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Björn Hellqvist
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Sweden in the 80's

Wed 28 Dec 2016, 05:15

Part 1 of 3

For those of us who experienced the 1980s, it was a time that felt very modern to us – of course. It might be difficult for young people today to imagine a world without Internet or cell phones. Almost all communication had to go over telephone landlines or by letter. It might not have felt like that back then, but everything was slower and required more planning than now. At the same time, it was an exciting and interesting time, and despite the fear of a third World War, it wasn’t a bad time to grow up. Here’s some information and trivia on what it was like to be a kid in 1980’s Sweden. I’ve included some information on post-15 years of age for context and what older siblings might be doing.

School was nine years, and there was usually better order in the classroom then than it is now. It was divided into lågstadiet (1st - 3rd grade), mellanstadiet (4th - 6th grade), and högstadiet (7th - 9th grade). If you didn’t live in an area with an immigrant population, it wasn’t unusual for classes to be almost completely ethnically Swedish, possibly with a classmate with parents from Finland or Yugoslavia, or one parent from e.g. Poland, or adopted from South Korea. The grading scale was from 1-5, with 5 being the highest grade. A bookworm averaged about 4 or better (phys ed didn’t count). In math lessons, you could use a calculator, but in the early 80’s, not everyone owned one, so there was usually some to borrow. A few years later, almost everyone owned one. In the early 80’s, computers were introduced in högstadiet, usually an ABC 80 from Luxor. On these wonders with 16 KB ROM (yes, kilobytes!) a generation of geeks learned to program in BASIC.

After 9th grade, most students continued with studies in gymnasiet. The “lines” weren’t pick-and-choose like in US college, but were courses with a fixed package of subjects. They varied in length from two years (vocational programs, such as electronics, engineering, automotive, office, or commercial for those who knew what they wanted to do), three years (for those with plans to apply for college or jobs with higher skill requirements, such as natural sciences, humanities, social science, technology, or economy), or four year technical (to become an engineer).

During gymnasium years, it wasn’t unusual to take a year off as an exchange student in for example the US, usually when 17 years old and of better-off middle class. It was also at that age many went on their first interrail trip together with one or more friends during the summer holidays, equipped with an InterRail pass which entitled to one month's unlimited travel by train in Europe (at least west of the Iron Curtain). Those who didn’t go abroad often had summer jobs, and it wasn’t hard for a teenager tired of school to take a year off to work instead. It was possible to get a job right after 9th grade, often simpler warehouse, industrial or craft work, or as a shop assistant or phone operator/clerk. The salary was usually half that of an adult, which was a fortune for a 16-year-old.

In your spare time, you could be in a club, for example a sports club. You could join a scout troop and learn to survive in the wild. Some played in garage bands. Otherwise, you could hang out at the youth center, or at the local corner shop. The nerdier hung out at the local library and looked for interesting books. Idle young people could amuse themselves by exploring abandoned houses, or exercise their destructive bent with pipe bombs made of a mixture of the herbicide Klorex-55 and sugar. In mid-1982, a game that introduced something new to the general public in Sweden arrived: "Drakar och Demoner". Roleplaying games had been played in Sweden since 1976, but only with English language rules. Suddenly you could experience a fantasy adventure around the table in the rec room, where differently shaped dice rattled across character sheets and pewter figures. The games soon attracted criticism for being "dangerous", just like heavy metal and violent movies...

Another danger for the young (according to concerned parents and politicians) was computer games. When home computers were still a rarity, it was common that kids went to a games arcade, with rows of arcade and pinball games. There was a 15-year age limit to play, but it was it ignore on a regular basis as long as you didn’t look too young. Where you could feed the krona coins in the slots of games like "Space Invaders," "Pac-Man," "Donkey Kong," "Asteroids" and others. In smaller towns, there wasn’t always a good range of games available, so what could be found was in the local diner, gas station or video rental place, which could have two or three games.

To be continued.
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.
 
