Unless you have been living under a rock I guess the media deluge has made it clear that it was twenty years ago on November ninth that the Berlin Wall fell. Wow. Without a doubt the most momentous and important event that I have lived through. Not at all on the topic of this blog, but important enough to write some personal recollections about.
The silly thing is that I don’t have a strong recollection of it. My most vibrant memory from that tumultuous Fall is from December, as we saw tanks roll through the streets of Bucharest on TV. I saw it on the American Armed Forces Network, to be precise, a night on the base with my friends from Keflavík Naval Air Station, also known to the Icelanders as “the base”. This was during the year I lived in Iceland, and went to school on the AT Mahan High School on NAS Keflavik. Sometimes I would sleep over on the base with some friends, despite being a “neutral” (non-NATO). But I digress…
The impact of the wall coming down was felt much more clearly the next year, when me and some friends drove down to Berlin. The wall was gone, but the space it had left was still there. The trade in East Bloc memorabilia was rampant, and we had several East German military caps and some cool medals with us as we drove home. Indeed, for the next few years, East Bloc and Soviet stuff was all the rage. I actually found the cap when we cleaned out some boxes of old memorabilia the other week, guess it was fate. Or just coincidence.
It feels strange to know that the freshmen in university this year were not even born then. They have no memory of the cold war, and newspaper articles carry sidebars about “this was the DDR”… to the youngsters of today, DDR means dual-data-rate RAM, not the Deutsche Demokratische Republik.
1989 was also the year that I got my first Macintosh. An SE, with a 8 MHz 68000 processor and 2 MB of RAM, and 20 MB of HDD. It is dizzying to compare it with the machine I have at home today, a cheap Core i7 Dell. The processor is probably around 2000 times faster (300x clock, and at least 6x more efficient per clock), the memory is 4000 times bigger, the HDD 30000 times larger. Still, it does not feel as magic as that first Macintosh did… The next year, I got myself an SE/30, with a 16 MHz 68030 and an 68882 math co-processor. Screaming machine at the time, total clunker by today’s standards.
Finally, what other big events have I seen, events that you can peg a date and a memory on? The second biggest one is the killing of Olof Palme on Feb 28, 1986. Then we have “September 11” which was quite a shock. Chernobyl. U137. I have no personal relationship to the other two big recent disasters of Sweden, the Estonia disaster and the Thailand Tsunami, but they could have counted otherwise.
Still, the end of the cold war is a big deal, and the way in which it opened up Europe to what it is today.