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

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FS1           (1979)
MSFS 1/2  (1982)
FS II         (1983)
FS 3.0       (1988)
FS 4.0       (1989)
FS 5.0       (1993)
FS 5.1       (1995)
FSW95      (1996)
FS 98        (1997)
FS 2000     (1999)
FS 2002     (2001)
FS 2004     (2003)

On behalf of myself and all of you, FS-friends, who visit my website, I like to thank Miguel Blaufuks, director of simFlight.
He kindly offered to house the FS History website and take the burden of all the needed disk space and traffic.



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5/6 November 2005


Latest revision: 14-08-2005


The Story of Flight Simulator

Click here for a download of the preview as PDF.Foreword

The whole FS History website is in the process of being overhauled and renovated. Including the story below, that is rewritten on the concept of generations, as is already the case with the "Timeline". Sort of a preview of the new text can be found in the first chapter of the "Good Flight Simmer's Guide 2002". You can download a copy by clicking on the picture to the right.

I intend to put the final text at this place before the end of the year! For other additions please read the NEWS page.


The original text

When talking about Flight Simulator you talk about Bruce Artwick. He has most certainly done a lot of other things, like writing a classic on computer graphics ("Microcomputer Displays, Graphics and Animation", 1985). But to us he is first and foremost the initiator of our beloved Flight Simulator World.Bruce Artwick 1982

In the mid-70's Bruce Artwick was an electrical engineering graduate student at the University of Illinois. Being a passionate pilot, it was only natural that the principles of flight became the focus of his master's work. In his thesis of May 1975, called "A versatile computer-generated dynamic flight display", he presented a model of the flight of an aircraft, displayed on a computer screen. He proved that the 6800 processor (the first available microcomputer) was able to handle both the arithmetic and the graphic display, needed for real-time flight simulation. In short: the first Flight Simulator was born.

In 1978 Bruce Artwick, together with Stu Moment, founded his own software company by the name of SubLOGIC and started developing graphic software for the 6800, 6502, 8080 and other processors. In 1979 he decided to take the model from his thesis one step further and developed the first Flight Simulator program for the Apple-II (based on the 6502 processor), followed shortly by a version for the Radio Shack TRS-80. Both versions completely coded in their respective machine-code. In January 1980 SubLOGIC FS1 hit the consumer market (see ad). By 1981 Flight Simulator was reportedly the best selling title for the Apple. By the end of 1997 Microsoft claimed to have sold not less than 10 million copies of all versions of FS, making it the best sold software title in the entertainment sector. And in 2000 Microsoft Flight Simulator was taken up in the Guinness Book of Records with 21 million copies sold per June 1999. We certainly owe one to Bruce Artwick.

Latest version of FS1 for the Apple II

His work didn't go unnoticed. Another nerd from Redmond had just set up his own small software company called Microsoft and was shifting his attention from the C64 to the newly developed IBM-PC. This fellow Gates entered a bidding war with IBM to obtain a license for FS. Microsoft won the courtship because as Artwick said: "its nice small company atmosphere and the genuine interest of Vern Raburn, head of the consumer products division". So Microsoft obtained a joint license with Bruce Artwick.

In November 1982 Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.01 hit the stores as one of the first PC entertainment titles, shortly after followed by version 2. MS-FS featured a new and sophisticated co-ordinate system for the FS-world, developed by Bruce Artwick. And as with all subsequent releases this first version already demanded so much from computer resources that people had to run to the computer stores to buy bigger and faster machines, primarily for the sake of running Flight Simulator.

Microsoft FS 2.13

When looking from a distance this version already has a marked resemblance in structure with even the latest versions. The next few years saw a continuing of new releases. See the release history, from Microsoft Knowledge Base.                    

In the next years SubLOGIC itself first released a parallel line in the form of a new version FS II for the Apple II (1984), which itself was in improved version of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2, made possible by the superior color display of the Apple. Between 1984 and 1987 another 14 versions or releases followed for a lot of different personal computers, notably the Commodore 64 and Amiga, Atari 800 and ST and Apple MacIntosh.

subLOGIC  FS II on the Atari ST

In 1988 Bruce Artwick split with Stu Moment, left SubLOGIC and started his own company: BAO Ltd (Bruce Artwick Organisation), solely for the purpose of developing and marketing flightsimulation products, concentrated on Microsoft Flight Simulator. Later that year Microsoft FS 3.0 was released, which featured separate windows and for the first time (Microsoft FS) allowed the aircraft to be seen from the outside! The previous releases (1987/88) of FS II for the Atari ST, Amiga and MacIntosh already showed most of these features.

Microsoft FS 3.0

In 1989 this was followed by a similar, but improved version 4.0, which was released also as the last version for the Apple Macintosh. A whole new era started in 1990, when Microsoft for the first time made a kind of opening in the up till then hermetically sealed product. This by releasing the first add-on product in the form of the BAO-developed Aircraft and Scenery Designer (A&SD), which for the first time allowed users to generate their own scenery and aircraft.