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Björn Hellqvist
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Location: Sweden

Re: Sweden in the 80's

Thu 29 Dec 2016, 01:27

Part 2 of 3

Music was as important then as now, and most young people had a stereo system at home, if not your own, then at least one in the living room or rec room. Vinyl records was the standard format, even if CDs appeared in 1982. It was common to copy the records to cassette tapes, so that you could listen to music on a portable Sony Walkman (1980) or the stereo tape recorder ( "ghetto blaster"). Before MTV Europe began broadcasting in 1987, one of the best radio stations for new music was Radio Luxembourg. Pop, electro, new wave and hard rock were popular genres, and perhaps more a way to express one’s taste and personality than now. Giving a mix tape with favorite songs was a way to flirt with the opposite sex.

There were two television channels: TV1 and TV2 8for all intents and purposes state-controlled. Most people saw the same programs, the TV series had a very different impact than now. When the soap opera "Dallas" began to appear on Swedish television in 1981, it became a huge talking point. The years with major Swedish sports successes meant that the TV was something to gather around when Ingemar Stenmark competed in downhill skiing, or when Björn Borg played tennis (until 1983). When Stenmark was to compete, Sweden stopped. Even in the schools, there was a break from work to watch the race on a classroom TV set, or broadcast over the PA. Otherwise, not much happened. Broadcasts ended by midnight, so there were no news broadcasts around the clock. Text-TV (SVT text) began airing in 1979, but otherwise the news service was meager. The radio did not broadcast news between 23:00 and 06:00, but it was changed after the murder of Prime Minister Palme in 1986. The commercial TV3 began broadcasting in 1987, and Sweden began to approach other countries' media offering.

The most common way to watch a movie was in the cinema, and if it was a favorite movie, you had to take the opportunity to see it several times, because the chance of ever seeing it again was minimal. There was censorship, and the 15-year limit for “R” movies was usually strictly adhered to. It was a bit of a rite of passage to get into their first “R”-rated movie if you were under 15. The range of entertainment saw a revolution with the advent of VCRs. In 1980 they were still rare; less than 5% of households had a VCR, and the selection of films was mostly B-movies. That changed quickly as the 80’s progressed, with more households having VCRs and access to better movies. The video violence moral panic exploded in December 1980, with the movie "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" as a prime example of how the technology was horrible. That just made young people even more interested in watching violent movies. In 1983, the "movie box" was introduced, a simple video player you could rent along with movies and plug in your TV at home. It was programmed to work for 24 hours. One could rent three movies and a box for SEK 79-99 a day.

For teens who started to be interested in sex, "men's magazines" were the most common sources of pictures of nude women like “Fib-Aktuellt” and “Lektyr”. Porn was found in small specialty magazines such as “Piff”, which were sold by shady tobacconists and the like. As the videos became more common, porn videos became easier to come by, even if it was embarrassing for hormone-fueled teenagers to rent them. The more romantically inclined girls got their fill through magazines like “Vecko-Revyn”, “Frida” and “Starlet”.

Final part to come.
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.
 
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Björn Hellqvist
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Location: Sweden

Re: Sweden in the 80's

Thu 29 Dec 2016, 21:50

Part 3 of 3

Mobile phones existed, but they were bulky and expensive. In 1987, only 2% of the population owned mobile phones. One had to use the telephone network, which meant that you had to get hold of friends when they were at home. If you weren’t at home, you could call from a phone booth, a small kiosk with a robust telephone and a local phone book. If you had bad luck, it was vandalized and therefore unusable. One used to have a few krona coins in the pocket to be able to call from any of the 44,000 telephone booths that were all over the country. It was also possible to call a specific phone booth, if one had the number to it. In 1982, someone found out that you could call an unused phone number and have conference calls with others. Soon it became an established service called "The Hot Line", and became a popular way for young people to make contact. The equivalent today are online chats.

