25 Things Turning 25 in 2017

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If you were born in 1992, you're in good company! Here's our annual list celebrating 25 things (people, companies, movies, books, etc.) turning 25 this year.

1. WAYNE'S WORLD

On February 14, Wayne's World graduated from Saturday Night Live sketch to feature film. No way?! Way!! Featuring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey and directed by Penelope Spheeris, it was a landmark comedy that both reflected and affected '90s pop culture. It single-handedly revived Queen's song "Bohemian Rhapsody," introduced the world to the intellectualism of Alice Cooper, and convinced teens that public-access TV was worthwhile after all. As a pair of wise men once said: "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"

2. THE FIRST TEXT MESSAGE

On December 3, 1992, 22-year-old engineer Neil Papworth sent the first text message over a cellular network. He used a computer connected to the Vodafone GSM network to send the message to Vodafone director Richard Jarvis's Orbitel 901 mobile phone (which was gigantic, but technically "mobile" by 1992 standards). The message read: "Merry Christmas." Why the early Christmas greeting? Jarvis was at a Christmas party at the time.

3. BARNEY & FRIENDS

To the immense frustration of adults and delight of toddlers, the purple dinosaur Barney appeared on PBS on April 6. Barney & Friends was initially envisioned four years earlier as a direct-to-video series called Barney & The Backyard Gang created by Sheryl Leach, a Dallas elementary school teacher who wanted to create toddler-appropriate programming for her kids. (She noted that most programming for kids assumed too long an attention span, which led to the simplistic bits featured on Barney.)

If you missed this moment in television history, let's catch you up. Barney is a giant purple Tyrannosaurus rex made of cloth, who likes to sing and dance. He is utterly non-threatening, essentially a scaled-up version of a plush dinosaur toy. When a People Magazine article called the lyrics to Barney's songs "stupid," an era of Barney-bashing began. Toddlers didn't care one bit, and clamored for Barney merchandise, as an actor in a six-foot tall Barney costume embarked on a mall tour in December.

4. MALL OF AMERICA

On August 11, the Mall of America—the largest mall in the United States—opened in Bloomington, Minnesota. This was just one of many projects enacted by Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich, who created a World Trade Center in St. Paul, received a visit from Mikhail Gorbachev, and brought the Super Bowl to the Twin Cities in 1992.

The Mall of America was indeed the largest in the U.S., covering approximately 2.7 million square feet, though it was actually smaller than the Edmonton Mall in Canada. U.S. visitors didn't mind, as Minnesota's Mall contained, as the Los Angeles Times reported:

... the nation's largest indoor amusement park, the world's largest parking ramp, the world's largest indoor planting of live shrubs, the world's largest indoor miniature golf course, and arguably the world's largest concentration of Tivoli lights.

Asked about the Mall, humorist Garrison Keillor joked:

"Minnesota is where the shopping mall was invented, so it's natural that the biggest one should be there ... but some people disappear in them and never come out, thousands in Minnesota alone, and the Mall of America is going to triple the toll.

... Fifteen thousand shoppers will vanish in the next year, never to bring their purchases home, and the terrible tragedy is that they will not be particularly missed. Their families will simply order duplicate credit cards and go on without them."

The Mall eventually included 400 stores, 14 movie theaters, seven restaurants, five nightclubs, and 31,000 live trees and shrubs.

5. CARTOON NETWORK

On October 1, the first 24-hour channel devoted to cartoons debuted, courtesy of the Turner Broadcasting System. The channel was based in part on TBS's purchase of Hanna-Barbera and its back catalog, which contained roughly 1500 hours of animated content spread across 350 TV series and movies.

Jeffry Scott of the Cox News Service reported:

In a private ceremony Thursday, [Ted] Turner himself will launch the channel with a push of an Acme dynamite plunger on the front lawn of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s facility on Techwood Drive [in Atlanta].

The plunger will spark a fuse, which will explode a barrel of colored chicken feathers and confetti. Then, on a huge TV screen will pop the picture: a cartoon character named Droopy Dog introducing the world to Turner’s new "cartoon universe."

6. WOLFENSTEIN 3D

On May 5, the landmark game Wolfenstein 3D brought stunning first-person shooter graphics to DOS PCs. Developed by id Software, the game had a WWII theme, and you played as Allied spy B.J. Blazkowicz on a series of anti-Nazi missions. It was violent, it was technologically advanced, and it was a massive hit.

