Amazing how far we have come in flight simulation

I have been flying Microsoft Flight simulator since FS2 on the Commodore 64 in 1986 and the latest version - FS2020 is an absolute work of art. The scenery, lighting, weather and accuracy is jaw dropping. Due to the level of accuracy with which the entire planet has been recreated the quantity of data is too large for any single PC so Microsoft set up a global network of servers that stream the relevant scenery to you in real time as you fly over it.

It still astounds me away everytime I run it - especiallyin VR. Back in 1986 on the Commodore 64 huddled over the 14 inch black and white portable tv in my bedroom I never even dreamed that this level of realism would be possible on a home PC.

As the years went by I discovered VATSIM which provides real world style air traffic control in the flight simulator world. It’s hard to describe just how much this adds to the immersion of flying the simulator and how impressive it can be.

There are even people who build replica cockpits and simulators in a spare room of their house that come pretty darned close to replicating world simulators used for airline training. Watch this and be genuinely astounded at what is possible.

We’re now into an era (in fact we have been since about 2000) where home simulators are a genuinely useful training tool for aspiring pilots. The cost of owning your own aeroplane has always made it unaffordable for most, the benefit of home simulation is that pretty much anybody can ‘own’ a billionaires collection of aeroplanes from a vintage warbird to a 747 and can fly them anywhere in the world they choose. Wanna take your Spitfire through the Grand Canyon at sunset? - you can, wanna land a 747 into Heathrow on a beautiful summer afternoon? - you can, heck you can even indulge your fantasies of being Maverick and flying an F/A-18 out of Miramar…

Now where did I put those Ray-Ban’s???

Who else here enjoyed flight-sim and do you remember the old days of low res graphics?

FS2 on C64



That recent version looks amazing

I had a flight simulator on my ZX Spectrum although I can remember if it was this version:

or the Microsoft one.

I remember it was hard to play. No doubt not helped by me not having the full instructions which was the case with many of my games (ahem)


30 or so years ago we’d just finished installing a high speed (!) global data network for businesses, access lines to the network were a blinding 64k and even low multiples thereof. After we did the formal latency, throughout and reliability tests I and my peer network architect in California decided we should do some more “real-world” tests. So we happily spent several hours a day for a week playing a green screen wire frame flight simulator dogfight against each other on our Sparc workstations. Designed for 10/100Mb/a LANs it was on the jerky side. :grinning:

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A few year backs I was talking with an RAF Typhoon pilot and the issue of how much time you needed to spend in the cockpit arose. His response that physical fitness was the key, you could learn to fly the thing on a X Box.

Eoink - that sounds like a lot of fun and a fine network test!!

Interesting to read your comments too Lindsay, I guess a Typhoon pilot would know but I can imagine the forces that thing is capable of exerting on the human body must make it physically exhausting. I pulled 4.5G in an aerobatic plane once and that felt pretty unpleasant!


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Chris Hadfield the astronaut makes some interesting comments about flying in his book.

The key thing was the reaction time and levels of concentration. He said Top Gun was unrealistic (obvs). He said that if you had something else on your mind you would crash. It was so intense.

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