Computer Love: Hi-Tech Songs Of The '80s

Computer Love: Hi-Tech Songs Of The '80s

Posted 24 Oct 2020
kraftwerk, 1981
Kraftwerk, 1981. Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images. 

Remember when a Commodore 64 was the height of video game technology, and Asteroids, Pong and Frogger could keep you entertained for hours? As the 1970s became the 1980s and computers gradually found their way into suburban homes, the music industry also jumped on the new tech bandwagon – and not just by embracing synthesizers. A number of artists released songs specifically about computers and other technologies, and how they were changing our lives.

“Computer Games” by Mi-Sex

Released: 1979

Back when computers with any kind of real processing ability took up an entire room – as seen in the music video – this number 1 hit, with its bleepy synth sounds and mannered vocal from Steve Gilpin, sounded positively space age. Often assumed to literally be about the types of games you’d play on your Atari, the song’s lyrics actually took a peek into the future, predicting how all-pervasive computers would become.

“Living In The Plastic Age” by The Buggles

Released: 1980

Their chart-topping single, “Video Killed The Radio Star” accurately evaluated the impact of the rise of the music video, and this follow-up made a more general statement about what the future had in store. With lyrics that made reference to clones, plastic surgery and robots, it reinforced the overriding concept on The Age Of Plastic album that everything was becoming fake.

“Space Invaders” by Player [1]

Released: 1980

Not every song about technology had something important to say, like this fairly cynical cash-in on the popularity of the titular arcade game, with songwriters and producers Bruce Brown and Russell Dunlop hired to come up with a song that tapped into the craze. With lyrics like “our cover’s been blown away” (part of the gameplay) and "my hip pocket nerve is aching again" (a nod to the need to insert coins to play), as well as synth sounds based on the game’s own soundtrack, they did just that.

“Computer Love” by Kraftwerk

Released: 1981

German electronic band Kraftwerk addressed the proliferation of computers in society on concept album Computer World. And on its lead single, “Computer Love” they foreshadowed a time when people would find intimacy through technology. The minimal lyrics made their point succinctly, but it’s the sense of joy mixed with melancholy, typical of the band’s work, that added complexity to what at the time would have been a fairly contentious idea.

“Computer One” by Dear Enemy

Released: 1983

If Kraftwerk predicted the rise of Tinder and other online dating forums, then Dear Enemy’s debut single can be seen as an early form of cyber-stalking. If Facebook existed in 1983, you just know singer Ron Martini would’ve been trawling through his ex’s posts and photos to find out “why did she run?” And let’s face it, if any corporation can be cast in the role of an all-knowing, all-seeing Computer One, it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s pervasive creation.

“Mr Roboto” by Styx

Released: 1983

Lifted as the lead single from their rock opera Kilroy Was Here, this polarising hit by the prog rockers set the scene for their tale of a futuristic era when rock music has been outlawed. With its synthpop sound and lyrics describing the efforts of Kilroy to escape his prison by impersonating a robot guard, it was very much on-trend in a year of major technological developments, like the release of Apple’s Lisa and the announcement of Microsoft Windows (which would end up launching in 1985).

“Together In Electric Dreams” by Giorgio Moroder & Phil Oakey

Released: 1984

It was only a matter of time until a song about a love affair involving a computer was released – although in this case, the collaboration between the legendary Italian producer and The Human League frontman took its cues from film Electric Dreams, a sci-fi rom-com that would have likely faded into obscurity were it not for its smash hit theme song.

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