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Technology in 1983

Subject: Technology

Description: My memories of technology in 1983

Posted by David Caldwell on 02/12/13 at 19:10

Technology in 1983

In 1983 I was ten years old and technology was evolving at a rapid pace, looking back it may seem like the technological dark ages but back in the day it was awesome.

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Music and Audio

Most people owned a transistor radio nicked name the ‘Tranny’, these could receive local and national radio stations and was how most music was listened to.

Tape Players

Personal Cassette players called ‘Personal Stereos’ or ‘Walkmans’ played purchased music tapes or music illegally recorded from the radio, the internet piracy of the day.

‘Ghetto Blasters’ were named after their ability to blast the ghetto with load music, even if the particular ghetto was rural Hampshire.  They were really just a combined radio tape player and recorder sandwiched between two speakers, fancy ones had graphic equaliser and bass knobs.  They ate a lot of batteries so were not practical portable devices and like most laptops were permanently plugged in.

Some had twin tapes designed specifically for making illegal copies of cassettes borrowed from mates.

Audio tapes had to be forwarded and re-winded.  When the end of the tape was reached you had to remove the tape from the device and turn it over.

Record Players

Most household owned a record player where albums and singles could be played using circular vinyl discs with a hole in the middle.  An arm with a needle called a stylus was placed on the record and a turntable would rotate it, the stylus would run around in a groove and this would get converted into sound.  You could even line up records by stacking them and when a record ended another would drop down. 

Often records would skip and this could be resolved by hitting the record player or by balancing coins onto of the stylus.  Most records could be played at different speeds, 44 revolutions per minutes was normal speed, 33 rpm produced something akin to whale song while 78 rpm sounded like Chipmunks on helium.

Television and Video

There was no digital or satellite TV, until 1982 we had to make do with just 3 analogue channels on the television after 1982 we had 4. 

Televisions were expensive pieces of technology and only the well-off owned one.  Most rented television sets from high street stores such as ‘Radio Rentals’ controls and ‘Rumbalows’.  There were even ‘pay as you go’ televisions into which users fed coins to watch.

Black and White sets were  a cheaper option and after a while watching television in black and white you really didn’t notice, your brain mapped a tone of grey to a real world colour.

Early infrared remote controls were starting to be introduced and were nearly the size of a brick.  Most television watchers had to get up from the sofa and walk across the lounge to change channels.     

Most homes only had the one television and watching television was a family activity.

In 1983 the first household video players were entering homes they were top loading beasts and rented alongside the telly.  Video rental shops sprang up across the land and films could be rented and watched at home.  The films had already been shown at cinemas but had not yet been shown on television.

Computer Gaming

In the early eighties home computers were becoming common place with models such as the Sinclair ZX81, the BBC model B and the Acorn Electron to name a few.

Alone these were great fun with rudimentary programming and the beginner could make their name be repeated in flashing colour across the screen. 

Advanced users typed out thousands of lines of code copied from magazines or wrote their own games.

Games could also be purchased and loaded from cassette tape but the game would have to wait up to 30 minutes for the game to load.


Although British Telecom released the Viscount Touch tone phone the previous year in 1983 in most home phones were the analogy rotary dial type, where to dial a number a digit had to be inserted in one of 10 holes and turned as far as the dial would go.  The finger would be removed and the dial would whirr back into position, ready for the next number.  The phone had only the one ring tone and it was attached to the wall or sat on a piece of furniture called a telephone table.

Away from the house you could make phone calls by using a payphone and if people wanted to contact you they couldn’t. 



If you wanted to know what was going on in the world you would read a paper, watch television or listen to the radio.  If you needed to look up something you would need to go to a library and read a book or look in the encyclopaedia.  Ceefax was the internet of the day and pages could be surfed in glorious 7bit Technicolor.

Do you have any memories of eighties technology?  Share them with us by leaving a comment.

Keywords: eighties, 1983, tape player, record player, ghetto blaster