As the world once again prepared to enter a new decade, no one really knew what the 1980s had to offer. With great political change and the first female Prime Minister in Britain, the 1980s were certainly a decade to remember.

In this 1980 timeline, you’ll find all the important events of the first year of the decade that shaped the world 40 years ago. You can even discover 1980 events for yourself in a 1980 newspaper.

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The death of John Lennon

The release of Pac-Man

1980 Timeline


January 2: British steel workers go on a national strike. It is the first steelworks strike since 1926.

January 6: Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party wins elections in India.

January 6: U.S. President Jimmy Carter authorizes legislation to bail out the Chrysler Corporation with a 1.5 billion dollar loan.

January 11: Debut of The Pretenders’ album Pretenders.

January 16: Paul McCartney is arrested at Tokyo International Airport for possession of marijuana. He is sent to jail for nine days before being deported.

January 17: A Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb detonates prematurely on a passenger train near Belfast, killing three and injuring five, including the bombers.

January 18: Pink Floyd’s album The Wall hits number 1. 

January 20: U.S. President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. will boycott the Olympics in Moscow. 

January 20: The British record TV audience for a film is set when some 23,500,000 viewers tune in for the ITV showing of the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973).

January 26: 175,000 pay to hear Frank Sinatra sing in Rio de Janeiro. 

January 29: The Rubik’s Cube makes its international debut at The British Toy and Hobby Fair, Earl’s Court, London. 

January 31: The Spanish Embassy in Guatemala is invaded and set on fire, killing 36 people. 


February 1: Blondie releases her single Call Me, which would become the Billboard Song of the Year 1980.

February 13: The 1980 Winter Olympics open in Lake Placid, New York.

February 14: West Side Story opens at Minskoff Theater NYC for 341 performances.

February 19: AC/DC frontman Bon Scott passes away. 

February 22: “Miracle on Ice”: U.S. hockey team beats the heavily favored Soviet Union 4-3 at Lake Placid in one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history. America goes on to win the gold medal.


March 3: Pierre Trudeau is sworn in as the 17th Prime Minister of Canada for the second time.

March 5: Earth satellites record gamma rays from remnants of supernova N-49.

March 8: The first rock music festival kicks off in the Soviet Union.

March 13: John Wayne Gacy receives the death sentence in Illinois for the murder of 12 people.

March 23: Australian cricketer Allan Border becomes the first and only batsman to reach 150 in each innings of a test, in the 3rd test vs Pakistan in Lahore.


April 4: Alton Towers Resort is opened by Madame Tussauds in Staffordshire.

April 6: Post It Notes are first introduced.

April 7: U.S. President Jimmy Carter breaks down relations with Iran during the hostage crisis. 

April 13: Musical “Grease” closes at Broadhurst Theater, New York City after 3,388 performances.

April 13: The U.S. and its allies boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest against Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. 

April 18: Zimbabwe becomes independent of the United Kingdom.

April 24: A U.S. rescue attempt to save hostages in Tehran fails.

April 25: Dan-Air Flight 1008 crashes in Tenerife, killing all 146 occupants and marking the worst air disaster involving a British-registered aircraft in terms of loss of life. 


jimmy carter

U.S. President Jimmy Carter (Source: Wikipedia)


May 2: Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)” is banned in South Africa.

May 7: Paul Geidel, convicted of second-degree murder in 1911, is released from prison in Beacon, New York. He served 68 years and 245 days, the longest-ever time served by an inmate. 

May 8: The World Health Organisation announces that smallpox has been eradicated. 

May 9: Slasher horror film Friday the 13th is released in U.S. cinemas. 

May 10: West Ham United, of the Second Division, win the FA Cup for the third time in its history with a surprise 1-0 victory over First Division Arsenal in the final at Wembley Stadium.

May 18: The eruption of Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state kills 57 people and causes $3 billion (U.S.) in damage. 

May 18: Ian Curtis, the singer-songwriter of acclaimed English post-punk band Joy Division, is found hanged at the age of 23. 

May 21: Star Wars Episode V – Empire Strikes Back produced by George Lucas opens in cinemas in the UK and North America.

May 22: The Pac-Man video game is released in Japan, later becoming the best-selling arcade game of all time.

May 23: Horror film The Shining is released based on the book by Stephen King. 


mount st helens

Mount St. Helens (Source: Pixabay)


June 1: The first transmission of CNN, the Cable News Network, takes place.

June 3: U.S. President Jimmy Carter wins enough delegates for renomination. 

