A flight simulator is a system that attempts to simulate the experience of flying a plane in the closest way to reality. There are many types of simulators ranging from video games to large-scale replicas of the cockpits of the Boeing 737 aircraft, all of which are completely computer controlled. These software are so perfect that they prepare future pilots to face any problems during a flight, without ever risking their lives.
But who was the creator of the first flight simulation software?
In 1970, Bruce Artwick was a young electrical engineering student at the University of Illinois, passionate about flight and computer science, he graduated in electrical engineering in 1975 and earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering the following year. In May 1976 he presented his project for the first time as a thesis “the flight of an airplane model on a computer screen”. Artwick demonstrates that it was possible to manage a flight simulation with real-time graphs and calculations The computer with which he made the thesis was equipped with the 8-bit Motorola 6800 processor.
In 1978 the commercialization of the Motorola 6800 processor marked an important step for computer science and eventually the studies of Artwick began to take shape. In that year he gives a name to his project. Finally Flight Simulator is born
Artwick also quickly obtained his flight license. Together with his instructor Stu Moment he creates the SubLOGIC company. Bruce takes care of the programming, Moment of the “technical advice” on the problems of flight. A combination that then proves 100% winning
January 1980 … the first “playable” version of its product was finally ready. More than a flight simulator, it was actually an air combat game. The game scenario was divided in the center by a river that bordered an allied area and an opposing area, each had 2 airports, logistic bases and fuel depots, set in the First World War. The aim of the game was to engage in aerial combat and to bomb enemy installations on the opposite bank, but also to defend their bases.
In 1981Flight Simulator became so popular that it was the best-selling title ever. Microsoft purchases a license forFlight Simulator. Different versions came out up to 82, each more complete and more optimized. The graphics were wireframe and had a resolution of 320 x 200 in 4 colors; the product is sold only on cassette!
With the birth of new computers (Commodore, Atari and PC), Artwick immediately tried to bring his creature to new platforms with the intent to exploit the greater power of the processors, so he decided to abandon the model of the military simulation of Fs1 and he he concentrated only on civilian flight.
In 1984 “Flight Simulator II” (FS2) was finally released for Commodore 64 on cassette and on disk. Attached was a 90-page “Pilot Operator’s Manual and Airplane Flight Manual”, and an Air Force book, as well as four flight maps and a double-sided “Quick Reference” . Enjoy under this rare unboxing video
FS2 was more than a game, it offered many scenarios for a real flight simulation. It simulated the Piper PA-28-181 Archer II and was equipped with all the essential tools, IFR instrument flight was also possible. Several radios and the beacon (an emergency location transmitter) were available for navigation. The reliability of the plane could be set and for the control it was possible to use both the keyboard and two joysticks, one to maneuver the piano and the other to accelerate and brake.
Through the cockpit window the pilot has an “almost 3D” landscape. By activating the “radar” mode you could see the position of the plane. The pilot could choose whether to fly day or night, details that were unimaginable until now, there were two layers of clouds and four levels of wind. The standard scenario covered all the United States (without Alaska and Hawaii), but only 4 areas with data: Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York / Boston. 80 airports were present, with ATIS transmissions (ATIS transmissions contain essential information on current air traffic conditions, weather information, active runways, available approaches and all other information required by pilots) and a series of runways with ILS, ( instrumental landing) as well as a list of VOR and NDB beacon frequencies (very common non-directional beacon, together with the VOR, and used for IFR instrumental air navigation or maritime radio navigation). In the following years a series of additional scenarios was launched which not only contained all the United States (without Alaska), but also parts of Europe and Japan.
But Artwick, although he was a pioneer, was not alone in working on simulation games. Many have tried to imitate him and in 1983 another great title arrives which adds to the history of flight simulators.
Produced by MicroProse, Solo Flight was written by Sid Meier for the 8 bit Atari family and published in 1983. The game was a pure flight simulation with a mode called Mail Pilot. The upper half of the screen shows the plane in flight in third person, while the lower part contains the instruments. The game allowed for the first time both visual flight and instrument flight.
In the Mail Pilot mode, the player had to deliver five envelopes of mail to the destination airports chosen among the 21 different ones, at the end of the mission a score was assigned based on navigation and time spent. It could also happen that during the journey the plane has mechanical and instrumental failures.
Flight simulators have always fascinated me and as a boy I dreamed of becoming a pilot, but then life often goes differently from how you imagine it … at 20 I was happy with my Commodore 64 and datacassettes, at the time many titles were available (many were not really original) and with 5000 lire you could afford to dream and dominate the skies. Such as ? But with a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, an American fighter and a high altitude bomber capable of flying 3 times faster than sound. This machine holds the knockdown record without any loss in air-to-air combat with 104 enemy planes shot down. Most of these victories were achieved by Israeli pilots during the 1988 Lebanon war against Syrian Mig 21 and Mig 23, another 33 by the USAF in Iraq in 1991 and in ex-Yugoslavia in 1999 and 2 by Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) in Iraq in 1991.
