Notable moments in geek history from 1985

Geekend blogger Wally Bahny highlights why 1985 was a very good year for geek history. Tell us what milestone from that year should be added to this list.

Network World recently released its list of the 25 geekiest 25th anniversaries. The following items are my 12 favorites from that list.

  1. Back to the Future One of the greatest action/sci-fi franchises of all time, Back to the Future was launched and set (to start with) in 1985. Back to the Future was the highest grossing film of the year and won numerous awards. While it's still five years away, we have yet to see any evidence of the flying cars that will be available by October 21, 2015. You know I'm waiting for mine. Also, who can't find a use for a Mr. Fusion?
  2. Apple LaserWriter The first ever laser printer for Macintosh computers, the LaserWriter ran at 8 ppm and printed at a resolution of 300 dpi. This printer cost $6,995 back then; are there any laser printers that cost that much now? I haven't seen many over $699.50. A printer of this quality would cost about $69.95 today — if you could get one that bad.
  3. Amiga 1000 With servers nowadays capable of supporting 256 GB of RAM (and desktops not too far behind), the Commodore Amiga 1000's 256 KB is almost laughable. However, with a price tag of $1,595, the Amiga was a fairly inexpensive computer at the time. Also, as a veritable media powerhouse (at the time), the Amiga was very popular for video editing and production. It could support as many as 16.8 million colors with a more expensive chipset.
  4. Blockbuster Video Catching on to the booming VHS market, Texas start-up Blockbuster Video has covered the United States and several other countries in the ensuing years, making video rentals easily accessible for nearly everyone. The doors first opened on October 26th, and the first late fee was collected two days later.
  5. Buckminsterfullerene C60 Better known as Buckyballs, and named after famous architect Buckminster Fuller, Buckminsterfullerine is a spherical arrangement of 60 carbon atoms. These atoms are arranged in such a way that they directly match the layout of a common soccer ball (pentagons surrounded by hexagons).
  6. New Coke The New Coke sounds great! Well, it wasn't. Within two days of its April 23rd release, 80% of Americans noticed the change. Many of the most vocal who weren't happy were in the southeast, where Coke is traditionally created and bottled and is considered a part of the region's identity. By July, Coca-Cola had returned to the Coke Classic formula.
  7. Cray-2 The Cray-2 supercomputer was one of the first supercomputers to use 100% integrated circuits (ICs), packed tightly onto circuit boards, which were then stacked until they were about three inches thick. Since the ICs were so tight, Cray also had to submerse the cards in Fluorinert, an inert fluorocarbon liquid. The Cray-2 was the top supercomputer — capable of 1.9 GFLOPS — for five years until it was bumped off by the ETA-10G in 1990. To compare, a modern ATI Radeon R800 GPU runs at over 3000 GFLOPS.
  8. Discovery Channel One of nearly every geek's favorite TV channels, the Discovery Channel was launched as a joint venture between BBC and American television investors. What geek would be complete without MythBusters, Storm Chasers, or any of the channel's other high-quality shows?
  9. Dot-com 1985 also marks the very first dot-com registrations. Beginning with (which is now a personal blog about business, domain names, and life in general and very proud of its status as "first"), several more dot-com domain names were registered that year. Just think: It was more than a year before the dot-com boom officially started.
  10. The Jetsons returns Every kid (or kid-at-heart) in the 80s remembers The Jetsons — it is one of my favorite cartoons of all time. The show's new production run started in 1985 and yielded about 50 of the show's 75 total episodes (the other 25 or so were created in the 1960s). For anyone not familiar with The Jetsons, the show is set in the unspecified future, where humans own robot housemaids, drive flying cars, and live in houses on stilts in the sky. We might even see a live-action The Jetsons sometime in the future.
  11. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) While not the first well-accepted game console, the NES literally blew the forerunner, Atari 2600, out of the water when it came out in 1985. With 8-bit graphics and shipping with the all-time favorite Super Mario Brothers, the NES became the best-selling console game system of its time. The NES held nearly the entire market until the early 1990s when Sega Genesis and then the Super Ninendo eclipsed its popularity.
  12. Microsoft Windows 1.0 Windows 1.0 was a 16-bit operating environment that was capable of multi-tasking in a graphical user interface. Without Windows 1.01, released in 1985 after a two-year wait (Microsoft never did wring the kinks out of its development cycles), we wouldn't have such gems as Windows 3.1 (released later that decade), Windows 95, Windows XP, and now Windows 7.

The other 13 geek anniversaries on the list

  • The release of Citizen's AM/FM watch
  • AOL
  • British Telecom starts phase out of its red telephone kiosks
  • Chess'N Math Association
  • Richard Stallman publishes his GNU Manifesto and founds the Free Software Foundation
  • TV show MacGyver debuts
  • MIT Media Lab is founded
  • Steve Jobs founds NeXT, Inc.
  • Sinclair-C5
  • Discovery of the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic
  • Unabomber Ted Kaczynski sends four bombs throughout the year
  • Broderbund releases Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
  • Scientific paper published describing the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica

Missing from the list

One item that I think should have made the list but didn't is the release of another pinnacle movie in geekdom: The Goonies. The film depicted every kid's dream: finding a treasure map and chasing after the treasure. Starring some now-well known actors, including Sean Astin (Samwise from The Lord of the Rings) and Josh Brolin (title character from W.), the movie is just as much fun to watch now as it was when I was a kid. And, since these kids are just like many of us were at that age, it's not hard to imagine that they would have similar careers to you and me.

Geek anniversaries

What do you think of the list? Did Network World get it right, or did they leave off anything significant? Also, what's your favorite geek anniversary from 1985? Share your thoughts in the discussion.

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