- Jan 20 Ronald Reagan inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States of America
- Apr 14 1st Space Shuttle, Columbia 1, returns to Earth
- May 5 After 66 days on hunger strike, 26 year old Provisional IRA member and British MP Bobby Sands dies in the Maze Prision. Nine more hunger strikers die in the next 3 months.
- May 13 Pope John Paul II is shot and critically wounded by Turkish gunman Mehemet Ali Agca in St Peter's Square, Vatican City
- Jun 5 AIDS Epidemic officially begins when US Centers for Disease Control reports on pneumonia affecting five homosexual men in Los Angeles
- Jun 5 World's first today in history program with editable data "TODAY", invented by Michael Butler runs for the first time on a mainframe computer
- Aug 12 IBM introduces its first Personal Computer (PC & PC-DOS version 1.0)
- Oct 23 US national debt hits $1 trillion
- Jan 15 "Hill Street Blues" premieres on NBC-TV
- Mar 6 Walter Cronkite signs off as anchorman of "CBS Evening News"
- Mar 9 Dan Rather becomes primary anchorman of CBS-TV News
- Mar 30 "Chariots of Fire" directed by Hugh Hudson and starring Ben Cross and Ian Charleson premieres at a Royal Command Film Performance (Best Picture 1982)
- Feb 19 George Harrison is ordered to pay ABKCO Music $587,000 for "subconscious plagiarism" of his song "My Sweet Lord" with Ronnie Mack's song "He's So Fine"
- May 11 Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Cats" (based on poetry by T. S. Eliot) directed by Trevor Nunn first premieres in the West End, London
- May 21 Reggae musician Bob Marley receives a Jamaican state funeral
The John Bull becomes the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world when the Smithsonian Institution operates it under its own power outside Washington, D.C.
On September 15, 1981
Longest game in Professional Baseball: Pawtucket Red Sox finally beat Rochester Red Wings 3-2 in 33 innings (game began 18th April)
On June 23, 1981