October 22: iPod, Planet Hollywood, Pop-Up Video
Plus PlayStation 2, Linkin Park, Microsoft Word, and more
by 11 Points
Modern perspectives on ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia
October 22nd, 2021 • Issue 70
This week in nostalgic history
30 years ago, on October 22nd, 1991 - The first Planet Hollywood restaurant opened.
Did Planet Hollywood come into existence because of the odd ‘90s love affair with novelty restaurants, or did the ‘90s love affair with novelty restaurants codify because of Planet Hollywood? Chicken-egg.
Planet Hollywood was created by the company behind Hard Rock Cafe, a company called Mecca Leisure which bought the rights from former owners, Pleasurama. Yes, that awkward sentence and this entire paragraph are in service of mentioning Pleasurama.
Planet Hollywood brought on four high-profile movie stars as backers (Stallone, Willis, Moore, Schwarzenegger) and launched on this day in 1991 — then expanded like crazy. The restaurants (and its merch) were hits, again as an integral pillar of the ‘90s novelty restaurant boom.
But even in a boom, Planet Hollywood’s growth was too much, too fast. Planet Hollywood went bankrupt twice and wound up shutting down restaurants nearly as fast as they’d once opened them — especially as the 2000s arrived and the novelty restaurant and novelty restaurant t-shirt trends waned.
Planet Hollywood is still alive today, albeit in a very, very stripped down form. There are just six restaurants worldwide, focused on major tourist areas (Times Square, Las Vegas, Disney World, etc.), as well as four resorts.
It’s hard to see Planet Hollywood expanding to become a massive chain again, although at this point, everything else from that era is getting a reboot so you never know.
Also on October 22nd: First Blood hit theaters (1982)… Phil Collins’s single A Groovy Kind of Love hit number one (1988)… Geraldo’s special Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground aired on NBC (1988)… Pearl Jam debuted at a cafe in Seattle (1990)… Shanice’s single I Love Your Smile was released (1991)… En Vogue’s single Don’t Let Go was released (1996)… The Best Man hit theaters (1999)… Roger Clemens threw a broken bat at Mike Piazza (2000)… Pardon the Interruption premiered on ESPN (2001)
20 years ago, on October 23rd, 2001 - The first iPod was introduced by Apple.
The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player on the market but it was the transformative one.
By 2001, mp3s had gone from a rogue underground music format that had to be stopped to the inescapable, immediate future of music. The major flaw of the mp3 players before the iPod was the storage quandary — either the devices were small but could only hold a dozen or so songs on the affordable flash storage of the time, or the devices were enormous (and barely portable) to accommodate a full hard drive.
So Apple did what it always did, then and now: It made everything way smaller. Sometimes that plan works for them, sometimes it doesn’t. Here, it worked. Much like their all-in-one Macintoshes of the ‘80s and there bright colored iMacs of the ‘90s, they found a way to reduce the size of mp3 players down to make them both storage-rich and portable. And expensive, but that was a feature, not a bug — it turned the iPod into an affordable luxury device.
The iPod had an even larger impact, however, than just becoming the go-to music player of the ‘00s: It was the final bowling pin to fall in the process of legitimizing digital music. When Apple didn’t just embrace digital music but unveiled the coolest music player in history in service of the mp3 format, they Appomattoxed the music industry’s war on the format. Digital music was legitimate and here to stay. And Apple’s perfect tagline for the iPod cut right down to why digital was the future: “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
The iPod isn’t the Apple device that most changed tech (and, to a real degree, society); that’s almost certainly the iPhone. But the impact the iPod had in driving music from analog to digital formats can’t be understated; perhaps nothing deserves more credit for how we consume music today than this device that came out a mere two decades ago today.
Also on October 23rd: The Mission: Impossible TV reboot premiered (1988)… Wilt Chamberlain’s biography was released, in which he claimed to have had 20,000+ sexual partners (1991)… Reservoir Dogs hit theaters (1992)… the Toronto Blue Jays won their second consecutive World Series as Joe Carter hit a series-winning home run (1993)… the Smashing Pumpkins album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released (1995)… Pleasantville and Orgazmo both hit theaters (1998)… Britney Spears’ single …Baby One More Time was released (1998)… Santana and Rob Thomas’s single Smooth hit number one (1999)
21 years ago, on October 24th, 2000 - Linkin Park’s debut album, Hybrid Theory, was released.
Linkin Park was part of the wave of nu-metal boy bands of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s wave, a wave that died relatively fast for many reasons — the awkward transition between CDs and digital (see above), the backlash against the genre from all angles, Dickies going out of style, the quality of the music.
