1979 Annual History Facts

1979 Annual History Facts

  • The Quote: “This is the product that will satisfy those young people who want to listen to music all day.” – Akio Morita, Sony Chairman, about the Sony Walkman.
  • On January 9, Vietnamese troops took the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and toppled the brutal regime of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.
  • The Top Song was My Sharona by The Knack
  • The Big Movies included Kramer vs. Kramer, Superman, and The Amityville Horror
  • TRS-80 Computer, 4k, Model 1: $499.00
    Price of a gallon of gas in 1979: 88 cents
  • The World Population was ~ 4,312,000,000
  • The First Strawberry Shortcake doll went on sale.
  • Seymour Cray invented the Cray supercomputer.
  • And… The China Syndrome, a movie about a nuclear meltdown caused by a faulty sensor reading and a stuck-open pressure release valve, aired only 12 days before the 3 Mile Island Meltdown, caused by a faulty sensor reading and a stuck open pressure release valve.

World Series Champions

Pittsburgh Pirates

Superbowl XIII Champions

Pittsburgh Steelers

Stanley Cup Champions

Montreal Canadiens

National Basketball Association Champions

Seattle SuperSonics

US Open Golf

Hale Irwin

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

John McEnroe/Tracy Austin

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

Bjorn Borg/Martina Navratilova

NCAA Football Champions


NCAA Basketball Champions

Michigan State

Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 1, 1979 – Oklahoma over Nebraska
Rose Bowl: January 1, 1979 – USC over Michigan
Sugar Bowl: January 1, 1979 – Alabama over Penn State

Kentucky Derby

Spectacular Bid

Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Oak Tree’s Irishtocrat

Time Magazine’s Man of the Year

Ayatollah Khomeini

Miss America

Kylene Barker (Roanoke, VA)

Miss USA

Mary Therese Friel (New York)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Kim Alexis, Carol Alt, Loni Anderson, Susan Anton, Barbara Bach, Catherine Bach, Kim Basinger, Candice Bergen, Valerie Bertinelli, Jacqueline Bisset, Christie Brinkley, Gia Carangi, Lynda Carter, Cher, Bo Derek, Janice Dickinson, Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher, Karen Graham, Erin Gray, Shelly Hack, Debbie Harry, Marilu Henner, Lauren Hutton, Iman, Kate Jackson, Cheryl Ladd, Audrey Landers, Jessica Lange, Olivia Newton-John, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Bernadette Peters, Victoria Principal, Diana Ross, Jane Seymour, Brooke Shields, Jacquelyn Smith, Suzanne Somers, Meryl Streep, Donna Summer, Cheryl Tiegs, Charlene Tilton, Mary Woronov

“The Quotes”

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
– Robert Duvall in ‘Apocalypse Now’

“Have a coke and smile.”

“Quality is job one.”
– Ford

“Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.”
– Brooke Shields, for Calvin Klein

“Reach out and touch someone.”
– AT&T

Richard Pryor was the first comedian to perform at the original Laugh Factory in 1979. When the owner attempted to pay him, he declined, handed him a $100 bill, saying, “You need this for your rent, boy.”

1979 Pop Culture History

Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in an attempted suicide, only to be blown back onto the 85th floor by a gust of wind. Her only injury was a broken hip.

In 1979, you could call a 1-800 number and listen to messages from Star Wars characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C3PO, and Darth Vader.

Many Swedish people were called sick with a ‘case of being homosexual’ as a protest against homosexuality being labeled an illness.

John Paul II visited the United States of America (October 1st-8, 1979).

The Grateful Dead played the final concert at the iconic Winterland venue in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve 1978, which lasted over 8 hours. The guests were treated to a hot buffet breakfast at dawn when the show ended.

Michael Jackson released Off the Wall, his fifth solo studio album.

The last claim under the 1866 Homestead Act entitled a person to free frontier land if they lived on it for five years and built a farm was made on 80 acres near the Stony River in Alaska in 1979.

In 1979, due to a gasoline shortage, the US had specific days to get gas based on whether your license plate ended in an odd or even number.

Jimmy Carter signed the bill that made homebrewing legal in 1978. It took effect in 1979.

Black and Decker released the now-famous cordless mini-vacuum, The Dustbuster.

Guy Lafleur, a player for the Montreal Canadiens, released an album called “Lafleur.” It consisted of Lafleur giving hockey instructions over the sound of disco music.

An LA man received thousands of parking tickets due to DMV computers matching tickets for cars without plates to his custom “NO PLATE” license plate.