The game published by MicroProse in 1984, simulates piloting from the point of view of combat, in the absence of takeoff and landing. The view is in first person from the cabin and the landscape is shown with polygonal graphics. On-board instrumentation includes HUD elements, a radar and a minimap of the entire area at the bottom of the screen. The aircraft is equipped with short-range cannons, two types of air-to-air missiles, bombs, flares and electronic countermeasures.
There are various missions of progressive difficulty to face, set in the Middle East countries or in Vietnam. The primary objectives are ground installations, but it is also possible to meet enemy fighters and be hit by anti-aircraft missiles. You can choose 4 general difficulty levels. The game had three sequels, F-15 Strike Eagle II (1989, various 16-bit systems) F-15 Strike Eagle III (1992, DOS) and Super Strike Eagle (1993, SNES), this beautiful game has long been unique with graphics that were incredible at the time. Today it is part of my simulator collection.
Another round … another flight … year 1987 … Who is it that has never played the Battle of England? “Battle of Britain”, another simulation classic for Commodore 64, strategic and in real time. You could choose between Spitfire or Hurricane. Climb aboard your plane and you will immediately find yourself in the guise of a pilot of the Royal Air Force who fought against the German Luftwaffe.
By flying you had a first-person view and you started breathtaking chases to hit enemy fighters and bombers. But even you could have been shot down when an enemy appeared in the rearview mirror and then you only had to make the sign of the cross.
Another nice game that I still remember with emotion was The Dum Buster, on the wrong line of Operation Chastise. Operation Chastise, “punishment”, was an air strike planned by the Bomber Command by the RAF in March 1943. Held in the context of the battle of Ruhr was conducted by the 617 squadron, the objective of the mission was the demolition of the German dams on the Eder, Sorpe and Mohne rivers in order to flood the surrounding areas, rich in industrial plants.
In game three the missions available, one more difficult than the other. All three aim to destroy the dam with various enemies to overcome. During your flight you control the bomber in each of the seven crew positions: pilot, front and rear gunner, navigator, engineer, squadron commander and finally as assigned to target the bomb. Leaving one of these positions unattended during a fight often meant the person’s death in that position. To perform a successful bombing you had to think of everything, even the speed and height of the bomber. Sometimes you are forced to face other emergencies, such as engine fires.
During the mission fight with several enemy planes, from the ground the enemy projectors illuminate you to give the right shot for the anti-plane. During the flight you had to be careful not to hit one of the many barrage balloons. The news flash along the edge of the screen, while they indicate the key to press to take you to the station that needs assistance. For example, when you were aimed at enemy search lights, you had to promptly equip the gunner’s station and shoot the projectors on the ground. Once you reach the final goal, you are presented with custom bombing sites, made famous by history. When you activate the bomb, you are shown an animation of the bomb bouncing along the lake and hitting (or not hitting) the target dam.
Last, but not least, I want to remember another flight simulator … Spitfire ’40, also set in the Battle of England. Published in 1985 it was developed by the Hungarian company Novotrade, the game was then sold to the British Mirrorsoft. This game had an audio that transported you like in a real fight, it had graphics that made me crazy, in the foreground you could choose whether to have the control panel with the driver’s cloche that followed you in all movements, or the view in first person from the passenger compartment to the outside. The dashboard is detailed and includes fuel, frontal and upward speedometer, artificial horizon, tachometer, compass, altimeter, indicators of slip, tack, rudder and pitch, indicator lights. The external view has a simple and geometric landscape, is fixed forward and equipped with a rear-view mirror
Starting the game you could choose between take-off and landing without enemies or combat directly in flight, against aircraft of increasing difficulty. Real missions always consist of scramble. The Spitfire’s task was to take off and intercept nearby German planes and then return to the base, only the number and initial position of the enemies vary, which are communicated at the beginning. The critics, at least in the Commodore and Amstrad versions, greatly appreciated the construction of the dashboard, but not that of the external view, in particular on the Commodore 64, the animation of the landscape is slow, with an update about every second.
Other versions of the game have been made, in the BBC Micro and Electron versions there is no division into two screens, but a more traditional single screen with the window at the top and the dashboard at the bottom. The joystick is used for basic movements of the cloche and for fire with machine guns, while several buttons are needed to adjust the engine power, tilt the rudder, activate the fins and the brake carriage. A map of southeastern England can also be viewed on a separate screen, with the positions of the Spitfire and the enemy and with three zoomable areas in greater detail; map mode also has the effect of pausing the simulation. After each completed mission it was possible to save your progress to disk or cassette. By accumulating wins the pilot can get promotions and decorations.
Well, this special ends here, as usual we leave you with the fun, below in the download you will find not only all the games mentioned, but many others … and remember … Throwing 🙂 The Lanciottismo is nothing without memory .. Hello