And after the nu-metal died, Linkin Park held on. Sure, despite the cool spelling of Linkin, it was quite evident the band was a product of the suburbs and any angst derived therein. But that was selling at the time, and their music had, perhaps, a higher level of quality than most of the fray which begat staying power. They had number one albums in 2007, 2010, 2012, and 2017 — long after most of their contemporaries had faded from that level of relevance. The group has sold more than 100 million albums which can’t happen as a fad.
The current end of the Linkin Park story is legitimately sad, with lead singer Chester Bennington taking his own life in 2017. There hasn’t been a new album since, although the remaining members are back together now and say they’re working on something.
Also on October 24th: Steffi Graf had her first professional tennis match (1982)… the movie Soul Man hit theaters (1986)… Michael Jackson’s single Bad hit number one (1987)… the Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series (1992)… Merril Bainbridge’s one hit, Mouth, was released (1994)… Smashing Pumpkins’ single Bullet with Butterfly Wings was released (1995)… TQ’s single Westside peaked at number 12 on the Billboard charts (1998)… the D.C. sniper was caught and arrested (2002)
38 years ago, on October 25th, 1983 - Microsoft released the first version of Word.
On this day in 1983, Xenia computer owners everywhere were lucky enough to be the first to experience a brand new word processing software program from Microsoft with the catchy name Multi-Tool Word. MS-DOS received a version soon after and Microsoft gave their software a much needed rebranding as Microsoft Word.
Its killer feature was garbling up whatever you typed with random and illogical markup I mean the ability to use a mouse. It pioneered other differentiating features that are the word processing table stakes of all word processing table stakes now: functions like bolding and italicizing text, and the ability to undo your last action.
But in the early ‘80s, those crazy features made Word too much of a departure for many users and the software floundered. The software was saved (in a fitting twist considering how things between these companies would eventually go) by Apple. Word was a perfect word processing fit for the graphic- and mouse-focused Macintoshes, to the point where Microsoft barely touched the DOS version in favor of working on the Mac iteration.
Word wouldn’t take off on PC in earnest until the Windows era of the early ‘90s, after which it never looked back.
It wasn’t until the last couple of years that Microsoft’s office suite, co-headlined by Word, lost top market share to Google’s office suite.
Also on October 25th: Halloween hit theaters (1978)… Barbra Streisand’s single Woman in Love hit number one and her album Guilty hit number one (1980)… Newhart premiered on CBS (1982)… Cyndi Lauper’s single True Colors hit number one (1986)… Bill Buckner has a ball roll between his legs, ultimately costing the Boston Red Sox the World Series (1986)… the Minnesota Twins won their first World Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals (1987)… an ABC News report aired on the popularity of pygmy pigs as pets (1988)… the first Simpsons Treehouse of Horror special aired (1990)… Evander Holyfield knocked out Buster Douglas to win boxing’s heavyweight championship (1990)… House Party 2 and Curly Sue, two real cinematic classics, hit theaters (1991)… The Jon Stewart Show premiered (1993)… The Rocky Horror Picture Show aired on TV for the first time, on FOX (1993)… Madonna’s album Bedtime Stories was released (1994)… High School High hit theaters (1996)… The Crocodile Hunter premiered (1996)… the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ one hit, The Impression I Get, peaked at number 23 on the Billboard chart (1997)… Windows XP was released (2001)… Jackass the Movie hit theaters (2002)
21 years ago, on October 26th, 2000 - The PlayStation 2 was released.
The PlayStation 2 was one of the first video game systems — quite possibly the first video game system — to have a sales hook beyond “hey, cool games.” When the PS2 came out 21 years ago today, its secondary marketing hook (behind “hey, cool games”) was: It was also a DVD player.
At the time (and this shows just how much has changed in 21 years), DVD players were expensive, coveted, and nowhere close to a household staple. The PS2’s introductory price, a beefy $300, was actually around the same price you’d pay for just a DVD player by itself.
So for some, the PS2 was a game system with the bonus of a state of the art media center. For others, the PS2 was a media center with a bonus video game system. Either way, the thing was a monster hit that couldn’t stay on shelves.
The success of the “video game system that does more” with the PS2 would play a large part in the blending and consolidating the video game console and media center. Sony would continue to iterate on that plan through the years, incorporating Blu-Ray, streaming apps, and even a cord-cutter cable TV plan with future PlayStation generations.
Also on October 26th: The L.A. Dodgers won the World Series over the New York Yankees (1981)… The Terminator hit theaters and Michael Jordan played in his first NBA game (1984)… Whitney Houston’s single Saving All My Love for You hit number one (1985)… D.C. mayor Marion Barry was sentenced to six months in prison for crack (1990)… the NFL announced the Carolina Panthers expansion team (1993)… the New York Yankees defeated the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series (1996)… the Florida Marlins bought their first World Series (1997)… a U.S. federal judge refused to issue an injunction banning the sale of mp3 players (1998)… the CDC released a study declaring an obesity crisis in the U.S. (1999)… the New York Yankees won the World Series over the New York Mets in a Subway Series (2000)… the U.S. passed the PATRIOT Act (2001)… Donnie Darko and the Lance Bass movie On the Line both hit theaters (2001)
25 years ago, on October 27th, 1996 - Pop-Up Video premiered on VH1.