Digital technology started to appear. Digital watches had been around for years, but it was a little extra nerdy (or cool, depending on in which circuits you socialized) if you had a watch with a built-in calculator. Video cameras began to appear around 1985, but were expensive and rather bulky, and nothing parents wanted to see their teenagers borrow... Digital cameras weren’t available yet, so one had to use cameras with film rolls with 24 or 36 pictures, which one had to leave it to a lab for developing and printing, either at a local photo shop or send it by mail to one of the photo lab services. Then it took a week before the photos turned up in the mailbox, hopefully not too dark or blurry. In the absence of mobile phones, one could use walkie-talkies, perhaps bought on mail order from Hobbex. They had a range of 2-3 kilometers in the open and under favorable circumstances. Handheld games appeared, with Nintendo's "Game & Watch" (1980) as a prime example. Computers were expensive and relatively rare. If you had a computer at home, it could be a PC from IBM (1981), a ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 (1982), Macintosh (1984), or Amiga 1000 (1985). There was no Internet, but there were local networks at e.g. universities. The connection was via a telephone modem, and allowed for easier data communication (towards the end of the 80's modems had speeds of over 2400 bps).

Growing up in the 80’s was to worry about the Third World War, which most were convinced would be fought with nuclear weapons. The Cold War between the West and the East, with neutral Sweden sandwiched in the middle, left a mark on several generations. The threat from the Warsaw Pact was like a muffled background noise, and foreign submarines were discovered and hunted in Swedish waters almost every year. The years 1981-89, with Ronald Reagan as US president and several changes in the Soviet Communist party secretary post, were reason for worry, but some improvement could be observed towards the end of the 80’s when the Soviet Union introduced cautious reforms. Conscription for army service was a regular thing in Sweden, and all young men had to go to a garrison town for two days of tests the year one turned 18. About 85% of the young men in each year class did 7.5-15 months' military service, usually beginng the year you turned 20. For those who were younger, there were volunteer organizations like the Home Guard Youth or Air Force Youth, where a 15-year-old could to learn to shoot with Mauser. Sweden was a country that was prepared for war. Secret underground facilities held command centers, military hospitals, defense facilities, and stores with tens of thousands of tons of supplies and oil. The phone book contained information entitled "If there’s war", and most of the men had done military service and could be called up. Most cities had at least one regiment, so soldiers in uniform were not an uncommon sight. But despite the dark clouds, we tried to enjoy ourselves. Although there might not be a tomorrow, there was no reason not to enjoy oneself today.

There is so much more we could tell you about the 80's. It was a different time, a time that even we who experienced it find different. Yet it’s just a generation away.
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.
 
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Björn Hellqvist
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Re: Sweden in the 80's

Sun 01 Jan 2017, 18:37

edd:

Please I would love to have more details for both Sweden and 80s for us non-Swedes. Especially cultural domestic uniquenesses of Sweden in the 80s (in the Loop); i.e. I would never have known about Snus unless I hadn't been chatting to some Swedish smokers once, But also things such as would the average home in the Loop be wooden? brick? prefabricated? How much is there a class divide? would it be noticeable in the house interior (i.e. wallpaper vs wood, type thing).
Most of the homes featured in Stålenhag's art are typical single houses built in the 1940's - 80's. Wood is a common building material, but brick houses (red, yellow, or white 1970's "Mexitegel") are pretty usual. Houses tend to be two or single story, with an attic and a basement, and a garage on the side or part of the basement.

Image
1980's villa for a middle class family.

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1920's single house. The red walls and white corners is a very common paint scheme for Swedish wooden houses.

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Fairly common 1980's kitchen mixed with some older styles.

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The IKEA catalog, 1980! A boy's room, 1980's. The stereo is an important piece.

Prefab houses were (and are) common, but they were solidly made and most still stand today. Swedish houses have a more permanent feel about them, compared to the flimsiness of some US houses. Wall-to-wall carpeting was common in the 1970's, but wood, tile or plastic carpet are preferred thanks to ease of cleaning. Swedes remove their shoes when they enter the house or apartment; it's considered ill-mannered to drag dirt into someone's home. Most homes have wallpaper, but some 1970's houses can have a more rustic feel, with pine paneling in kitchen, den, and other rooms.