Considered the "grandfather of 3D shooters," Wolfenstein 3D was followed up quickly by Doom, which led to an explosion of first-person shooter games. Wolfenstein 3D was also hugely influential in proving the viability of shareware publishing, as the best-selling shareware of 1992.

You can play Wolfenstein 3D online for free using most modern desktop browsers.

7. THE DREAM TEAM

From July 25 to August 9, the 1992 Summer Olympic Games were held in Barcelona. They're best known—to American audiences, anyway—for the performance of the U.S. men's basketball team, which was the first to include current NBA players. We called it the "Dream Team."

The Dream Team featured an all-star lineup of 11 NBA players: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin. There was also a twelfth member, college player Christian Laettner (who would go on to the NBA). Their goal was to bring home a Gold Medal, and they crushed it.

They won all eight of their Barcelona games, with an average lead of 44 points. Interestingly, although the Dream Team did a great job, the 1956 U.S. team exceeded their performance, with an average of +56 points per game. Still, the Dream Team is often considered the best team ever assembled in any sport.

8. DR. DRE'S THE CHRONIC

Dr. Dre released his first solo album on December 15. It was a masterpiece of hip-hop production, and it was Dre's first appearance outside of N.W.A. The Chronic included tons of appearances by Snoop Dogg, kickstarting his career.

1992 was a huge year for ex-N.W.A. members releasing solo albums. In that same year, Ice Cube released The Predator, Eazy-E released 5150: Home 4 tha Sick, and MC Ren released Kizz My Black Azz. (D.O.C. was also involved with The Chronic.)

9. THE USDA FOOD PYRAMID

The USDA released its first Food Guide Pyramid in 1992. This guide was just the latest in a long series of food guidance offered by the USDA [PDF], but it was the first to take a pyramid shape. (The USDA based its design initially on Sweden's food pyramid, though the contents differed.)

Based on a broad platform of "Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta," the guide's visual design was informed by consumer research [PDF], which compared (among other things) a "bowl" shape divided into segments versus the pyramid design. The research read, in part:

... the differences between the pyramid and the bowl in communicating the proportionality and moderation concepts were large and highly significant (p<.001). Higher scores for the pyramid were consistent across all the subpopulations examined, including those for whom concern was greatest—children and individuals on food assistance programs.

In 2005, the USDA switched to what it called "MyPyramid," and in 2011 ditched the whole pyramid thing in favor of "MyPlate." The Food Pyramid's guidance remains controversial.

10. EURO DISNEY

On April 12, Euro Disney opened in Paris. French citizens weren't too enthused, seeing it as an invasion of American commercialism. (Disney CEO Michael Eisner was hit with eggs and presented with "Mickey, Go Home!" protest signs when he appeared at the Paris stock exchange.) Americans weren't particularly keen either, already having world-class Disney parks at home. Visitors couldn't even drink wine in the park when it first opened. French commentators called it a "cultural Chernobyl."

The park was eventually renamed Disneyland Paris, and became the most-visited tourist attraction in Europe. In 2015 it attracted more visitors than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower combined. Unfortunately, this visitor traffic has not led to profit, and the park has faced financial troubles over the decades.

11. SUPER MARIO KART

Super Mario Kart started the Mario Kart racing game franchise on August 27, when it debuted in Japan. (It was released on September 1 in the U.S.) It boasted a multiplayer split-screen mode as well as excellent graphics (at least for a Super Nintendo game). Super Mario Kart went on to sell more than eight million cartridges and spawned many sequels.

12. IBM THINKPAD

IBM debuted its first ThinkPad laptop on October 5, 1992. Its name was inspired by an old line of IBM paper notepads that bore the slogan "Think." Although IBM introduced three sleek black ThinkPad models, the ThinkPad 700c was the star. It featured a 10.4-inch color screen, integrated TrackPoint pointing device (that little red nubbin in the middle of the keyboard), and a beefy 486 CPU. It was truly a powerful computer for its era, and at just 7.6 pounds, it was considered very portable. Of course, its $4350 price tag was a problem, but there were cheaper options (with monochrome displays) in the lineup.