PBS’ This Old House was one of the earliest home improvement shows. It was initially controversial among building contractors, and the cast feared that they were giving away secrets of the building trades.

On 9/22/1979, there was an unidentified nuclear explosion in the Indian Ocean, known as the Vela Incident.

1979’s Mad Max was dubbed for original US release because producers assumed American audiences would have trouble understanding Australian accents.

The first recorded human death by a robot was on Jan. 25, 1979, when a Ford Motors assembly line worker was killed in Flat Rock, Michigan.

ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) began broadcasting on September 7.

Alec Guinness was among the few cast members who believed that Star Wars would be a box office hit; he negotiated a deal for 2.25% of the gross royalties paid to the director, George Lucas, who received one-fifth of the box office takings.

Etan Patz was the first missing child to have their picture on a milk carton in 1979, and the murderer wasn’t caught till 2012.

Victoria’s Secret stores opened in 1979. It went national in 1982 after being acquired by Limited Brands.

Rhodesia became Zimbabwe.

An unknown group of people paid for the erection of the “Georgia Guidestones,” six granite slabs that instruct the survivors of an apocalyptic scenario how to rebuild a better world.

April 1st – Nickelodeon TV cable network began.

When Peanuts started in 1950, Charlie Brown was four years old, aged six in 1957, and has been about eight since 1979.

The Cleveland Elementary School shooting occurred in 1979 in San Diego, California. A 16-year-old girl, Brenda Spencer, killed the principal and a custodian, and injured eight children and a police officer. When asked by a reporter why she did it, she said, “I don’t like Mondays.”

The cost of a Superbowl ad in 1979: $185,000.

A black character first appeared in a video game in 1979’s “Basketball” on the Atari 800.

The biggest storm on record was Typhoon Tip in 1979 – 2,200km wide, 305km/h winds.

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

The Cleveland Elementary School shooting occurred in 1979 in San Diego, California. A 16-year-old girl, Brenda Spencer, killed the principal and a custodian, and injured eight children and a police officer. When asked by a reporter why she did it, she said, “I don’t like Mondays.”

The Hatfield and McCoy families, of the famous Hatfield-McCoy Feud, faced off again in 1979 on the game show Family Feud.

Anna Williams received a bizarre poem lamenting her absence from her home on April 28th, 1979, From the serial killer, BTK, who had been waiting in her bedroom closet that night.

Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed into the Antarctic Mountains in November 1979. The 257 bodies were recovered, but the crash remains were left behind. When the snow partially melts in the Antarctic Summer, the remaining pieces of the fuselage are visible from the air.

A mummified steppe bison named Blue Babe was discovered in Alaska. While preparing the specimen for display, the research team decided to stew and eat part of the mummy’s neck to “celebrate the accomplishment”. They were fine after the meal.

A woman named Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in an attempt to kill herself but fell into the next floor due to a gust of wind.

Between 1977 and 1979, New Zealand offered scenic Antarctic flights. They stopped when one plane crashed into an Antarctic volcano, killing all 257 people on the flight. The wreckage remains at the crash site.

President Jimmy Carter claimed he had to shoo away an enraged swamp rabbit that began swimming toward his fishing boat in 1979. Upon returning to his office, Carter’s staff did not believe his story, insisting that rabbits could not swim or would never approach a person threateningly.

Anna Williams received a bizarre poem lamenting her absence from her home on the night of April 28th, 1979. The author of the letter? The serial killer, BTK, had been waiting in her bedroom closet that night.

In 1987, his superiors tasked the FBI agent Robert Hanssen to find a mole within the agency after the FBI’s moles in the KGB were caught. He was the mole, working with the KGB since 1979.

Etan Patz was the 1st missing child to have their picture on a milk carton in 1979, and the murderer wasn’t caught until 2012

Ford’s Pinto automobile design allowed its fuel tank to be easily damaged in the event of a rear-end collision, sometimes resulting in deadly fires and explosions. Ford first noticed it in 1971 tests.

The 1979 film The China Syndrome, about a coverup at a nuclear plant, was released; it was denounced as a “character assassination of an entire industry.” Twelve days later, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred… on March 28, the Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania, had a near meltdown. No one was reported killed or injured, but the accident changed many regulations for American nuclear reactors.

On September 2, there was an unidentified nuclear explosion in the Indian Ocean, and it is known as the Vela Incident

52 Americans were taken hostage in Tehran, Iran, for 444 days. Four days later, ABC’s Nightline premiered, centering on the crisis.

