1981 News and Interesting History Tidbits


IBM Releases It's First Personal Computer
IBM released its first PC, or personal computer, the IBM 5150 which sold for around $1,600 as a basic config but to get a fully working PC with with 64 kb of RAM and a single 5 1/4 inch floppy drive and monitor cost $3,000.

Specs For The Original IBM PC

An Intel 8088 processor running 4.77 MHz,

PC-DOS 1.0,

Floppy disk or cassette player

Hard Disc ( Optional extra as an external 10MB hard disk )

Memory 256 kb

TV-compatible video board






Start of Aids
A mysterious epidemic, consisting of two separate diseases, a form of pneumonia and skin cancer, has been found in 180 patients in 15 states since last July. It has claimed around 75 lives so far in the US and up to 92% of the victims are homosexual men. The unknown condition was eventually named as Aids (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) virus not only restricted to homosexuals and 4,000 were infected in the space of two years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report announcing that cases of rare pneumonia were found among five homosexual men in Los Angeles, California which was later identified as the Aids Virus








First Space Shuttle Columbia Launched
The First of the US Space Shuttles Columbia was launched making way for mans continuing exploration of space.








Prince Charles and Lady Diana
The Prince of Wales announced his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer ending months of speculation by the tabloid press.

A procession was planned for the Prince Charles and Princess Diana wedding. Standing room spaces along this parade route were being offered from 90 pounds ($200.00) each on up.
These spaces were being sold by offices located in prime spots offering spectacular view of this day’s festivities. This royal procession route started from the Buckingham Palace to the St. Paul’s Cathedral where the wedding took place.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana Marry at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981, watched by a world wide audience live on TV of millions in what was thought a fairy tale wedding . Diana was considered by many to be the most popular member of the royal family because of her easy manner and her works with AIDS charities and her fight against the use of landmines.

Their divorce was finalized on 28 August 1996.

Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris On 31 August 1997 after a high speed car accident in the Pont d'Alma road tunnel in Paris along with Dodi Al-Fayed










Syria Hostages Released
The 147 passengers and crew of a Pakistan Airways Boeing 720 aircraft held hostage for nearly two weeks are released in Syria, this follows the Pakistan government releasing 54 political prisoners from prison.








Janet Cooke relinquished the Pulitzer Prize
Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke relinquished the Pulitzer Prize she had received two days earlier for her feature "Jimmy's World published in The Washington Post on September 29, 1980" about an 8-year-old heroin addict after admitting she had fabricated the story.








Attempted Coup Bangladesh
Following an attempted coup in Bangladesh the President Ziaur Rahman was murdered, The vice president has imposed strict curfews in Dacca and surrounding towns and cities and there is ongoing fighting between loyalist troops and the rebels led by Major General Abul Manzur.








Italian Prime Minister his coalition cabinet Resign
The Italian Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani and his coalition cabinet resign following a scandal over membership of the P2 (Propaganda Two) Masonic lodge.








The Compact Disc invented
It is often reported that Philips invented the Compact Disc but it was a joint venture between Sony and Philips with a large team made up from both companies working together who created the Compact Disc








The first London Marathon
The first London Marathon organised by Chris Brasher is run with 7,590 taking part including a number of celebrities including Jimmy Saville raising money for charity.

The London Marathon is now a yearly event attracting 30,000 runners from around the world, including some of the world's greatest athletes and tens of thousands of others who complete the marathon raising many millions for charities along the way and many wearing fancy dress costumes .









Ronald Reagan Shot
President Ronald Reagan was shot at close range as he left the Washington Hilton Hotel just about one mile from the White House .

The attacker John Hinckley, the son of an affluent oil industry executive, was charged with trying to assassinate the president and in the following June, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to hospital.








New British Party Social Democrats
A new political party SDP ( Social Democratic Party) has been formed in the UK from four breakaway Labour party defectors Roy Jenkins, David Owen, William Rodgers and Shirley Williams. The Social Democrats have launched their new political party pledging to "reconcile the nation" and "heal divisions between classes".

They left the Labour party over the current leadership under Michael Foot moving further to the radical left, but did not feel they could support the conservative party under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who was dividing Britain into haves and have nots .

They have described the new Social Democrat Party as left-of-centre party and believe strongly in Proportional representation "ONE MAN ONE VOTE" but without agreement by the other two parties it was unlikely to ever happen.


The party formed an alliance over the next few years with the Liberal Party but after the 1987 general election which the conservatives won under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.
The labour party chose a more moderate leader Neil Kinnock and supporters of the SDP went back to the labour party hoping that they could get a more moderate labour party back in power and the Social Democrat Party was folded in 1990.









Sandra Day O'Connor nominated for Supreme Court
Arizona Judge Sandra Day O'Connor is nominated by President Ronald Reagan to become the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.










