15 things found in homes in the 1980s

New Romantic bands, shoulder pads, Leslie Crowther giving away white goods as if they were loose change on ‘The Price is Right’ – the 1980s was a decade that certainly stood out in terms of fashion trends and cultural expression.

Kitchen resized

The consumer experience also underwent something of a revolution, with advances in technology and shifting social habits driving a demand for the latest household goods. People took great pride in what they bought and displayed in their homes – keeping up with Joneses had never been more important.

So here we’re going to look back and give you the chance reminisce – or discover, for those younger readers – 15 classic items you would have found in a typical British home in the 1980s. Enjoy...

1. The video recorder

video recorder

Forget your speedy broadband downloads, if you wanted to watch the latest films, you rented them from your high-street video store and slotted the cassette into your trusty video recorder. ‘Trusty’ providing the tape didn’t get mangled in the machine, of course.

The element of ‘recording’ was also an unpredictable feature. The technology only allowed you to record periods of time rather than actual TV shows, meaning you were at the mercy of the TV schedulers. If you were out and had timed the machine to record the latest episode of ‘Dynasty’ in your absence, the station’s running order might well have over-ran (live snooker a common culprit) and you were likely to miss the cliff-hanging ending.

But the concept of owning a film or a TV show that you could watch any time you wanted was a novel one that the nation fell in love with.

And for those homeowners concerned that visitors might view them as uncultured if a stack of videos lined their lounge bookshelves, there was always the option of hiding your videos in those hard-back cases designed to look like classic books. Class.

Read more

2. The cordless phone

1980s meme  Mobile phone resized

You used to have to be prepared to take a phone call – a pen and notepad within easy reach every time. But then the cordless phone came along and people were suddenly free to walk around while still taking a call. Pop upstairs to consult the paperwork you were talking about? No problem. Check on the kids in the garden or put the dinner on? Go for it. Talk about a revolution.

Only these phones were massive. And weighed a fair bit. But cordless phones were a taste of the future, so homeowners flocked to get one.

Read more

3. Laminated kitchen cabinets

1908s meme  Kitchen  revised resized

Kitchens were becoming bigger and more important for homeowners in the 1980s – socialising with guests was no longer restricted to the living room.

And as many homeowners splashed out on a fitted kitchen including mod-cons such as the microwave (more on that later), food processor, electric mixer, toaster, electric coffee pot and extractor fan, the style of the cabinet doors tended to be laminated.

A particularly popular look was the white laminated doors with oak trim design. Boy does it look dated now, but they were sturdy and made to last back then. Probably why a few of them are still around today...

Read more

4. A home computer/games console

game console

Very much at the heart of a new wave of home entertainment, a computer/games console was top of the Christmas wish list for pretty much every child at some point.

The Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amstrad and Atari were the major players, and before the days when most kids had televisions in their own bedrooms, many of these machines had to be hooked up to the home’s main television.

Many an argument ensued in those after-school hours over whether it should be Pac-Man or Neighbours on the box.

Read more

5. A Rubik’s Cube

1980s meme  Rubiks Cube  revised resized

They were everywhere, a full-on nationwide craze for children and adults alike, and it was amazing how many people claimed they could solve the Rubik’s Cube when one didn’t appear to be at hand.

Read more

6. An electronic keyboard

1980s Meme  Keyboard revised resized

Although buying one of these didn’t keep kids quiet as many parents probably hoped, they did at least keep them occupied. Many a home in the 1980s was filled the erratic synthesiser sounds of a Casio or Yamaha keyboard shrieking from an upstairs bedroom.

Read more

7. A microwave


This was an item that turned food preparation on its head. Again linked to the theme of business that dominated much of the decade, the time of one-income families was coming to an end and with both parents working the prospect of defrosting, cooking or reheating food quickly was a welcome one. The era of frozen convenience meals was born.

Read more

8. Glass tables

glass table

Many homeowners went for a ‘conference room chic’ look in their dining rooms. It was a decade of business after all with ‘Thatcher’s children’ having their day, and this sleek, transparent look proved very popular.

Read more

9. Digital watches

1980s meme  Watch revised resized

Telling the time without looking at a clock face? Now that was an exciting new world and plenty of people wanted in on it. Even the dodgy digital watches on sale for £1.99 flew off the shelves.

Read more

10. The Walkman

1980S Walkman meme resized

This was a revolutionary item that transformed music listening habits by allowing people to carry their music with them and listen through lightweight (or indeed flimsy) headphones.

Many teenagers would keep them on around the house, annoying parents as indistinct tunes seeped through the headphones.

Read more

11. Oversized sofas


When it came to lounge furniture, big was the order of the day. Huge, blocky sofas or recliner chairs that took up most of the room weren’t even frowned upon. Many went for decking theirs out large scale florals, while striking oversized rounded sofas were also popular.

Read more

12. A camcorder

camcorder Resized

Making home movies with sound, it’s no wonder the introduction of the consumer camcorder in the early 1980s caused a phenomenon, despite the sheer bulk of the early models. All of a family’s precious moments could now be recorded and played back time and time again – birthday parties, weddings, Christmas celebrations and, not before long, falling off a garage roof and sending the clip off to Jeremy Beadle.

Read more

13. The ghetto blaster

1980s Stereo Meme resized

Sometimes referred to as either a boombox, jambox, boomblaster or simply a radio cassette deck, these portable units could play recorded music and receive radio broadcasts. It’s safe to say ‘portable’ was a loose term considering some of them were as big as suitcases (literally) and weighed a ton.

Many models also gave users the chance to record on to cassette tapes from another cassette or the radio – cue plenty of youngsters recording tunes from Radio One’s top 40 countdown every Sunday. The challenge was to press the ‘stop’ button before the presenter jumped in and talked over the ending.

Read more

14. A digital radio alarm clock

Alarm clock

It’s hard to believe that these felt state-of-the-art but at the time they genuinely did. The sound coming out of them wasn’t exactly crisp, but they sure were loud and did the job of waking you up in time to catch TV-am.

Read more

15. Connect Four

connect four

Away from the more technologically-advanced gadgets of the era, let’s finish off with something more old-school. Connect Four, a two-player strategy-based board game where the winner is the first to connect four of their discs in a row, was a huge hit in the 80s. Simple to set up, simple to understand, not quite so simple to win, it was a classic. And all the parents would let their children beat them ‘on purpose’ of course.

Read more