced in March, putting a decidedly '80s twist on classic Swiss craftsmanship. An analog Swiss wristwatch, Swatch competed with the trend of digital watches of the day. Fifteen years later in 1998, Swatch introduced the short-lived "Swatch Internet Time" concept, in which days were broken up into 1000 ".beat" increments.

4. TCP/IP on ARPANET ("The Internet")

Kim Meyrick / Wikipedia

On January 1, 1983, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) switched its networking technology to TCP/IP, arguably marking the moment that the modern "Internet" came into being. While the details of TCP/IP are kind of boring, it led to exciting innovations like the World Wide Web in 1989.

5. R.E.M. and "Weird Al" Yankovic's First Albums

Wikimedia Commons

The year 1983 saw the first full-length albums from two decidedly different musical acts: R.E.M. and "Weird Al" Yankovic. R.E.M.'s album Murmur featured "Radio Free Europe," and marked the earliest glimmer of radio-friendly "Alternative" music in the U.S. Weird Al's self-titled debut featured "I Love Rocky Road" (a parody of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll") and "Another One Rides the Bus" (a parody of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust"), and has the distinction of being the only Weird Al record in which accordion is prominently featured on every song.

Honorable mention: Red Hot Chili Peppers released a demo tape in 1983, though they didn't release a full-length album until 1984.

6. The Moonwalk

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Michael Jackson introduced his signature "moonwalk" dance move during the TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever in which he reunited with his brothers from the Jackson 5. The move was shown during a performance of "Billie Jean," and the crowd went wild as it happened. Of course, similar moves had been used before, but 1983 was the first time we called it the moonwalk, and the first time Michael Jackson did it.

7. Plinko

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On January 3, 1983, the game show The Price is Right introduced its now-classic game Plinko. In the game, contestants win chips by guessing digits within the prices of products; then those chips are dropped into a peg-board, where they fall into slots with varying cash prize amounts. If you like Plinko, you'll love this incredibly detailed breakdown of the game and its history.

8. Mama's Family

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NBC premiered the show Mama's Family (a spinoff of The Carol Burnett Show) on January 22, 1983, starring Vicki Lawrence. NBC canceled the series in May 1984, but the show continued to produce new episodes as an extremely successful first-run syndication program through 1990. Children of the '80s could always catch a syndicated episode of Mama's Family on afternoon TV. (New viewers may require a family tree to keep track of the characters.)

9. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi


Amazon

Originally entitled "Revenge of the Jedi," Return of the Jedi was the triumphant conclusion to the original trilogy of Star Wars films. It introduced Ewoks, a second Death Star, and gave us a peek of what Darth Vader looked like without his mask (spoiler alert: it ain't pretty). In bonus creepy points, Luke also learned that in The Empire Strikes Back, he'd totally kissed his own sister. ("Noooooooo!")

Honorable mentions:  1983 also saw the release of A Christmas StoryWarGamesFlashdanceRisky BusinessStrange Brew, and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

10. Sweet Valley High

AV Club

Francine Pascal and her merry band of ghostwriters launched the Sweet Valley High series for preteen girls, which ran for 20 years and 152 books. (2011 and 2012 saw the release of Sweet Valley Confidential and The Sweet Life, respectively, which followed the Valley girls as adults.)

11. The American Minivan

IFCAR / Wikipedia

The Dodge Caravan was first produced in November of 1983, featuring a boxy design, seating room for seven (!), and a family-friendly amount of interior space that still fit within a typical suburban garage. (The Plymouth Voyager was basically the same vehicle with a Plymouth nameplate on it and some styling changes.) 1983 was the first year your family could drive the minivan through a McDonald's drivethrough to eat McNuggets on your way to see Return of the Jedi. Of course, due to car model years, you'd be cruising in a "1984" model minivan.

12. Mario Bros. (Arcade Game)

Nintendo released the original Mario Bros. arcade game, unleashing the Italian plumbers Mario and Luigi into the game-playing world. Mario had first appeared in Donkey Kong in 1981, but he was then named "Jumpman" and was a carpenter—presumably he spent the next two years learning the plumbing trade and developing a hatred of turtles. The same year, the laserdisc-based "Dragon's Lair" was introduced, with fully animated graphics but annoyingly difficult gameplay.

13. Hooters

Hooters launched its first restaurant in Clearwater, Florida on October 4, 1983. Today the chain has more than 450 locations, and continues its reliance on waitresses wearing jogging shorts and tight tee shirts. From the official Hooters History:

Hooters was appropriately incorporated on April Fool's Day, 1983, when six businessmen with absolutely no previous restaurant experience got together and decided to open a place they couldn't get kicked out of.

14. Sony Camcorder

YouTube / Edmunds Bury

In 1983, Sony introduced its first Camcorder for consumer use. It was called the Betamovie BMC-100P and recorded on Betamax tapes. Later that year, JVC released its own camcorder using the VHS-C format...and we all know how that particular format war worked out.

15. AOL

AOL was founded in 1983, though at the time it was called Control Video Corporation (CVC). CVC's first offering was "GameLine," a modem-based game service for the Atari 2600 video game console. The company experimented with different business models (all involving online components) before hitting it big in the 1990s with its AOL dialup service.