Today the ThinkPad is manufactured by Lenovo, but its design and build quality are still reminiscent of that original 700C—minus most of the weight.

13. THE JPEG FILE FORMAT

In 1982, researchers began working on a computer file format that would store photographic data. The goal was to compress images so that photographs would be small, making them easy to download over low-bandwidth connections, and easy to store on small storage devices. The Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) formed in 1986 to develop the compression standard.

On September 18, the first JPEG standard was published, and the rest is computer history. The JPEG's ability to handle photographs (and other kinds of detailed imagery) while tossing out extraneous data makes it similar to the MP3 format for sound. Throughout the 1990s, JPEG joined file formats like GIF as the basis for web pages, and you're still looking at JPEGs on this website today!

14. THE NICOTINE PATCH

In 1992, the first prescription nicotine patch reached the market—four years later, it became available over-the-counter. The patch was developed by Dr. Murray E. Jarvik, a UCLA pharmacologist (and nonsmoker) who figured that delivering nicotine to smokers via a skin patch could curb their cravings, helping them to quit smoking.

Jarvik had a long history working with nicotine; in the 1960s he taught monkeys to smoke cigarettes and established that nicotine was the addictive ingredient. That discovery led to nicotine gum and eventually the transdermal patch.

15. THE ELVIS STAMP VOTE

Starting on April 13, pre-addressed ballots appeared at post offices around the U.S. They allowed the public to vote on two proposed designs for a stamp bearing the image of Elvis Presley. The key question: Should we show young Elvis or old Elvis? (Ahem, "mature" Elvis, with sequined white jumpsuit.) People Magazine ran a full-page ad asking the public to "Decide which Elvis is King." The vote ended on April 24, so there was a frenzy to acquire these ballots and make votes in the minimal time they were available.

The vote was a matter of public debate, with designs created by artists Mark Stutzman and John Berkey. (These were the finalists after eight artists submitted 60 sketches to the U.S. Postal Service.) More than 1.2 million ballots were cast, with roughly 75 percent of them selecting Stutzman's "young Elvis" painting.

The Elvis stamp itself was released on January 8, 1993—on what would have been Elvis's 58th birthday.

16. THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL

The Muppet Christmas Carol sleighed into theaters on December 11, 1992. An adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic, the film starred Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, along with the classic Muppet characters. (Kermit played Bob Cratchit and Gonzo played Charles Dickens himself, as the narrator.) It was the first Muppet movie made without Jim Henson.

The film was directed by Brian Henson, Jim's son. Jim had died on May 16, 1990, so Kermit was played by Steve Whitmire. Longtime Muppet puppeteer Richard Hunt died on January 7, 1992 before production began, and his characters (including Statler, Beaker, and Janice) were handled by other performers. The film was dedicated to the memory of the two men.

17. THE FREDDIE MERCURY TRIBUTE CONCERT FOR AIDS AWARENESS

Freddie Mercury died on November 24, 1991, aged 45. He was the first rock star to die from AIDS complications, and the remaining members of the band Queen organized a concert to promote AIDS awareness.

The tribute concert was held at London's Wembley Stadium on April 20, 1992. It featured a star-studded lineup including David Bowie, George Michael, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Metallica, Annie Lennox, Guns N' Roses, Seal, and U2. It was broadcast live to an international TV audience.

If you haven't seen the concert, head over to YouTube. It's fantastic. (The entire three-hour concert is also available for rent on various online services.)

18. GUNS N' ROSES'S EPIC "NOVEMBER RAIN" MUSIC VIDEO

"November Rain" is one of Guns N' Roses's longest songs, clocking in just shy of nine minutes. A lot of that is extended guitar solos and orchestral segments. To go with the song, the band put together an epic music video which, somehow, has more than 700 million views on YouTube.

Directed by Andy Morahan (who also directed such masterpieces as George Michael's "Faith"), the video featured model Stephanie Seymour—then Axl Rose's girlfriend—as his wife. The video cost more than $1.5 million to make (at the time, the highest-budget music video ever). A big chunk of that budget was devoted to building a chapel in the desert so Slash could wail in front of it while a helicopter zoomed by.

