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Anatomy Of A Decade

The Legacy Of The 80's Lives On In The World Of Small Business.

This story appears in the December 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As we move into a new year--and, lest we possibly forget, closer to a new millennium--let us pause to consider Ronald Reagan, The Bonfire of the Vanities, "The Big Chill" and MTV. The 1980s were no joke. And though Oliver North, the Cold War and A Flock of Seagulls may be long gone, the '80s have, in many ways, set the stage on which we play out our contemporary lives. "We could argue the '80s never ended," says Gilbert T. Sewall, senior research associate at Boston University and editor of The Eighties: A Reader (Addison-Wesley). "Their so-called spirit has ended, but their legacy remains."

What exactly is this legacy? The knee-jerk reaction would be to dub the '80s the decade of greed. "The media constantly brings up this cliché," says Sewall. "It was more than that. It was a period of great invention and great energy." Cable television, microwave ovens, compact discs, fiber optics, satellites and ATMs were born, as were the first IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh. Sewall cites three monoliths that began their iron rule of America in the '80s:

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