FS-1 on the Apple II (1980) Meigs  -  FS2000

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The birth of Flight Simulator

FS1 for the Apple II and TRS-80

The real history of Flight Simulator as a commercial program starts in January 1980, when SubLOGIC releases FS1 for the Apple II, in March 1980 followed by a release for the Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80. How serious Bruce Artwick meant it all, can be asserted from the introduction to the FS1 manual (TRS-80 version), which follows below.

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Introduction (Copied from the T80-FS1 manual)

Nearly everyone of us, at times, wants to go flying, and many would really enjoy spinning toward the ground at 180 mph or being involved in an aerial battle. A few of us follow up on our interests and become private, commercial or military pilots. And a small percentage actually end up doing aerobatics or participating in dogfights. The three things that stop many potential pilots and limit the active ones are time, danger and of course money. The aviation community has a solution to these problems known as the "flight simulator". A flight simulator is initially quite expensive, but cost little per hour to operate.

Flight simulators costing less than a few hundred thousand dollars usually include no visual display and are thus of limited use in training visual flight rule (VFR) pilots. Without an out-the-window display the thrill of watching the ground from five-thousand feet is gone. The most exciting simulators are undoubtedly the military ones with out-the-window view, armament and aerobatic capabilities. But these simulators cost millions of dollars.

The SubLOGIC T80-FS1 Flight Simulator is a program, designed to run on a "low-cost" Radio Shack TRS-80 microcomputer with at least 16K of memory. It offers aircraft simulation that considers 23 important aircraft characteristics an out-the-window 3D dynamic flight display, extensive flight controls, minimum VFR-instrumentation plus additional instruments and full armament. The program, written in optimized assembly language, is capable of presenting 3-6 frames per second. In addition an aerial battle, British Ace, is included. Finally, anyone can beat the limitations of flying for the price of a microcomputer plus T80-FS1 package ($49,95).

Our choice of aircraft for the simulation is an early, first generation aircraft, the Sopwith Camel of WW1. This aircraft offered room for refinement as does our simulation. The aircraft’s characteristics (weight, length, ceiling, horsepower, top speed) btw are nearly identical to those of a modern Piper Cub 150 making it an ideal light aircraft for training.

Improvement of the FS1 is already underway. The T80-FS1 is the second installment of the FS1 program. Feedback from users of our initial Apple II version has been used extensively for the TRS-80 version. Selectable downward view, bomb sights, visible enemy gun blasts and a "simulation reset" command were all added since the introduction of the Apple II FS1. The T80-FS1 also has a slightly higher frame projection rate.


The very good 35 page manual offers a lot of information on how to handle the simulation as well as information about flying in general. This very first version did not yet contain a real panel, but instead a row of numerical parameters along the left side of the screen and some sliding gauges at the right and bottom. The rest of the 320x200 screen was reserved for the 3D-view of the (simple) scenery. See the picture below from the original FS1 manual.

Screen of the very first version of Flight Sumulator

code Function




Enemies on 3D


Turn rate (degrees per minute)


Oil pressure (psi)


Airspeed (mph)


Oil temperature (degrees F)


Enemy fuel depot


Fuel (gallons)


Status messages (6 in total)


Tachometer (rpm)


Enemy airbase (3 runways)


Score (1 per fighter, 1 per bomb hit)


Altimeter (feet)


Bombs remaining


Micro-altimeter (feet) below 700 feet only


Ammunition remaining


Roll rate indicator (rudder position)


3D out-the-windshield display


Elevator position indicator


Climb rate (feet per minute)


Throttle position indicator


Compass heading (degrees true)


British (own) airbase

The actual display was in white on black. You could not see your own airplane and world was a flat square of 6x6 squares with a row of paper thin mountains to the North side like the side wings of a theatre. The manual states that the squares are 1x1 mile, but judging from the time it takes to cross one square it rather seems 20-30 miles across.

The whole scenery area of FS1

The normal view is straight out-the-window, but it is possible to switch to a top-down view from a constant altitude (rather like a radar view). With the D(own) and U(p) keys one can choose between the high or a low altitude view, which is especially useful at landing. In the manual it is called "Gear Down" and "Gear Up", but this is just a matter of speech, as the Sopwith doesn’t have a retractable gear. The own starting airfield (British Airbase) is located in the NE-corner of the scenery, with one runway pointing West. It contains a ramp with a parking area. When stopping the airplane upon return in that area the fuel is replenished.


Taxiing on British Airbase

Just taken off, see the (flat) mountains on the right

All essential controls and instrument are present, including gauges for airspeed, altitude, vertical velocity, heading, turn rate etc. All functions and other input are controlled from the keyboard. The primary controls for rudder/ailerons and elevators are conveniently positioned in a diamond-shaped configuration: T - FGH - V. The rudders and ailerons are auto-coordinated. The movement of the airplane is conform normal aerodynamic rules. Even stalling is simulated.

The whole program is about 13.000 bytes large and fits on one cassette-tape. In order to run it needs a TRS-80 or Apple II with a minimum of 16K memory and a b/w display. Later versions are provided with a rudimentary panel, that uses the lower half of the screen, thus limiting the available space for the scenery-display. The panel contains rounded-off gauges for airspeed and altitude, plus sliding indicators for throttle, elevators and rudder and a few rows with numerical parameters like turn rate, heading, vertical velocity and fuel. In fact much like the configuration of a current day Cessna panel.

These new releases were able to use a color display with 4 colors. In the subsequent releases the scenery remained the same 6x6 flat square area, but gradually some objects were added to the scenery like a wire frame mountain. In the latest release that I found, the scenery area has been expanded with a sort of river in the middle and the first object in the form of a building or bridge. This dates probably from 1981.

FS1 on the Apple II

The first bridge in a later release of FS1 for the Apple II

However, there was still no plane in sight, no spot plane view, but also no side or rear view, no time- or season-effects, no winds or clouds, no radio communication or radio-beacons and no scenery that looked anything like the real world. Just a fixed scenery with a few unrecognizable objects. But somehow, what was there, triggered people enough to give them the feeling that they were pilots, that they were really flying! Amazing, but this situation wouldn't last long, because the "real" Flight Simulator was already on its way.

The emulation

We haven’t been able to find a copy of the alleged 1979 release of FS1 for the Apple II, that Charlie Gulick speaks about in his (the) first FS-book "40 Great Adventures" and that is also mentioned in "About the Author" in the A2-FS2 manual (1983). Our evidence points to January 1980 as the month of the first release. But we do have some replacements for that.

Thanks to Mark Percival and Johan van Cranenburgh we have a couple of subsequent releases of FS1 for the Apple II running under an Apple II emulator under Windows. And thanks to Andreas Toepper we do have a working copy of the first FS1 for the TRS-80 from March 1980, which runs under a TRS-80 emulator on any current PentiumPC. This way the old, simple, FS-world of 1980 revives on my desktop.

Further reading: 

Mark Parcival, Ron Baxter, Charlie Gulick, ……..

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