gilest.org

This is an archived copy of the short-lived blogging I did over at tilde.club earlier this year.

Blogging about 1979

An important year: 1979 was a turning point in history, say some.

The Economist, When the world changed:

This was a year in which a series of momentous figures appeared on the world stage. Margaret Thatcher won the general election and became Britain’s first woman prime minister, staying in power for 11 years. Deng Xiaoping began to liberalise the Chinese economy. Ayatollah Khomeini established an Islamic republic. Karol Wojtyla travelled to Poland as the first Slavic pope. And in Afghanistan the mujahideen rose up against Soviet rule with the tacit support of the United States. It was also a year in which the twin forces of the market and religion, suppressed and discounted for decades, returned with a vengeance.

And Newsweek, Why 1979 was the year that truly changed the world:

Thirty years later, each of these four events has had far more profound consequences for the United States and the world than the events of 1989. Today it is the Americans who now find themselves in Afghanistan, fighting the sons of the people they once armed. It is the free-market model of Thatcher and Reagan that seems to lie in ruins, in the wake of the biggest financial crisis since the Depression. Meanwhile, Deng's heirs are rapidly gaining on a sluggish American hyperpower, with Goldman Sachs forecasting that China's GDP could be the biggest in the world by 2027. Finally, the most terrifying legacy of 1979 remains the radical Islamism that inspires not only Iran's leaders, but also a complex and only partly visible network of terrorists and terrorist sympathizers around the world.


¶ The winner of the 1979 Formula 1 season was Jody Scheckter. Here's a video overview of the season:


¶ What did the BBC broadcast on Christmas Day, 1979? This stuff, including Mike Yarwood, Michael Parkinson, To the Manor Born, and the opening episode of a new series of All Creatures Great and Small. The opening episode, notice. These days, you're more likely to get a series ending on Christmas Day - or simply a special Christmas episode that follows the end of a series. Like what happens on Doctor Who.


¶ The Einstein Memorial was unveiled in 1979. (Photo credit: Dan Smith.)


¶ In June, the 5th G7 summit was held in Tokyo.

Afterwards, Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons:

The Tokyo summit met against a background of rising inflation and higher oil prices, and this was underlined by the decision which OPEC made during the course of the Tokyo summit to raise oil prices still further. I am glad to report that the summit faced this situation realistically. We were all determined not to print money to compensate for the higher oil prices and we were united in feeling that if we were resolute in restraining demand for oil in the short term we had all the skills and incentives to enable us to reduce our dependence on uncertain sources of supply in the longer term.

A month later, US President Jimmy Carter delivered his so-called malaise speech, in which he said:

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

Read the whole speech.


¶ More on the winter of discontent:

A nice BBC slideshow with audio.

A summary at libcom.org:

Another memorable strike occurring towards the end of the winter was that of the waste collection workers. With many collectors having remained out since January 22, local councils were running out of space for storing waste. Rubbish was piled high in Central London's Leicester Square after Westminster Council had allocated rubbish to be dumped there.

And of course, the leader of the opposition made the most of the situation:


¶ According to NME, the Album of the Year was Fear of Music by Talking Heads. The top five albums were:

  1. Fear of Music - Talking Heads
  2. Metal Box - Public Image Limited
  3. Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division
  4. Setting Sons - The Jam
  5. Entertainment - Gang of Four

¶ The winter that started the year was a fierce one:

The winter of 1978/79 was the third coldest of the 20th century. Although December 1978 had been a rather cold month, the coldest weather was reserved for January and February. Both months were very cold with widespread snowfall. Particularly cold conditions were recorded during the middle of February. The cold winter probably compounded the industrial unrest during what famously became known as the winter of discontent.

... more from The Weather Outlook, including some photos.


¶ In 1979, Ridley Scott released a science fiction horror movie called Alien. Here's the trailer:

I was too young, but I can remember my older brother returning from the cinema after going with his friends. He was white as a sheet, and spent a while gleefully telling me about all the goriest, scariest bits. All I could do was imagine them.


¶ Three more:


¶ The big book of that year was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a book that had a profound effect on me. It fuelled a life-long interest in science, and fiction, and science fiction. Oh, and comedy, and gadgets, and the environment, and people, and travel, and towels. Many years later I was lucky enough to meet Douglas Adams and shake his hand. His work, I'm sure, shaped my thoughts as a child and as a young man, and helped to push me towards a career as a writer. But it began back in 1979, and it began with this book.


¶ The world population was 4,378,565,589 (compared with 7,176,023,055 today).

John Wayne died, and Rosamund Pike was born.


¶ British stamps looked like this, and were priced between 9p and 13p.

Marvel Comics published Demon in a bottle, which Wikipedia says was described as "the quintessential Iron Man story".


¶ 1979 began on a Monday. I was 8 years old. Boney M were at top of the UK chart with "Mary's Boy Child".

Pope John Paul II published a message of peace, but not on the internet, which was still very young.