In the 1980s people were as excited about AI as they are today but the technology was completely different.
Researchers sought to put knowledge into machines one fact at a time.
One approach, expert systems, was based on programming rules. Another approach, semantic networks, attempted to break down language (essentially just words) into a computable form.
Both approaches were called “knowledge representation” or, more commonly today, symbolic AI and even Good Old-Fashioned AI.
Symbolic AI did not work