The video is famously complex, so much so that in 2014 Slash admitted that he had "no idea" what it meant. He commented, in part, "I knew there was a wedding in there somewhere and I was not into the concept of the wedding."

19. THE BODYGUARD AND ITS RECORD-BREAKING SOUNDTRACK

On November 25, The Bodyguard—starring Kevin Costner as the titular bodyguard and Whitney Houston as the pop star he's protecting—graced theaters. It was Houston's first film role, and it was a massive box office hit.

But more important than the movie was its soundtrack: Houston's iconic cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" was the standout hit, and the soundtrack was a blockbuster, currently ranked the 16th bestselling record of all time, and it is the number one bestselling soundtrack.

At one point in 1993, the soundtrack held five simultaneous number one positions on the Billboard charts. Now that's a hit record.

20. JAY LENO'S HOSTING GIG ON THE TONIGHT SHOW

On May 22, 1992, Johnny Carson finished his run as host of The Tonight Show on NBC. On May 25, Jay Leno became the new host, and Billy Crystal was his first guest. Branford Marsalis led The Tonight Show band, and Ed Hall was the new announcer. After Billy Crystal on that first episode, the guests were performer Shanice Wilson and Robert Krulwich (later co-host of Radiolab).

Leno was the fourth host of the show. Steve Allen was first, followed by Jack Paar, then Johnny Carson's incredible three-decade run. Leno hosted from 1992-2014 (with a brief interruption where Conan O'Brien had the gig from 2009-2010). After Leno's retirement in 2014, Jimmy Fallon took the hosting job and remains there today.

21. JOHN BOYEGA, DAISY RIDLEY, MILEY CYRUS, NICK JONAS ...

In a surprising turn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens costars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were both born in 1992. The Force is strong with this year. Here's a rundown of some famous birth dates:

Taylor Lautner - February 11

John Boyega - March 17

Daisy Ridley - April 10

Kate Upton - June 10

Selena Gomez - July 22

Demi Lovato - August 20

Nick Jonas - September 16

Miley Cyrus - November 23

22. THE INNOCENCE PROJECT

In 1992, lawyers Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck founded The Innocence Project. The organization's mission is to exonerate wrongfully convicted (innocent) people and reform the criminal justice system that convicted them in the first place. One of their key tools is DNA analysis, which sometimes was not available at the time of conviction.

To date, The Innocence Project has been involved with hundreds of exonerations, including cases in which they have helped find the actual perpetrator.

23. WEEZER, WU-TANG CLAN, BLINK-182...

1992 was an incredible year for alternative and hip-hop bands. Here's a partial list of bands formed that year:

Blink-182 (initially as "Blink")

Built to Spill

Bush

Collective Soul

Digable Planets

Elastica

Tha Dogg Pound

Hanson (initially as "The Hanson Brothers")

Harvey Danger

Jamiroquai

Less Than Jake

Nada Surf

Porno for Pyros

Seven Mary Three

Silverchair

Soul Coughing

Sunny Day Real Estate

Weezer

Wu-Tang Clan

24. DUTCH BROS. COFFEE

In 1992, brothers Dane and Travis Boersma opened the first Dutch Bros. Coffee location in Grants Pass, Oregon. The brothers were of Dutch descent, hence the company's name. They were former dairy farmers, trying their hand at a new business. They proceeded immediately on their mission of "Roastin' and Rockin'," then proceeded to spread across the country to more than 260 locations that continue "spreading the Dutch Luv" [sic].

25. JOINT DECLARATION ENDING COLD WAR

On February 1, U.S. President George H.W. Bush met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin at Camp David. The two issued a join declaration formally ending the Cold War, and declaring a new era of "friendship and partnership" between the two nations.

At the announcement, Yeltsin said, in part:

"Today one might say that there has been written and drawn a new line, and crossed out all of the things that have been associated with the Cold War.

From now on we do not consider ourselves to be potential enemies, as it had been previously in our military doctrine. This is the historic value of this meeting. And another very important factor in our relationship, right away today, it's already been pointed out that in the future there'll be full frankness, full openness, full honesty in our relationship."

The Joint Declaration promised all sorts of great stuff, including reducing strategic arsenals, promoting free trade, and promoting "respect for human rights." You can read the whole declaration for a taste of what the future looked like in 1992.

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January 3, 2017 - 8:00am
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