MTV Debuts
MTV the music video cable channel whose original purpose was to "play music videos" launches. The first music video shown on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles.











Supreme Court Abortion Ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could require, with some exceptions, parental notification when teenage girls seek abortions .

Currently 6 states in the US do not require parental consent

Other US states require one or all of the following prior to allowing abortion.

One or both parents to be informed

One or both parents must consent

Parental notification law currently enjoined

Parental consent law currently enjoined


There are a number of other laws in each state relating to this highly charged issue and parental consent is just one of the laws used to make abortion harder or easier depending on the ideological stance in that state.








First US Test Tube Baby
The first American born ''test-tube'' baby, conceived in a laboratory dish, has been born in an American hospital. Elizabeth Jordan Carr, weighing 5 pounds 12 ounces and described as ''perfectly healthy,'' was delivered yesterday morning at Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Va








20th Million Volkswagen Beetle
The 20th Million Volkswagen Beetle came off the production line at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico.








UK Riots

Riots break out in Toxteth, Liverpool with between 200 and 300 youths involved in looting, attacking police, cars and shops with petrol bombs and bricks.
The rioters have been turning over cars and turning them into barricades, most of the youths are wearing balaclava's to evade detection and this seems to be an orchestrated attack on the police with leaders handing out petrol bombs and orders on where they are to be used.

Riots continue including in Brixton, South London with mass rioting and youths taking to the streets throwing petrol bombs, bottles and bricks at police, looting local shops and setting fire to cars. In Brixton a local school and two pubs have also been torched by the rioters and firefighters are unable to reach fires due to the threat of attacks.
The Police armed with riot shields and batons charge the rioters and more than 50 police are injured and at least 20 have been arrested.












Irish Republican IRA Hunger Strike
The seven month Irish Republican hunger strike at the Maze prison that claimed 10 lives ended without the British Government granting Political Status to prisoners who are members of the IRA

Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands begins a hunger strike at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. During his hunger strike he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Great Britain. He died 65 days later.








Martial Law Imposed in Poland
Martial law and a state of emergency is imposed by Poland's military rulers. Leaders of the Solidarity trade union have been placed under arrest for inciting the unrest and the army are on the streets in a massive show of military strength imposing strict censorship and a curfew.








Francois Mitterand
Socialist Francois Mitterand combining moderates and the communist party in France has won ending 2 decades of Conservative rule starting with Charles De Gaule








Antigua and Barbuda Gains Independence
Antigua and Barbuda an island in the West Indies, in the Caribbean gains it's independence in 1981 from Great Britain









Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite retires as the nation's most beloved anchorman from CBS Evening News.









Greenham Common Protestors
Greenham Common Protesters Arrived at Greenham Common in September 1981 shortly after it was announced that America would be using Greenham Common to store cruise missiles and did not leave for 19 years until the base was dismantled in 2000

The women slept and sheltered in tents and caravans and I had driven by The Women's Greenham Common Peace Camp a few times over the years and the facilities they had were very basic so if you did or did not agree with them you have no choice but to salute their commitment to something they believed in.








The Yorkshire Ripper
Peter William Sutcliffe, of 6 Garden Lane, Bradford, was charged with the murder of 20 year old university student Jacqueline Hill, who was killed in Leeds.
The Yorkshire ripper Peter Sutcliffe is found guilty of killing 13 women and the attempted murder of 7 others. and is sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail.









American Hostages Released Iran
Iran released 52 weary American hostages, who were held for 444 days








Air traffic controllers strike 1981
President Ronald Reagan calls Air traffic controllers strike illegal and threatened to fire any controller who had not returned to work within 48 hours. He also declared a lifetime ban on the rehiring of any sacked strikers by the Federal Aviation Administration








Soviet Sub Beached
A Soviet submarine, stuck in the mud off of Sweden’s shores, provided a lot of sport for the pacifist nation. The Soviets had approached Sweden in a menacing manner with warships, however, Swedish authorities insisted on boarding the submarine. In the end the superpower’s submarine crew had to ask for Sweden’s help to get back to the Baltic Sea – a humbling experience.








9 to 5 tops the charts
Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" tops the Charts as many identify with the song and the movie .








Rupert Murdoch shuts down the Sunday Times 1981
Rupert Murdoch has shut down the Sunday Times due to an industrial dispute with 101 members of the Printers Union and suspended 1,400 staff on indefinite suspension without pay








Pope John Paul II Shot
Pope John Paul II, was shot in Vatican City . Police in the square apprehended Turkish citizen Mehmet Ali Agca after he shot the pope








Bernadette Devlin
Bernadette McAliskey formerly known as Bernadette Devlin, was by gunmen who burst into her home at Coalisland in County Tyrone. The injuries are serious, but not life-threatening











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