The 80s Timeline

Video highlights from The 80s



  • January: Rubik’s Cube debuts at the International Toy Fair.
  • April 24: U.S. rescue attempt to save hostages in Tehran fails.
  • May 18: Mount St. Helens erupts.
  • May 22: Pac-Man video game is released.
  • June 1: Ted Turner establishes CNN.
  • June 9: Richard Pryor sets himself on fire while freebasing cocaine.
  • November 21: 83,000,000 viewers tune in to find out Who shot J.R.? on “Dallas”. 
  • December 8: John Lennon is murdered “9 to 5” starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin is released.



  • January 12: “Dynasty” debuts. 
  • March 30: John Hinckley Jr. attempts to assassinate President Reagan.
  • April 12: The Space Shuttle Columbia is launched.
  • May 13: Mehmet Ali Agca attempts to assassinate Pope John Paul II.
  • July 29: Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer.
  • December 28: Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first U.S. IVF baby, is born.
  • AIDS recognized by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • MS-DOS released.
  • The first IBM-PC released.



  • April 2: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.
  • June 11: The movie “E.T.” released.
  • September: Jane Fonda releases her “Workout” video.
  • November 13: Vietnam War Memorial opens in Washington, D.C.
  • Calvin Klein’s first underwear ad featuring Tom Hintnaus stops traffic in Times Square.
  • 14-year old skateboarder Tony Hawk joins the Bones Brigade and turns professional.



  • February 28: “M*A*S*H” ends after 251 episodes.
  • March 23: President Reagan announces defence plan called Star Wars.
  • April 18: U.S. Embassy in Beirut bombed.
  • June 18: Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.
  • October 13: The first commercial cell phone call is made.
  • December 2: Michael Jackson releases “Thriller”.



  • January 24: Steve Jobs introduces the first Macintosh computer.
  • September 14: Madonna performs “Like a Virgin” at the first-ever MTV Awards.
  • September 20: “The Cosby Show” debuts.
  • Huge poison gas leak at Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India.
  • Two bodyguards assassinate Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • October 16: Bishop Desmond Tutu receives Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Lee Iacocca appears in television commercials for Chrysler.
  • Bernhard Goetz shoots four would-be attackers on a New York subway.



  • January 28: “We Are the World” is recorded in Los Angeles.
  • May 24: Steve Jobs leaves Apple Computers.
  • August 20: Iran-Contra scandal erupts.
  • September 3: Bob Ballard discovers the wreck of the Titanic.
  • November 20: Microsoft introduces Windows.
  • Hole in the ozone first reported.
  • Nike releases the Air Jordan 1.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev calls for glasnost and perestroika.
  • “Back to the Future” starring Michael J. Fox is released.



  • January 28: Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after lift-off.
  • February 20: USSR launches Mir Space Station.
  • April 26: Chernobyl nuclear meltdown occurs.
  • July 4: RUN DMC releases “Walk This Way”.  
  • Oliver Stone wins Academy Award for best director for “Platoon”.



  • April 18: “Headbangers Ball” debuts on MTV.
  • October 4: U.S. and Canada sign free trade agreement.
  • October 19: U.S. stock market plunges on Black Monday.
  • December: Eli Lilly Drug Company receives final approval to market Prozac.
  • DNA first used to convict criminals and exonerate innocent prisoners on death row.
  • West German pilot lands in Red Square.
  • Motivational speaker and firewalker Tony Robbins publishes his first book, “Unlimited Power”.



  • February 20: Salt n’ Pepa’s “Push It” peaks on the Billboard charts at #19.
  • May 15: Soviet troops begin to withdraw from Afghanistan after nine-year occupation.
  • November: George Bush Sr. elected president of the United States.
  • December 21: Pan Am Flight 103 is bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland.
  • “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is the top-grossing film of the year.
  • CDs outsell vinyl records and tapes for the first time.
  • President Reagan names Ben and Jerry Small Business Persons of the Year.



  • March 24: Exxon Valdez spills millions of gallons of oil on Alaskan coastline.
  • June 4: Student protesters killed in China’s Tiananmen Square.
  • September 20: F. W. DeKlerk becomes president of South Africa, promising apartheid reforms.
  • November 9: Berlin Wall falls.
  • September 22: “Bay Watch” debuts.
  • December 17: “The Simpsons” debuts.
  • Gameboy is released.
  • The Internet goes global.

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address