NASA’s Skylab fell to Earth, in Esperance, Western Australia. The Shire of Esperance fined NASA $400 for littering, which went unpaid for 30 years until a radio host raised the money and paid it on behalf of NASA. The San Francisco Examiner offered a $10,000 prize for the first piece of the Skylab space station to be delivered to their offices. 17-year-old Stan Thornton scooped a few pieces of Skylab off the roof of his home in Esperance, Australia, flew to San Francisco and collected the prize.

Rock and Roll Death: Sid Vicious (heroin overdose)

11 people were crushed to death outside of Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum before a concert by The Who.

Charles Manson sent his parole board a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in 1979. It didn’t work.

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

Mattel’s Intellivision, Milton Bradley’s Microvision, Sony Walkman cassette/radio

Inside Sports Magazine (1979-1998)

Self Magazine (1979-2017)

Fangoria began publication

The Habits

Walking while listening to tapes on your Sony Walkman and wearing a Lacoste preppy shirt with the famous alligator on the left side.
Reading The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum
Reading A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
Reading Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

1979/80 Biggest Television Shows

(according to Nielsen TV Research)
1. 60 Minutes (CBS)
2. Three’s Company (ABC)
3. That’s Incredible! (ABC)
4. Alice (CBS)
5. M*A*S*H (CBS)
6. Dallas (CBS)
7. Flo (CBS)
8. The Jeffersons (CBS)
9. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
10. One Day at a Time (CBS)

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1979 include
A Taste of Honey, Ashford & Simpson, Barbra Streisand, The Bar-Kays, Barry Manilow, The Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Blondie, Chic, The Commodores, The Doobie Brothers, Donna Summer, Dr. Hook, Earth, Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Foreigner, George Benson, GQ, Herb Alpert, Instant Funk, John Travolta, Kenny Rogers, The Knack, Kool & the Gang, McFadden & Whitehead, Micheal Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, Parliament/ Funkadelic, Peaches & Herb, Peaches & Herb, Player, Prince, Queen, Rod Stewart, Rufus featuring Chaka Kahn, Rupert Holmes, Sister Sledge, Steely Dan, Styx, Sugarhill Gang, Supertramp, Village People

(Data is compiled from charts, including Billboard’s Pop, Rock, Airplay, R&B/Dance, and Singles Charts. The Hot 100 is the primary chart used for this list.)

Number One Hits of 1979

December 9, 1978 – January 5, 1979: Chic – Le Freak

January 6, 1979 – February 9, 1979: Bee Gees – Too Much Heaven

February 10, 1979 – March 9, 1979: Rod Stewart – Da Ya Think I’m Sexy

March 10, 1979 – March 23, 1979: Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

March 24, 1979 – April 13, 1979: Bee Gees – Tragedy

April 14, 1979 – April 20, 1979: The Doobie Brothers – What a Fool Believes

April 21, 1979 – April 27, 1979: Amii Stewart – Knock on Wood

April 28, 1979 – May 4, 1979: Blondie – Heart of Glass

May 5, 1979 – June 1, 1979: Peaches & Herb – Reunited

June 2, 1979 – June 8, 1979: Donna Summer – Hot Stuff

June 9, 1979 – June 29, 1979: Bee Gees – Love You Inside Out

June 30, 1979 – July 13, 1979: Anita Ward – Ring My Bell

July 14, 1979 – August 17, 1979: Donna Summer – Bad Girls

August 18, 1979 – August 24, 1979: Chic – Good Times

August 25, 1979 – October 5, 1979: The Knack – My Sharona

October 6, 1979 – October 12, 1979: Robert John – Sad Eyes

October 13, 1979 – October 19, 1979: Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough

October 20, 1979 – November 2, 1979: Herb Alpert – Rise

November 3, 1979 – November 9, 1979: M – Pop Muzik

November 10, 1979 – November 16, 1979: Eagles – Heartache Tonight

November 17, 1979 – November 23, 1979: Commodores – Still

November 24, 1979 – December 7, 1979: Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer – No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)

December 8, 1979 – December 21, 1979: Styx – Babe

December 22, 1979 – January 4, 1980: Rupert Holmes – Escape (The PiƱa Colada Song)

Popular Movies

10, Alien, All That Jazz, … And Justice For All, Apocalypse Now, Being There, The Black Hole, The Black Stallion, Breaking Away, The China Syndrome, The Jerk, Kramer vs. Kramer, Mad Max, Manhattan, Meatballs, (Monty Python’s) Life of Brian, Moonraker, The Muppet Movie, Norma Rae, North Dallas Forty, Real Life, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Time After Time, The Warriors
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