16. The Apple IIe

Apple released its Apple IIe personal computer, often stylized as the Apple //e. It was released in January 1983 and was produced until late 1993, making it one of the longest-lived personal computers ever made. One of its banner features was the ability to display lowercase letters. (PREVIOUS MODELS USED ALL CAPS.)

17. Pet Sematary

Wikipedia

Stephen King's 1983 novel Pet Sematary was inspired by a real pet cemetery where the author's daughter Naomi buried her cat Smucky in 1978. King was reluctant to submit the manuscript because many of the story's events were inspired by his family (though Smucky did not show up again), but at his wife Tabitha's insistence, King used the book to fulfill his contract with Doubleday. A limited run of the 30th anniversary edition is slated for release this November.

18. Cabbage Patch Kids

Though Xavier Roberts's hand-sewn "Little Person" dolls were first available for adoption in 1976, most people had never been to Cleveland, Georgia's "Babyland General Hospital" to pick one out. Roberts worked with Coleco to mass-market the dolls under their new name, Cabbage Patch Kids. Though a few early-adopters picked up their Kids in 1982, the official launch (and the height of their popularity) came in 1983.

19. The Disney Channel

Disney Wiki

On April 18, 1983 at 7am, the Disney Channel launched with Good Morning, Mickey!, a 30-minute compilation program featuring classic Disney shorts and a brief fitness segment called Mousercize (Jazzercise had been a staple of American fitness since the late 1960s).

Honorable mentions: 1983 also saw the launch of Country Music Television (CMT) and The Nashville Network (TNN, later rebranded "The National Network" in 2000 and then "Spike TV" in 2003).

20. Reading Rainbow

Original episodes of Reading Rainbow ran from 1983 through 2006, then in reruns through 2008. It introduced a generation of kids to the slogan, "Take a look—it's in a book!" In 2012, host LeVar Burton announced the Reading Rainbow iPad app, which reached the #1 slot in Educational Apps within 36 hours.

21. The A-Team

The first episode of The A-Team aired on NBC on January 23, 1983. The series would end on December 30, 1986, but not without going down in pop culture history. (The 2010 feature film will likely be less fondly remembered.) Remember, folks: "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team." (Seriously, you can still hire Mr. T as a motivational speaker.)

22. J.Crew

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Originally branded as "Popular Club Brand," J.Crew launched in 1983 as a lower cost alternative to Ralph Lauren's near monopoly on preppie-only clothing. The brand has been back in the public eye over the past half decade largely because of Michelle Obama's fondness for the company's clean lines and affordable prices.

23. StairMaster

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The first StairMaster (the ambitiously numbered "Model 5000") was a rotating staircase, with none of the fancypants heart-rate monitors or workout information screens the sophomore effort would feature, but it changed the face of cardio exercise for the next 30 years. The latest StairMaster product, the StepMill 5, comes fully loaded with an HDTV and iPod connectivity.

24. Care Bears

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Before the cartoons, plushes, and books, Care Bears were a line of greeting cards developed by American Greetings. When the characters premiered to the general public in February 1983 at the New York City Toy Fair, a series of six books and the Bears' first animated TV special ("The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings") soon followed.

25. My Little Pony

Wikimedia Commons

As a follow-up to the popular My Pretty Pony released in 1981, My Little Pony began as a line of toys, which then exploded into a TV series, special edition and mail-order-only toys, books, and various other merchandise. The fourth generation series from 2010 (often called "G4") enjoys a cult-like following by super-fans called Bronies. But it wasn't until the Ponies turned 29 that the New York Times ran this internet-shattering correction to a story:

An article on Monday about Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith, two college students with Asperger syndrome who are navigating the perils of an intimate relationship, misidentified the character from the animated children's TV show "My Little Pony" that Ms. Lindsmith said she visualized to cheer herself up. It is Twilight Sparkle, the nerdy intellectual, not Fluttershy, the kind animal lover.

26. Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari / Reddit

Lots of people were born in 1983, but Aziz Ansari is our favorite. Ansari was born on February 23. In 2012, Ansari told GQ: "I think a lot of people my age are really kind of surprised when they meet someone they really like." Well, we like you, Aziz.

Runners up include Carrie Underwood, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino, if you aren't a Community fan), Mila Kunis, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonah Hill, Chris Hemsworth, and Alison Brie.

27. Microsoft Word

Courtesy of MuseumVictoria

Originally named "Multi-Tool Word," Microsoft's classic word processor ran on Unix systems before it appeared on MS-DOS, Mac, Atari, and eventually Windows. Microsoft released the first demos of Word for MS-DOS in the November 1983 issue of PC World—making it the first program ever distributed on a floppy disk bundled in a magazine.

28. Trump Tower

Image: Wikipedia

The United States' 51st tallest building completed construction on November 30, 1983. Since then, notable tenants have included Bruce Willis, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, and of course, Donald Trump.

29. American Diversity in Space

Image: Wikipedia

After its first flight in April, 1983, the Space Shuttle Challenger sent Sally Ride and Guion Bluford—the first American woman and the first African-American—into space in the same year. (Canada wouldn't have its own spacefaring representative until 1984.)

30. The Ongoing Eruption of Kilauea

Image: Wikipedia

On January 3, 1983, the volcano Kilauea in Hawaii began spewing lava, and has not yet stopped. This is the longest period of eruption in the volcano's history, and one of the longest on record for any volcano. Keep blowing your top, Kilauea!

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March 14, 2013 - 10:00am
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