There's a class divide, but Swedish society tended to have less of the extremes seen in some other countries. Most people had jobs, a living wage, and enough money to afford a car and an annual vacation abroad. With a good social security net, few are really poor. Schooling and healthcare are free (or rather tax-funded). Mothers enjoy paid maternity leave for six months (it has been increased since the 80's). The school lunch is free, so no need for lunch money. The food was wholesome, often a bit bland, and served with milk.

Sweden has ranked high in knowledge of English for decades, and when one finished 9th grade, one had been taught English for 6-7 years (two 40-minute classes/week), leaving most kids fluent enough to manage to go abroad. Kids in grade 7-9 can learn a second language, usually German or French.
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.
 
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Björn Hellqvist
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Re: Sweden in the 80's

Mon 02 Jan 2017, 00:52

A note on the Swedish Army: until recently, it was a conscript army, which makes it next to impossible to use military as "bad guys", as all privates and NCOs would be conscripts, and not professional soldiers blindly following orders in governmental cover-ups. Any security matters would be dealt with by either private security companies (very lightly armed, if at all), corporate security (very lightly armed, too), or police.
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.
 
ysarius
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Re: Sweden in the 80's

Mon 02 Jan 2017, 03:35

Thanks.

As a French GM, I don't know Sweden in these times even I went in scandinavia in 90's for vacations.

Reading the game, I was dreaming to come back to visit this specific location that could gave me some visual inspirations ! ;)

Feel free to copy and add here informations about local places like the one in "Sweden Local places from Tales from the Loop" http://frialigan.se/forum/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=2671

This old prison (abandonned in these times ?) and the viking ruins should have been of great inspirations for children, no ?
 
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pelorus
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Re: Sweden in the 80's

Tue 03 Jan 2017, 02:05

A note on the Swedish Army: until recently, it was a conscript army, which makes it next to impossible to use military as "bad guys", as all privates and NCOs would be conscripts, 
Why would this make much of a difference? When people were conscripted, was it to a local garrison? So an older brother might be in the army/militia? 
I'm curious because "just following orders" works for conscripted military as well as voluntary military. I suppose they won't be the badb badb guys but they are complications and trouble nonetheless as any representation of the establishment would be.
(Just finished watching ET this evening. Bikes. Building sites.)
This stuff is really cool, Björn, it's great to have some insight. What about fast food options in Sweden as a whole and what can we expect in-region? Here in the 80s we had a few fish and chip shops and a few chinese restaurants. Indian restaurants were rare and anything else simply didn't exist. There were no sandwich shops, no Subway, no McDonalds, no Burger King. No-one had ever even heard of a burrito.
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Björn Hellqvist
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Re: Sweden in the 80's

Tue 03 Jan 2017, 03:42

Why would this make much of a difference? When people were conscripted, was it to a local garrison? So an older brother might be in the army/militia? 
I'm curious because "just following orders" works for conscripted military as well as voluntary military. I suppose they won't be the badb badb guys but they are complications and trouble nonetheless as any representation of the establishment would be.
Let's put it this way: Swedish soldiers and officers would never turn their weapons on civilians. A shooting in 1931 (socialist demonstrators vs military) caused such an uproar that the law was changed. Military personnel could be expected to guard installations of military importance, or closed-off areas where e.g. hunts for Soviet commandos were conducted. Military police were conscripted, too, and while they could be intimidating, they weren't brutal. A civilian installation like the Loop would be guarded by civilian security companies like Securitas or ABAB (from 1992 Partena Security).

