Signposts of the Decade

Notice we still don’t have a name for this decade. Names like ‘the Aughts’ and ‘the Zeroes’ never caught on—and with good reason. But decades are useful in describing the broad changes in our society, those glacial movements that are virtually imperceptible as we’re living through them, but show up clearly in the rear view mirror.

A few signposts for this decade, and the two that came before:

American Flag lapel pins
80s: Generally worn by conservative Republicans.
90s: Largely ignored.
00s: Reinstated as a symbol of patriotism and support for our government. Now worn by everyone, seen everywhere.

America the Beautiful
80s: Sung by Kate Smith at Philadelphia Flyers games when the home team really needed a win.
90s: Largely ignored.
00s: Thanks to Ray Charles and Willie Nelson, the new national anthem.

80s: The sun was setting on mainframes; minicomputers were still around, but by the end of the decade PCs were taking over.
90s: PCs indeed took over, but PDAs began to gain speed.
00s: PDAs? Certainly looks like it, doesn’t it.



The stock market
80s: Shaky at the beginning of the decade, then up strongly… until the big bust in 1987.
90s: Shaky at the beginning of the decade, then the biggest bull market in history.
00s: Shaky at the beginning of the decade, then…

The Web
80s: Nonexistent, unless you were one of a tiny handful of college professors.
90s: Fastest-growing medium in history; a whole industry was built around Web advertising.
00s: Viruses, porn, terrorist manuals. Oh, and also some advertising.

Most prominent sport
80s: NFL football
90s: NBA basketball—or, actually, Michael Jordan
00s: Can Michael Jordan two-peat?

80s: Excessively brainy social outcasts.
90s: Extraordinarily wealthy creators of life-changing technologies.
00s: Excessively brainy social outcasts.

Business attire
80s: Suits and ties, and whatever was the equivalent for women—of which there weren’t many in business anyway.
90s: Casual Fridays, then casual everything.
00s: Hello, Brooks Brothers.

80s: The Evil Empire
90s: Gone.
00s: “I miss the Commies” (from this week’s New Yorker)

U.S. Military
80s: Bloated--$700 toilet seats, $900 screwdrivers, stealth bombers, lots of aircraft carriers, and Star Wars.
90s: Desert Storm heroes—all that technology actually worked.
00s: Let’s really hope they’ve gotten even better.

Hot jobs out of school
80s: Consulting and investment banking.
90s: Venture capital, technology, and the Web.
00s: Anything, as long as the company’s likely to stay in business.

- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of Evaliant, one of the web's leading sources for online ad data.

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