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What Happened in 1981 Major Events, Popular Culture, Prices, Born This Year

What happened in 1981 Major News Stories include The Aids Virus Identified, Iran Hostage Crisis Ends, Yorkshire Ripper is caught, Post It Notes launched, Riots UK Cities, Anwar Sadat assassinated. one of the most exciting was the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. This was also the first year that the Word Internet was mentioned and MS-DOS was released by Microsoft along with the first IBM PC. On the world stage the events that captured the imagination included Lady Diana Spencer marrying Charles The Prince of Wales. In Politics a little known group before Solidarity inspire popular protests and a general strike in Poland and the government in the UK starts the process of privatization of Nationalized Industries which is later followed by many other countries around the world.

Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales

More Information for the Charles and Diana Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer took place during July of 1981. The wedding, held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, attracted crowds of more than 600,000 people to witness the historic event. 3,500 guests, many of them royalty or celebrities, attended the ceremony and an estimated 750 million people, worldwide, watched it on television. The Royal Wedding drew the public’s interest in such an extreme way partially due to Lady Diana Spencer’s attractiveness and charm as well as the perception that Diana and Charles’ relationship was a modern fairy tale.

Space Shuttle Columbia

More Information for First Space Shuttle Mission.

In April of 1981, NASA launched the very first Space Shuttle mission. The Space Shuttle Columbia successfully carried two astronauts, Robert Crippen and John Young, into space to complete the inaugural flight of the Space Shuttle program. The purpose of the mission was to test the stability of the new spacecraft and to safely launch the vehicle into space and return it to Earth so that the craft was reusable. The total length of the mission was two days, six hours, twenty minutes, fifty-three seconds.

Venera 13 Spacecraft

More Information and Timeline for the Venera 13 Spacecraft

The Venera 13 Spacecraft is launched by the USSR on October 30th, 1981. Venera 13 was created, along with the identical Venera 14 spacecraft, as two-part spacecrafts. One part was the lander that would be dropped to the surface of Venus to conduct experiments and the other was the bus that would carry the landers and relay data between the landers and Earth as well as conducting other experiments. The Venera 13 spacecraft reached Venus on March 1, 1982 and successfully deposited its lander. Once on the surface of Venus it took the first panoramic color photos of the landscape and drilled into the surface of the planet to take a sample. The spacecraft also studied cosmic gamma-ray bursts. The craft stopped communicating results in March of 1983.

Poland Martial Law

1. The military leaders of Poland declare a state of emergency and place the nation under martial law during December of 1981.

2. The government arrested the leaders of the Solidarity trade union who had been making progress in what was described as a peaceful revolution up to that point.

3. The move cut off the Polish people from the rest of the world and imposed curfews.

4. The United States responded by placing economic sanctions on the country.

5. The authoritarian-led government claimed that the crackdown was necessary to prevent a civil war, but it was more likely used as a means to crush political opposition coming from the Solidarity movement.

6. Martial law was kept in place until July of 1983 and many of the political prisoners were not released until 1986.

Cost of Living 1981 - How Much things cost

Yearly Inflation Rate USA 10.35%

Year End Close Dow Jones 875

Interest Rates Year End Federal Reserve 15.75%

Average Cost of new house $78,200

Median Price Of and Existing Home - $66,400 -

Average Income per year $21,050.00

Average Monthly Rent $315.00

Cost of a gallon of Gas $1.25

Tandy TRS 80 PC1 $149.95

Sinclair ZX80 $199.95

19 inch Color TV $399.95

Under Counter Dishwasher $249.95

Set Of Brass Bamboo Nested Tables $119.99

Plums Lb 39 Cents

Miracle Whip $1.27

Turkey Lb 55 cents

Star Wars Figure Set $29.99

Mens Leather Jacket $129.99

A few UK Examples in Pounds Sterling

Average House Price 24,188

Gallon of Petrol 1.32

BOE Interest Rates Year End 14.38%

Yearly Inflation Rate UK 11.9%

Sandra Day O'Connor

1. President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to the US Supreme Court on July 7.

2. The confirmation hearing was held at the beginning of September and by the end of the month the US Senate voted in favor of adding her to the court with a 99-0 vote (one Senator was absent).

3. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice on the United States Supreme Court on September 25th. Her votes and opinions while on the court cast her as a moderate conservative.

4. She had previously held positions as an Arizona state senator (1969 - 1975), Superior Court judge for Maricopa County (1975 - 1979), and a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals (1979 - 1981).

5. She announced that she would retire on July 1st of 2005.

6. She was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito in January 31 News Events of 2006.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

More Information for Raiders of the Lost Ark

The popular film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” makes its debut in theaters throughout the United States during June of 1981. The comedy-driven action/adventure film, created by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, was the first to feature the character of Indiana Jones. Jones, portrayed by actor Harrison Ford, was a cavalier archaeology professor intent on protecting the world’s most precious artifacts, was an instant favorite of moviegoers. Raiders of the Lost Ark became the highest grossing film of 1981 and remains one of the most popular and highest grossing film of all time.

