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As the C64 celebrates three decades of existence, PCR remembers one of its most popular games

The Commodore 64 and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon: Computing joy and Olympic pain

Thirty years ago, the Commodore 64 was introduced to the world, bringing home computing to a mass audience, and changing my life forever.

Perhaps I exaggerate a little. I was only two when the machine first appeared, and I had started school by the time one first appeared in my home. Nevertheless it has left a big impression on me and countless others from that generation.

It reportedly sold up to 17 million units and dominated the home PC market in the early ‘80s.

We had two machines in my house – my father brought them home one day having swapped them for a broken oven. One worked but was missing keys, whilst the other had a full keyboard but didn’t work. 

For many the C64 led to heady world of bedroom coding, where almost anyone could learn some coding and, with a bit of effort, put out some decent games. It was a revelation (and Raspberry Pi is hoping to stimulate something similar today).

For me personally, it helped foster a love of computing and gaming that continues even now.


Around 10,000 software titles were created for the machine, one of them Daley Thompson’s Decathlon – otherwise known as the destroyer of hands and joysticks everywhere.

Named for Olympic champion Daley Thompson, who won gold medals in 1980 and 1984 for the UK, it was released in 1984.

Most of the ten events – 100 metres, long jump, shot putt, high jump, 400 meters, 110 hurdles, pole vault, discus, javelin and 1,500 metres – required running, which on the C64 meant waggling the joystick from side to side as quickly as possible.


You think Mo Farah looked tired after his run? Or that Jessica Ennis was a wee bit wiped out after successfully winning her Heptathlon gold? Think again. Think of Helen French in 1986, desperately trying to win gold, giving it everything she could.

Going on the Decathlon theme, another favourite from the 1980s was rival title Activision’s Decathlon. It boasted a two-player option for frantic competition. I’d play against my little brother, only I didn’t have his stamina, and though he was two years younger than me, he’d always win the last, most exhausting race. You’d be throwing that joystick from side to side for what felt like forever, gaining blistered palms along the way (yes, really!), until that moment when I couldn’t take it any more.

I would throw a strop, slam the joystick down and watch with a wry smile as my brother had an agonising wait for my character to cross the finish line before he could be crowned champion.

Ah, those were the days. That was what my Commodore 64 brought me – a true sense of the joy and despair that good gaming, even in a mere 16 colours, can bring.

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