What are the synonyms of "early" in this context?
When we use the word "early" in relation to a period of time like this it generally refers to the first half of that time. So, since the 80s is 1980-1989, the early 80s would be 1980-1984. Another way to say this would be to say "the first half" of the 80s. Although I would say that "early" is the most common and frequently used.
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