Pope John Paul II

More Information and Timeline for the Pope Assassination Attempt

On May 13th of 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot by would-be assassin Mehment Ali Agca. The Pope survived the attack but sustained gunshot wounds to his left hand, right arm, and abdomen. Agca’s motive for the attempted assassination was unknown although at one point he suggested that the KGB and the country of Bulgaria were behind it. In July of 1981 he was sentenced to prison for life in Italy. Soon after the shooting Pope John Paul II publicly stated that he had already forgiven Agca. In 2010, Agca was released from prison. Agca was a Turkish national who had been previously convicted of the murder of a journalist in 1979 but had escaped his incarceration.

DeLorean Cars Debut

The first DeLorean DMC-12 futuristic sports car were produced on January 21st. Known for its distinctive gull-wing doors and stainless steel body panels, the vehicle garnered a lot of attention for its unusual look. It was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro who had also designed cars for major companies including Alfa Romeo, BMW, Fiat, and Maserati, throughout his career. The DeLorean was only manufactured for two years and about 9,000 vehicles were produced in total. The company quickly ran into financial troubles and its founder, John DeLorean, was charged with conspiracy to smuggle drugs. The DeLorean was most well-known for being featured as the time travel machine used in the popular 1985 film “Back to the Future.”

The First London Marathon

More Information for the first London Marathon

The first London Marathon is held in March of 1981. About 7,000 people participated in the first marathon with 6,255 participants completing the 26 mile race. It was created by former Olympians Chris Brasher and John Disley with the intention to raise money for charity. Thousands of spectators gathered along the route of the first race to cheer on the participants, and since it began it has been held during the spring every year, continuing to grow in size and popularity. The first winners were Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen for the men, crossing the finish line together, and Joyce Smith for the women.

Mozart's undiscovered symphony

More Information and Timeline for Mozart's undiscovered symphony.

In February of 1981 it is announced that the Bavarian State Library in Germany had acquired a previously unknown piece of music written by famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The piece of music was described as a three-movement symphony in F-Major that had been composed by Mozart at the age of nine while he had been living in London in 1765. The library stated that they had found the symphony in a bundle of 107 manuscripts that had been purchased from an anonymous seller for about $300,000. They also announced that a concert would be held to perform it.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan becomes US President

First high speed train service in Europe

The first high speed train service in Europe begins with the French TGV / high-speed train between Paris and Lyon

Greenham Common

Following plans between European Countries and the US to base Nuclear Missiles in Europe protesters including those at Greenham Common picket US bases

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Reactor

Anti nuclear protesters invade the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Reactor in California

Iran releases 52 American hostages

Iran releases 52 American hostages, who had been held for 444 days

Solidarity Strikes

Solidarity inspired popular protests and general strike lead to imposition of Marshal Law and eventual outlawing of solidarity party in Poland

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan becomes US President

First high speed train service in Europe

The first high speed train service in Europe begins with the French TGV / high-speed train between Paris and Lyon

Greenham Common

Following plans between European Countries and the US to base Nuclear Missiles in Europe protesters including those at Greenham Common picket US bases

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Reactor

Anti nuclear protesters invade the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Reactor in California

Iran releases 52 American hostages

Iran releases 52 American hostages, who had been held for 444 days

Solidarity Strikes

Solidarity inspired popular protests and general strike lead to imposition of Marshal Law and eventual outlawing of solidarity party in Poland

From our 1981 Toys Page

Jaws Game From The 1980s Jaws Game
Manufacturer: Ideal
Price: $7.99

"Fish" out objects... but don't let Jaws snap shut! For two to four players. Includes shark, gaff hook, 13 pieces of "junk", rubber bands, set of teeth, lower jaw, and more.

From our 1980s Furniture Page

1981 Bean Bag Chairs

1981 Bean Bag Chairs

Price: $19.99 - $39.99

Shiny vinyl bean bags. Embossed vinyl is fabric supported for durability; double-stitched seams, double zippers. Filled with expanded polystyrene beads. Choose from several colors like Federal Blue, Fiesta Red, Jungle Green, Chestnut, Strawberry Pink, or Ebony.

1980s Ladies Dresses

1981 Lace Taffeta Two Piece Dress

From 1981 Lace Taffeta Two Piece Dress

Price: $36.00

Description : White polyester lace top lined with woven white nylon; sheer lace sleeves. Black taffeta skirt made with woven polyester. The front closure is contrasted with black buttons. Top has a round neckline and a black grosgrain ribbon tie-belt, edged with picot trim.

1980s Home Electrical

1981 Solar Power Lamp

1981 Solar Power Lamp

Price: $29.99

Solar powered lamp with solar cell that can be clipped to the wire frame of the shade. Different types of lamps include a windmill, locomotive, oil pumper and bi-plane.