What about fast food options in Sweden as a whole and what can we expect in-region? Here in the 80s we had a few fish and chip shops and a few chinese restaurants. Indian restaurants were rare and anything else simply didn't exist. There were no sandwich shops, no Subway, no McDonalds, no Burger King. No-one had ever even heard of a burrito.
During the era of the Loop, there were McDonald's restaurants in the major cities (the first one opened in Stockholm 1973). I guess the kids on Mälaröarna would have to go to downtown Stockholm for a Big Mac. (Trivia: a local burger, McFeast, was "invented" in Sweden in 1983, and is still a staple on McD's menu.) Smaller towns usually had one or two "korvkiosk" ("sausage kiosk" - hot dog stand), where one could buy hot dogs, burgers, and in some cases a hot dog or two served with fries or mashed potatoes. "Tunnbrödsrulle" ("thin [flat] bread roll") is a Swedish fast food speciality, where soft, flat bread (similar to naan, liba, or tortilla) is rolled around a filling usually consisting of a hot dog, mashed potatoes, and some relish and condiments. One franchise "korvkiosk" chain is Sibylla. The fast food is enjoyed together with Coca-Cola, Fanta, or Pucko (chocolate milk served cold). Around 1980, the first kebab places appeared. Pizzerias had been around since 1969, but a Mälarö kid would probably have to go to the mainland to get one. Judging by the look of Färingsö today, I guess 2-3 korvkiosk were around, making them popular hangouts for teenagers.
My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land.
 
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pelorus
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Re: Sweden in the 80's

Wed 04 Jan 2017, 12:52

Smaller towns usually had one or two "korvkiosk" ("sausage kiosk" - hot dog stand), where one could buy hot dogs, burgers, and in some cases a hot dog or two served with fries or mashed potatoes. "Tunnbrödsrulle" ("thin [flat] bread roll") is a Swedish fast food speciality, where soft, flat bread (similar to naan, liba, or tortilla) is rolled around a filling usually consisting of a hot dog, mashed potatoes, and some relish and condiments. 
OK, now I'm hungry. 
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edd
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Re: Sweden in the 80's

Sun 08 Jan 2017, 05:45

Thank you heaps Björn,
this thread is Great.

Random queries -
 So I grew up in the 80s but in the UK, and I was just wondering, would these things be true off teenagers in Sweden in the Loop;

1) - Me and my friends would slowly amass at the weekends or on holidays; i.e., Alex goes around to Tom's, Tom and Alex's going on to Tracy's, slowly a group gaining a critical mass, but with little of it planned, or phoned ahead,* and maybe some decision of what we were going to do would emerge. 
This pattern of gathering would head from the suburban outskirts towards the friends with larger houses, more liberal parents (those who would ignore our loud shouts and survive the horde's raids on the fridge) & eventually people with homes in the middle of town, from where going to the movies, or going to the party, or the such, was an easy step. There was probably some party happening at least once a fortnight at the Friday or Saturday night .

(*= this could lead to a small group of you fruitlessly going around to several houses where your mate's were out, or their parents had just argued, or they had been grounded, leaving the posse with no place to hang.)

2) - No one thought of folk being late for at least 1/2 an hour. 
 You'd agree to meet Bill under the town hill clock at 12, and you'd get there and hang with Alex waiting for Bill for at least 1/2 an hour without thought, then by 40 minutes you'd be thinking "where's Bill?", and you'd give up by 12:50. But also you'd often be the ones 1/2 an hour late and no one would bat an eyelid. In part this was due to the climate - mild enough that hanging out even on a frosty winter's day would a trouble but survivable. 
 I was wondering if a similar laissez faire attitude existed in 80s Sweden in the islands? Even in winter?

3) - you couldn't buy videos, only rent them. 

4) - Skateboarding was huge but a thing that only a certain brand of cool rebel kid did. There were spaces which were skating parks but these were just places that got taken over by the Skaters and became known as Skate parks whatever their previous purpose had been.

5) - In the first half of the Eighties Jeans were strongly seen as American Cultural Imperialism (not that we used that vocabulary) and something everyone was dead against, but by the second half, everyone wore them and it was no longer a sign of wanting to be American.

6) - movies must have been dirt cheap; we'd often see 3 a week on whatever pocket money we had and still have money over to do other things.
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