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January, 1980: Young Americans

The metamorphosis of the American mind began in 1980, I was 9 years old.

January, 1980

Delivering papers just got easier, my ears saturated with sound as newspapers fly through the air. It was all I wanted for Christmas, a new thing called a Walkman. Children sing “We Don’t Need No Education” as I hurled papers to the beat.

I could now play my own soundtrack to the world, define the mood of the moment. But the Walkman came at a price, because it meant no funds for new video games.

What used to be cool, our Pong system, quickly became a bore. Space Invaders, Asteroids and others filled homes but I didn’t even have an Atari yet. However my friend did, so that’s my first stop after stomping through the snowy route.

My friend’s parents won’t let him use the color TV for Atari, but black and white was better than nothing, and welcoming like glowing coals in a fireplace.

I kicked off my wet moon boots, my friend is about to turn on the Atari, but then we stopped in silence at an image on TV. Crowds of Iranian students shout angrily as blindfolded Americans are paraded in front of the camera.

They’re American Hostages, and the people shouting hate them with a fervor I can’t comprehend. Why do they hate them? They must hate all of us. Who is going to free these defenseless Americans?

I don’t know the answer. My friend finally fires up the Atari, and suddenly we’re dodging asteroids and attacking alien invaders with eye-hand coordination that improves each time we play.

Maybe the Iranian people would like us more if they also had Walkman and Atari.