June 13: UN Security Council calls for South Africa to free Nelson Mandela from prison. 

June 30: Queen releases their eighth studio album The Game. 


July 10: Alexandra Palace burns down for a second time. 

July 17: Ronald Reagan formally accepts Republican nomination for U.S. President.

July 19-August 3: Great Britain and Northern Ireland compete at the Olympics in Moscow and win 5 gold, 7 silver and 9 bronze medals.

July 22: Unemployment in the UK has hit a 44-year high of nearly 1.9 million.

July 30: American swimmers Mary T Meagher and Craig Beardsley both set 200m butterfly world records at the U.S. National Swimming Championship in Irvine, California.

July 31: China’s population hits one billion people. 


August 1: In Ireland, the Buttevant Rail Disaster kills 18 and injures dozens of train passengers.

August 16: 37 people die as a result of the Denmark Place fire, arson at adjacent London nightclubs.


September 3: Zimbabwe breaks diplomatic and consular relations with South Africa, even though it maintains a commercial mission in Johannesburg.

September 11: The Marlborough diamond is stolen in London. 

September 23: Bob Marley’s last concert takes place at Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh.

bob marley

Bob Marley (Source: Wikimedia)


October 3: The 1980 Housing Act comes into effect, giving council house tenants of three years’ standing in England and Wales the right to buy their home from their local council at a discount.

October 9: Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s The Phantom of the Opera premieres on London’s West End.

October 17: Queen Elizabeth II makes history by becoming the first British monarch to make a state visit to the Vatican.

October 21: Mikhail Gorbachev is elected member of the Politburo. 

October 24: The Polish government legalizes independent labor union solidarity. 


November 4: The 1980 U.S. presidential election takes place, which sees Republican candidate Ronald Reagan being elected President and defeating Democrat President Jimmy Carter by a landslide.


December 4: Two months after the death of their drummer John Bonham, Led Zeppelin announces they will disband. 

December 8: Photographer Annie Leibovitz has a photoshoot with John Lennon. She is the last person to professionally photograph him before he is murdered on the same day. He is shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City.

December 12: Apple makes its first initial public offering on the U.S. stock market. 28 years later, it would become the first U.S. company valued at over $1 trillion. 

December 14: Thousands of music fans hold a 10-minute vigil in Liverpool for John Lennon.

john lennon

John Lennon’s last television interview (Source: Wikimedia)

The Death of John Lennon

On December 8, 1980, former Beatles member John Lennon was fatally shot in the archway of the Dakota, his apartment building in New York City. He was rushed in a police cruiser to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Having left with his wife Yoko Ono for a recording session at Record Plant Studio, the couple returned that night and Lennon was shot as they headed into the apartment building. 

Mark David Chapman was the perpetrator, a recently unemployed resident of Hawaii. After firing five hollow-point bullets from a .38 special revolver, four hit Lennon in the back and Chapman remained at the scene until he was arrested. Chapman has been planning the murder over several months and made sure he was ready and waiting on December 8. He stated that he was motivated by Lennon’s lifestyle and public statements, particularly when Lennon remarked that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” Chapman was also incensed by the lyrics to Lennon’s later songs, God and Imagine

The death of John Lennon sparked a worldwide outpouring of grief on an unprecedented scale with crowds gathering at the hospital and in front of the Dakota and at least three Beatles fans committed suicide. Lennon was cremated 4 days later and his ashes were given to his wife, who requested a 10 minute worldwide silence instead of a funeral. Once Chapman had pleaded guilty to the murder, he was sentenced to 20-years-to-life in prison. He became eligible for parole in 2000, but has been denied 10 times. 

john lennon yoko ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their Bed-Ins for Peace, 1969 (Source: Wikipedia)

The Release of Pac-Man 

The release of Pac-Man led the yellow, pie-shaped character to quickly become an icon of the 1980s. Even today, it remains to be one of the most popular video games in history. The company that made the game, Namco, were hoping to create a game that would be enjoyed by girls and boys alike. The game reached unquestionable success, with its nonviolent theme, cute ghosts and humor appealing to both genders. 

Despite gaining initial popularity in the 1980s, the game has been remade on nearly every video game platform since then, making it accessible to modern gamers. It’s simple yet addictive aims have kept gamers entertained for hours, particular 33-year-old Billy Mitchell who finished the entire game perfectly on July 3, 1999. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the game in 2010, Google released a playable version of the game to appear on its homepage.