Popular Culture 1981

MTV (Music Television) is launched August 1

Simon And Garfunkel Reunite for concert in New Yorks Central Park

Popular Films

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Superman II

Nine to Five

Any Which Way You Can


The Cannonball Run

For Your Eyes Only

On Golden Pond

Chariots of Fire

Popular Music

John Lennon


Dolly Parton " 9 to 5 "

Sheena Easton

Diana Ross and Lionel Richie with " Endless Love "

Olivia Newton-John With " Physical "

Roxy Music

Bucks Fizz

Adam and The Ants

Michael Jackson


David Bowie

1980s Appliances Page

1983 Stereo Sound Television

1983 Stereo Sound Television

Price: $659.99

This picture tube has corners that standard tubes lose. It's stereo-ready for future stereo TV (with adapter). Control panel pops out for remote use, commanding even a video accessory. Brings in cable TV up to 133 channels. LED channel readout.

UK privatisation of Nationalised Industries

Thatcher Government in England begin privatisation of Nationalised Industries creating economic revival , this format is later emulated in many other countries throughout the world

Air traffic controllers strike

Air traffic controllers strike causing chaos in the US and The US President Ronald Reagan Fires Them

Bobby Sands

Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands dies on May 5th while on the hunger strike, During that time Bobby Sands is elected to Westminster as the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Wreck of the Titanic

Jack Grimm announces that he believed he found part of the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic, he and his researchers did not in fact find the location of the wreck but had passed close by it unknowingly. A joint French-American expedition run by Robert D. Ballard would go on to find the location of the wreck in 1985.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali finally retires with career record of 55 wins and 5 defeats

New disability eligibility rules

US brings in new disability eligibility rules for those claiming disability affecting 500,000 who lose benefits

Rupert Murdoch shuts down the Sunday Times

Rupert Murdoch shuts down the Sunday Times due to an industrial dispute

Janet Cooke

Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke admits her feature was fabricated and relinquished the Pulitzer Prize

U.S. Abortions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could require parental notification when teenage girls seek abortions .

The Yorkshire Ripper

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper is caught, and imprisoned for life for 13 counts of murder

Earthquake hits Athens

Earthquake hits Athens, killing 16 people

Anwar Sadat is assassinated

Egyptian president Anwar Sadat is assassinated

Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor is nominated to become the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

American test-tube baby

The first American test-tube baby, is born

UK Riots

Riots break out in a number of UK Cities including Brixton ( London ), Toxteth ( Liverpool ), and Moss Side ( Manchester )

Frequent Flyer Miles

The introduction of the first Frequent Flyer Miles AAdvantage introduced by American Airlines ( frequent flyer miles can be redeemed for free air travel )

Social Democratic Party SDP

Four senior Labour MP'S announce they will breakaway from Labour Party and set up the Social Democratic Party SDP under the leadership of Roy Jenkins

Pakistan Airways Hostages

147 passengers and crew of a Pakistan Airways are taken hostage and released in Syria

Attempted coup in Bangladesh

Attempted coup in Bangladesh and the President Ziaur Rahman is murdered

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda Gains Independence From Great Britain

Born This Year in 1981

Jennifer Tisdale

Born: September 18th, Neptune City, NJ

Allison Crowe

Born: November 16th, Nanaimo, Canada

Britney Spears

Born: December 2nd, McComb, MS

Justin Timberlake

Born: January 31th, Memphis, TN


Born: September 4th, Houston, TX

Meghan Markle

Born: August 4, Los Angeles, CA

Paris Hilton

Born: February 17th, New York, NY


Scientists identify The Aids Virus

First Flight of US Space Shuttle Columbia

The European Rocket "Ariane" is launched

IBM in US launches it's first PC which uses Microsoft Software MS DOS

The term INTERNET first mentioned

Post It Notes launched by 3M Corp

The Worlds Fastest Train The French TGV goes into service between Paris and Lyons

China Clones the first fish ( Golden Carp )

Artificially Produced Insulin becomes the worlds first genetically engineered protein to treat human disease Diabetes

MS-DOS released by Microsoft

Inventions Invented by Inventors and Country ( or attributed to First Use )

Space Shuttle USA Columbia was first reusable space vehicle

Scanning Tunnelling Microscope Switzerland

Calendar For The Year 1981

1981 Calendar

Major World Political Leaders

Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser

Brazil President João Figueiredo

Canada Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau

China Chairman of the People's Republic of China Post Abolished

France President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing Till 21 May

France President François Mitterrand From 21 May

Germany Chancellor Helmut Schmidt

India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

Italy Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani Till 28 June

Italy Prime Minister Giovanni Spadolini From 28 June

Japan Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki

Mexico President José López Portillo

Russia / Soviet Union Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars Leonid Brezhnev

South Africa Prime Minister Pieter Willem Botha

United States PresidentJimmy Carter Till January 20,

United States PresidentRonald Reagan From January 20,

United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher