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Microsoft Flight Simulator Inspired A Generation Of Pilots


From blocky 8-bit graphics to true-to-life flight in 40 years.

Back in the late 1970s, Bruce Artwick wrote an article about the state of computer graphics in the late 70’s. After the article was published, interest grew in flight simulation. It seemed there could actually be an interest in flight simulation. Artwick, an engineer, formed SubLogic to build the first home computer based flight simulator. While originally produced and ran on an Apple system, with very basic graphics and no control panel, the program was eventually acquired in the early 80’s by . The simulator was purchased by Microsoft and began the evolution into the Flight Simulator series many of us have come to know and love.

How it evolved

By version 1.0 the traditional six pack of instruments was on the screen, and a multicolor display was shown. Microsoft was the used operating system platform and the graphics were improving. By the time flight simulator 4.0 was available, the graphics had improved drastically and there were even add-ons available. Artwick’s home state of Illinois was featured. Early airports like Champaign Urbana and Chicago Meigs Field became known worldwide as the popularity of the simulator soared.

Windows 95 – Start Me Up

The big ‘revolutionary’ release was timed to coincide near the release of Windows 95 for PCs. The new version had 3D wireframes of the actual aircraft. The graphics were so powerful that they required over 100MB of hard drive for storage and an Intel Pentium chip.

The innovation didn’t stop there. By the time version 2002 came out, the graphics were smooth and colorful, and there were many interactive features, including the ability to interact with ATC and play online

It Lives On…And it’s even better

Today, most users continue to use highly modified versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator X that was released in 2006.  While the studio that Bruce founded (and Microsoft purchasedThis ) closed in 2009, two companies–Lockheed and Dovetail Games–continue to develop flight simulation software based on the Flight Simulator code.

The video below shows how amazing Lockheed Martin’s P3D simulator with direct lineage to Microsoft Flight Simulator actually is today!

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