How visiting Gosport took me right back to the 1980s: OPINION

I went back three decades by visiting Gosport the other day. It was wonderful. Hideous fashions, hairstyles that time forgot, and tech wizardry including calculator watches and Betamax video cassettes ...

Monday, 14th October 2019, 2:47 pm
Hair was bigger in the 1980s ...

‘And that was just the locals browsing the market in the High Street’ I can hear the heartless quip. Boom boom, as Basil Brush would no doubt say.

But that’s not true. In Gosport High Street it was very much the year 2019. The proliferation of charity shops and empty store premises confirmed that quickly.

A very short walk away in the Gosport Gallery, though, it was the era of Thatcherism, shoulder pads, Top of the Pops attracting weekly audiences of 15 million, Dirty Dancing, the Rubik’s Cube and Phil Collins dominating the pop charts (25 top 40 singles in the decade).

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1980s copies of Smash Hits and The Beano

Welcome to Matt Fox’s collection of around 200 wonderful artefacts. Welcome to my youth. Welcome to the 1980s.

It’s a cliche to say that if you remember the 60s you weren’t there. But I remember the 80s clearly, and I was certainly there. Wandering around the Gallery’s exhibits, the memories came flooding back – a Marathon bar, a bottle of Lucozade when it was used as a purely medicinal drink, a packet of sweet cigarettes (imagine them now!), Smurf figurines, novelty rubbers, a Donkey Kong game machine, Athena posters, a £1 note.

Nostalgia leapt out from every display box. A Live Aid programme, tickets for Madonna and George Michael concerts – £16 (Wembley, 1987) and £14.50 (Earls Court, 1988) respectively.

A copy of Smash Hits, which in 1989 sold a million copies of a single issue. In 2006 it ceased to exist, another victim of the inexorable advance of the internet. 

Music was better in the 1980s. Yes it was, even though Spitting Image hit the No 1 spot in the UK charts with 'The Chicken Song'.

A copy of The Beano, which in 1988 boasted a million Fan Club members – long before characters like Pansy Potter were consigned to the dustbin of history.

And also, in many respects, the star attraction, a 1981 Betamax video recorder. Weighing in at 15kg – around two and a half stone – this was the technology I grew up with. Video cassettes cost £50 or more back then, hence why rental shops like Blockbuster sprang up everywhere. That was the 1980s. Some days I wish I could go back there…


Mind boggling, if you really stop and think about it ...

Simon, the hand-held memory game

My God, how technology has changed in our lifetimes.

Hardly a shocking statement, I know, but visiting the 1980s exhibition in Gosport well and truly hammered it home to me.

A 1984 advert for a Firefly Hard Disk was described as ‘an external storage drive for the BBC Micro offering 7.5MB of additional space’. How much do you think that cost? A cool £849. Plus VAT.  You could have bought two Sinclair C5s for that price (though in fairness why would you have wanted to!) Incredibly, that ‘additional space’ equates to around a single iPhone photo today. Adjusted for inflation, £849 (plus VAT) in 2019 cash equals £3,200. Mind boggling, if you really stop and think about it.


Poster for the exhibition at The Gosport Gallery, running until December 31 (10am-4pm). Admission free (3 suggested donation).

I thought my watch was cool. I also thought I was cool...

I had a calculator watch in 1984. I was 15 and I thought it was cool. I also thought I was cool. Armed with the benefit of hindsight, I appreciate I was possibly wrong on both counts.

My kids will never know the sheer excitement of owning such a watch, knowing they were at the vanguard of a tech revolution.  ‘But dad,’ my 15-year-old daughter will say. ‘I have 5,000 pictures on my mobile phone. You had to send your photographs off to be developed and wait a week for them to be posted back to you.’ ‘Nearer a fortnight,’ I replied, but I could see this was a conversation I could never win.  To them, the 80s might as well mean the 1780s and I am Victorian Dad from Viz.


1980s sweets on display at the Gosport Gallery