The 1980s were a time of great cultural, economic, and geopolitical change throughout the world. One of the greatest trends from this decade was the enormous changes in technology that took place. At the start of the decade, personal computers were the stuff of science fiction; at the close, they were increasingly commonplace in homes and businesses alike. Advances in communication and transportation technologies allowed for corporations to relocate to countries around the world; some of the major global corporations took root in places like China, Japan, and Thailand to take advantage of lower production costs, knowing they could readily communicate with headquarters half a world away and ship products with relative ease. This interconnectedness allowed people to know what was going on throughout the world with relatively little notice; news about conflicts that would have taken hours, if not days, to reach the masses could now be spread in mere minutes.
In addition, there were sweeping social changes taking place. In the United States, one of the growing social problems of the 1980s was the emergence of a new illness among homosexual men, first called Kaposi’s sarcoma, and later known as gay-related immune disorder. Over time, it would become known that this disease was not restricted to the homosexual community and would be subsequently classified as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The stigma and social response to this disease would mark not only the community in which it had the greatest impact, but also society as a whole.
Globally, governmental changes were taking place, as well. By far, the most impactful governmental change of the 1980s was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Visually, the most iconic form of this change came with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989; West Germany and East Germany would reunite at the start of the next decade. This change was rooted in another event of the 1980s: the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev to the position of leader of the Soviet Union. His policies of perestroika and glastnost would serve as some of the final nails in the coffin of the Soviet Union, contributing to the ultimate demise of the nation and the end of the Cold War. The legacy of this political development would be felt for generations the world over.