Pop-Up Video was an inspired way for VH1 to accomplish two major goals it had in the mid ‘90s: (1) resuscitate viewer interest in music videos and (2) step out of MTV’s shadow and finally define their network identity as a pop culture authority. By overlaying little bubbles of trivia on top of music videos, VH1 successfully reinvigorated interest in those videos and their network; for a few years, it was even their most popular show.
Pop-Up Video was not the first show to remix older content into new content — Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Beavis and Butt-Head both did their own takes on that idea — but VH1’s effort was different. By annotating the videos with compelling random facts, Pop-Up Video celebrated them (rather than snarking on them) and improved them.
Pop-Up Video’s fingerprints have been on countless shows and eventually online video in the years that have followed. From DVD commentary tracks to Tosh.0 to literally everyone who’s streamed a video game on the internet, Pop-Up Video’s trailblazing fingerprints have remained, long after the show went away.
Also on October 27th: Queen and David Bowie’s single Under Pressure was released in the U.S. (1981)… Prince’s album 1999 was released (1982)… Billy Martin was fired by the New York Yankees for the fourth time (1985)… NBA Inside Stuff premiered (1990)… SNL’s famous Chippendale’s sketch aired (1990)… Janet Jackson’s single Black Cat hit number one (1990)… the Minnesota Twins completed a worst-to-first turnaround and won the World Series over the Atlanta Braves (1991)… Tipper Gore admitted she covered her VCR clock with tape to not watch the time blink 12:00 (1992)… the first ever banner advertisement appeared on the internet (1994)… Leaving Las Vegas hit theaters (1995)… Monica’s single Angel of Mine and KP and Envyi’s single Swing My Way were both released (1997)… Jay Z’s single Hard Knock Life was released (1998)… 112’s album Room 112 was released (1998)… the CHiPs reunion aired on TNT (1998)… Lion King II: Simba’s Pride went straight to video (1998)… the New York Yankees won the World Series over the Atlanta Braves (1999)
27 years ago, on October 28th, 1994 - The Road to Wellville hit theaters.
The Road to Wellville was a weird film, part of a brief movement of in the ‘90s to see if semi-experimental movies could catch on with mainstream audiences. (They would not. Which is why it’s now Marvel and nothing else in movie theaters.)
The Road to Wellville, a fictional story loosely based on a piece of forgotten American history, was a complicated braid of unusual plots. The plot focuses on John Harvey Kellogg’s controversial sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan; an intellectual property battle to develop Corn Flakes; and the sexual temptation of a wealthy couple staying on Kellogg’s property. That combo must’ve been quite compelling on paper, as it attracted big name stars (Anthony Hopkins, Bridget Fonda, John Cusack, and many others). But the movie wasn’t highbrow; it also leaned heavily on scatological humor and gratuitous nudity.
The resulting jambalaya was too confusing for audiences (and the movie wasn’t quite good enough to win over those who could handle its highbrow/lowbrow dichotomy). The Road to Wellville saw limited box office success and never had any sort of second life resurgence on video.
However, it was a stone in the path to the prevailing comedy movie style that would soon take over: the “sophisticated yet gross” movie. There’s Something About Mary, Meet the Parents, and many more followed The Road to Wellville — and tweaked the formula just right to succeed where it did not.
Also on October 28th: The Oakland A’s won a World Series interrupted halfway by an earthquake (1989)… Metallica’s single The Unforgiven was released (1991)… Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was released (1992)… The Simpsons aired its fourth Treehouse of Horror episode (1993)… 2pac’s single Keep Ya Head Up was released (1993)… the Atlanta Braves won their only World Series during their highly successful ‘90s run on the strength of their pitchers being gifted a strike zone the size of Georgia (the country, not the state) (1995)… Mary Katherine Gallagher debuted on SNL (1995)… the first female NBA referees were hired (1997)… Robyn’s single Show Me Love was released (1997)
Everything old is new again
A look at the reboots, revivals, throwbacks, retro insights, and nostalgia in the news.
Fisher-Price’s famous toy telephone is back… and it can now connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth to make actual calls.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan was hospitalized this week for emergency surgery. Send your best “hooooo” and “U-S-A” wishes his way.
Throwbacks and recommendations
The NBA announced its 75 best players ever in honor of its 75th anniversary.
A survey quiz found the most recognizable TV theme songs. Lots of ‘90s in here, with a big thumbs up to more people being able to identify the Family Matters them song than the Survivor theme song.
Thanks for reading!