Back in the Day: 1981

What was happening when T95 turned 2?


  • Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales
  • NASA launches the first Space Shuttle, Columbia, from the Kennedy Space Center. Only two astronauts were aboard – Robert Crippen and John Young. They spent a total of Two days, six hours, 22 minutes and 53 seconds in space.
  • DMC rolls the first DeLorean off the production line. The company lasted about two years, and made around 9,000 cars.
  • Jack Grimm announces he believes he’s found part of the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic. Unknowingly, he was close, and a joint-expedition with France in 1985 would find the forward section of the doomed cruise liner.
  • The First American Test-tube baby is born.
  • American Airlines introduces the first ever rendition of Frequent Flyer Miles.
  • Scientists successfully identify the AIDS virus for the first time
  • IBM in the U.S. launches its first PC, which uses Microsoft Software MS DOS as it’s operating system
  • The term “Internet” is first used
  • Post it Notes are launched by the 3M group
  • China clones the first fish
  • Code of the Secret Service was a movie which lead actor Ronald Reagan called “the worst picture I ever made.” The film inspired a man named Jerry Sparr to join the Secret Service, who in 1981, saved President Ronald Reagan from an assassination attempt.
  • PBS painter Bob Ross served as a Master Sergeant in the USAF, one of many positions that he said required him to be “tough” and “mean.” After leaving in 1981, he said that he had promised himself that if he ever left the military, he would never scream again.
  • Due to the limitations of arcade hardware in 1981, Mario was clothed in red overalls and blue shirt to contrast his arms, body, and background. The cap was added to avoid drawing his hairstyle, forehead, and eyebrows. The large nose and mustache avoided the need to draw a mouth and expressions
  • The small Spanish town of Huéscar declared war on Denmark in 1809. They simply forget they were at war for the next 172 years and only signed a peace treaty when a local historian rediscovered the declaration of war in 1981.
  • Atari’s first world tournament in 1981 didn’t go so well with initial winning checks bouncing, low participation and contestants having to use their own quarters for games


  • The first ever London marathon was held.
  • Muhammad Ali retires with a career record of 55 wins and 5 defeats.
  • The Georgia bulldogs win 17-0 over Notre Dame to win the College Football National Championship
  • The Oakland Raiders beat the Philadelphia eagles 27-10 in Super bowl XV
  • In his first year of eligibility, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson is the only player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. he won 20 games five times, struck out over 3,000 batters, and received the Cy Young award and MVP in 1968 with a 1.12 ERA.
  • Major League Baseball began a 49-day strike on June 12th over the issue of free-agent compensation
  • The LA Dodgers won 4 games to 2 over the New York Yankees in the World Series. Ron Cey, Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager tied for the Series MVP.
  • Indiana beat North Carolina 63-50 for the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship
  • The Boston Celtics won 4 games to 2 over the Houston Rockets to capture the NBA Championship
  • The New York Islanders beat the Minnesota North Stars (Now the Dallas Stars) to win the Stanley Cup
  • A Minor League baseball game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, becomes the longest professional baseball game in history: 8 hours and 25 minutes/33 innings.


  • Mozart’s undiscovered symphony was… discovered… at the Bavarian State Library
  • Frogger has the most ways to die in any arcade game. The frog may be killed in nine different ways as he crosses streets and rivers on his way home, including alligators, cars, snakes, and water.
  • The Go-Go’s were the first, and to date only, all-female band that wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to have an album reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart with their 1981 debut album Beauty and a Beat.
  • George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers went on their 50/50 tour where they played in all 50 states in just 50 days
  • In 1968 the Beatles formed Apple Corps Ltd (informally known as Apple). In 1981 a suit was settled with Apple Computer with the payment of $80,000 to Apple Corps. As a condition of the settlement, Apple Computer agreed to stay out of the music business.
  • An LP titled The Wit & Wisdom of Ronald Reagan was released in the UK, the joke being that the record was completely silent on both sides. It sold over 30,000 copies.
  • “Weird” Al Yankovic received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture at California Polytechnic State University,in 1981. He also served as valedictorian of his high school at age 16.
  • A couple sued AC/DC in 1981 for $250,000 because their telephone number is in the song Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap resulting in hundreds of prank calls. The song’s 36-24-36 digits were followed by a “hey!”, which to his clients sounded like an “8”.
  • When a then-unknown Prince opened up for the Rolling Stones on the first of two nights in LA in 1981, the crowd threw beer cans at him and booed him off the stage within the first 20 minutes of his set. He came on the stage wearing nothing but bikini briefs and a trench coat.


  • Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (The rolling boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark was stolen from a 1955 Uncle Scrooge comic)
  • Superman II
  • Nine to Five
  • Any Which Way You Can
  • Arthur
  • The Cannonball Run
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • On Golden Pond
  • Chariots of Fire


  • MTV is launched on August 1st
  • The Smurfs, created in 1958, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series brought them into American pop culture. Athough many fans think Smurfette was the only female Smurf, there were actually two more – Nanny Smurf and Sassette Smurf. There was no Smurfina.
  • Top shows on Television in 1981:
    1. Dallas (CBS)
    2. 60 Minutes (CBS)
    3. The Jeffersons (CBS)
    4. Three’s Company (ABC)
    5. Alice (CBS)
    6. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
    7. Too Close For Comfort (ABC)
    8. ABC Monday Night Movie (ABC)
    9. M*A*S*H (CBS)
    10. One Day at a Time (CBS)
  • Comedian Andy Kaufman disrupts sketches and starts a brawl while broadcasting during ABC’s sketch series Fridays, an occurrence that was later disclosed to have been entirely staged
  • During an improvised segment at the end of a Saturday Night Live telecast on NBC hosted by Charlene Tilton, Charles Rocket uses the word “fuck”. As a result of the ensuing controversy he is fired, along with producer Jean Doumanian and most of his fellow cast members, bringing an early end to a season that had been heavily criticized and sunk in the ratings
  • After a 19-year run, Walter Cronkite resigns as main anchorman of The CBS Evening News and is succeeded the next Monday by Dan Rather.
  • HBO begins broadcasting 24 hours a day full-time.
  • Chuck Woolery hosts his last episode of the NBC game show Wheel of Fortune, quitting after a salary dispute with series producer and creator Merv Griffin. The next Monday, December 28, Pat Sajak begins hosting.


  • Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan.
  • Pope John Paul II was shot on May 13th, but was not killed. This incident was the catalyst to create the bullet-proof Pope-Mobile we see today.
  • Ronald Reagan is elected president
  • Anti-nuclear protesters invaded the Diablo canyon Nuclear Reactor in California
  • Iran releases 52 American Hostages who had been held for 444 days.
  • An Air Traffic Controllers strike caused chaos in the U.S. President Ronald Reagan fired them all.
  • An earthquake hits Athens, Greece, killing 16 people.
  • Egyptian president Anwar Sadat is assassinated
  • In Pakistan, 147 passengers and the crew of a Pakistani Airways flight are taken hostage, then released in Syria.
  • Antigua and Barbuda gain independence from Great Britain
  • Harvard professor Roger Fisher proposed implanting nuclear launch codes in a volunteer so that the President would have to kill an innocent person before firing. The Pentagon rejected the idea fearing the President would not go through with it even if it was necessary.