This month in 1983 saw a momentous event.
The ARPANET finally completed its migration to TCP/IP protocol. ARPANET was, as we all of course know, the preparatory ground for what would become the internet and… well, it’s all very complicated, but if it wasn’t for January 1983’s momentous moment, you may have been reading this on one of those weird old-fashioned things called a piece of paper.
1983 was to be a volcanic year in automotive history with the launch of the Western Group of Motoring Writers. It was also a more literal volcanic year – the unpronounceable Kilhauea in Hawaii erupted.
As you read this, it’s still spewing more hot air into the atmosphere than the collective editorial outpourings of the WGMW, which is no small feat.
Speaking of criminal activity, on January 19 Klaus Barbie was arrested in Bolivia. Barbie was thought to have been responsible for the deaths of 14,000 people and was known in WW2 as the Butcher of Lyons (where he aptly died in 1991 after four years’ imprisonment for war crimes). A lesser-known fact is that he was recruited by the British immediately after the war and went on to work for the CIA, being instrumental to their capture and execution of Ché Guevara.
More important than international espionage, of course, was the arrival of news delivered via cosy presenters sitting on sofas. This month was where it all started, with the BBC launching Breakfast Time and beating ITV by two weeks – a coup ITV never quite managed to overcome in the ratings war that followed.
Frank Bough, Selina Scott and Nick Ross were the gang of three who set the template for the decades of TV blandness to follow. Worst still, they unleashed Russell Grant and fitness freak the Green Goddess Diana Moran (below) on bleary-eyed innocent viewers. Another blow to entertainment was the death of comic genius Dick Emery, on January 2. He was awful, but we did like him.
Pop decided to clean up its act by appointing Gallup to take over the collation of the UK singles charts, a move which followed a scandal of falsified sales logs exposed by World in Action three years previously.
And the biggest number one in January? One hit wonders Renee and Renato dominated the charts for the first half of the month with “Save Your Love”, while the ubiquitous Phil Collins pushed them off top spot with “You can’t hurry love”.
Men at Work nudged into the end of the month, however, with “Down Under”, a ditty that did wonders for the sales of Vegemite sandwiches.
Clearly the world was a dangerous place thirty years back, especially if you believed in portents… spooky red rain fell across the UK on January 26, caused by dust sucked into the air over the Sahara. Over-zealous policing took a darker turn with the shooting of Steven Waldorf, mistakenly identified by detectives as fugitive David Martin, in a busy London street.
On a brighter note though, one aspect of life became a little safer: seat belts were made mandatory, after 11 years of the equipment being already compulsory as part of any new car’s specification. Airbags, alas, would still be a while to follow…