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TUPPER: Daily Republic series explores impact of 1980s - the decade that made us

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
The Daily Republic
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

For many people these days, renting a movie means selecting one from an Internet-based service and watching it instantly on a TV, computer or portable device.

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When I was a young child in the 1980s, this is how movies were rented in my world:

• Drive 10 miles to the Corner Pantry convenience store in Wessington Springs.

• Select a movie on VHS tape.

• Rent the movie and a suitcase containing the VCR player.

• Drive 10 miles to home.

Seth Tupper, Daily Republic Editor• Connect VCR player to TV and marvel at VCR player’s remote control, which was connected by a cord to the VCR player.

• Begin playing movie.

• Fiddle with the tracking buttons to get the picture to stop bouncing weirdly.

• Watch movie.

I am only 34 years old. The advancements in movie viewing during my lifetime are nothing short of astonishing. Similar stories could be told about computers, recorded music, video gaming, cell phones and so on.

Technologies rooted in the 1980s evolved rapidly and fundamentally changed the way we live.

That’s a source of pride for people like me who grew up in the ’80s, because it means we lived through an era that can truly be called transformational. And lately it seems like more and more people are taking note of the 1980s’ significant impact on our modern world. Or, maybe the people who grew up in the ’80s have just gotten old enough to influence debates about important eras in history.

Whatever the case, it’s fun to look back, and we at The Daily Republic are launching a series in today’s paper that does just that. The series was originally the brainchild of Publisher Korrie Wenzel, who graduated from high school in the 1980s (in Wessington Springs, by the way; meanwhile, my family later moved to Kimball, where I graduated).

Coincidentally, just before Korrie pitched me the idea, I had watched some episodes of a sixpart documentary series on the National Geographic Channel titled “The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us.” As the series’ website tells it, the 1980s “spawned political, technological, cultural and social revolutions that began in the United States and went on to dominate the world.” It’s a remarkably fun and fascinating series, and I quickly realized that we could produce something similar in print about our little corner of the world.

We’ve tried to make our own series both nostalgic and newsworthy. We’ve dug up stories that are fun to tell and sources who are good at telling them, but we’ve also tried to add some modern perspective by asking what impact is felt today from things that happened during “The Decade That Made Us.”

In our series, which will publish in periodic installments over the coming weeks, we address technological developments; the 1980s farm crisis; South Dakota politics and legendary figures from the 1980s like Bill Janklow; fundamental changes to Mitchell’s downtown that seemed to have their turning point during the ’80s; the rise and fall of the local 1980s roller-skating culture; a 1980s shift toward harsher enforcement of crimes; and more. Whenever possible, the stories will be accompanied by images from our archive of 1980s photographic negatives.

We hope you have as much fun reading the series as we’ve had reporting it and talking about it. We think it was worth doing, because the people who came of age during the 1980s will be among the last to remember the world before it was connected by computers and the Internet. Their stories can entertain us and help us understand how our modern world was shaped.

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