Microsoft FS 4.0

New versions of Flight Simulator for the PC kept coming from the BAO/Microsoft tandem. As Bruce Artwick himself once mentioned; "the odd versions containing the new features and techniques, the even versions the refinements". Other companies participated as well, like Microscene that developed a lot of the standard and add-on scenery for Microsoft Flight Simulator with BAO as the producer. A noted example: the very nice Caribbean Scenery.

In 1993 FS 5.0 was released, containing new scenery based upon a true world-co-ordinate system (making FS 4.0 scenery obsolete) and with lots of other new features. In 1995 MS released FS 5.1, the first version on CD-Rom. In between in 1994 BAO released the add-on scenery Europe-1, developed by the Alting Brothers from the Netherlands. And in 1995 the long awaited FLIGHTSHOP program finally arrived, which started the ever-continuing stream of new aircraft we still witness today.

The last version of MS Flight Simulator developed by Artwick (BAO) was FS for Windows 95 (FSW95 or FS 6.0 as it is called internally). According to Artwick, being an even-numbered release, this would have been a refinement-release. In fact it can be regarded as such, as most of its improvements related to better aircraft-models, better panels, more and fully-textured scenery, more buildings, bridges etc. The most interesting thing however was that with the porting to Windows, frame rates improved with a factor of 1, even while the resolution also had been improved. This was contrary to what was expected by all the Windows-haters, who remembered the woes of trying to run Flight Simulator 4 and 5 under Windows 3.11. In one of his columns in MicroWINGS Magazine Bruce Artwick explained how and why that was possible.

Shortly before the release of FSW95, Artwick sold BAO to Microsoft. As he pointed out in a column in MW Magazine he was convinced that a small firm like BAO would not be able to generate the resources needed to survive in the ever more demanding world of computer entertainment in general and Flight Simulation in special. Most developers of BAO joined Microsoft. Bruce Artwick himself did not make the switch, but he remained involved in the development of MS-FS as a consultant and supervisor. Around the same time SubLOGIC was taken over by Sierra, another big marketer of entertainment titles, to develop a rival flightsim called Pro Pilot.

Between 1996 and 2000 two new versions of MS-Flight Simulator have been released. The one, Microsoft Flight Simulator 98, was brought to market in August 1997 as the 15th year anniversary of FS, touting more than 10 million copies sold world-wide. This can indeed be seen as being mostly a maintenance release, nevertheless including a lot of new features. The most important of those being a true rotary wing helicopter simulation. This version also brings a lot of handling ease, compared to its predecessors.

The current version is MS-FS2000, also designed to run under the Windows 95/98/Me/2000 system. This again is a groundbreaking version as it features a 3D-elevation grid for the scenery database. This made in fact all earlier scenery more or less obsolete, but improved the realisticity of the scenery by a large factor. Here it also becomes clear that Artwick was right by selling BAO to Microsoft, as reportedly more than 130 developers were involved in this new version. And than still it needed two succeeding patches to get rid of some terrible mistakes and to get the shadows back! But this version surely is almost "as real as it gets".

Within a few weeks we might expect FS 8.0 or as it will be called MS-FS2002. It seems that Microsoft has learned its lesson, so this time we have already been able to see a lot of what we will get. Like stated before, the uneven versions contain the technological breakthroughs, the even versions the refinements. Refinements however this time will no doubt mean quite a lot. For more info visit the official MS-FS2002 site or visit any of the big FS-websites (see column at the left) simFlight, AVSIM or MicroWINGS and search for FS2002.

N.B. My apologies for the delay in updating this chapter to include FS 2004! I hope to manage the update before the first reviews of FS2006 will appear. ;-)))

The development of Flight Simulator spawned a lot of action, almost an industry of its own, of many small companies who make and sell add-ons of all kinds. But that might be the subject of a whole different chapter of FS-History. One thing however is clear: that they, like all of us, owe a great deal of our maybe even daily pleasure to that one man: Bruce Artwick. Not forgetting the great effort by Microsoft in managing to continue this title for so long. True legends both!

Jos Grupping

Latest revision: 03-04-05 12:08  



November 15, 2007

Last week at the AVSIM 2007 Conference I received a Reader's Choice Award.

I would like to thank my friend Frans Broekhuijsen, great organiser of the Dutch Flight Simulator Events in the Aviodrome at Lelystad for his nomination and all the AVSIM visitors for voting on me. I feel very honoured and will most certainly continue with this website. Please come back for a major update before the end of the year.

May 12, 2005

Added nice overview of the web statistics, based on the NEDSTAT counter and statistics.
Go to the Miscellaneous Page or follow  this direct link.

April 25, 2005

Renewed the Introduction page and repaired some broken links. Added a link to Milehigh Productions.

Just as most other leading FS organizations in The Netherlands FS History was present at the recent Dutch National FS Event on  April 16&17 at the Aviodrome. Look here for a small impression.

March 30, 2005

Small facelift, including a new logo, consistent with that of The Old FS Vault. Some small textual corrections and aditions. New FlipAlbum "Manual-covers" at the Gallery page.

February 20, 2005

Correction of the birth year of Flight Simulator. From the old information I was (mis)lead to believe that the first release of FS1 for the Apple II was in October 1979. However all evidence now point to January 1980 for that first release. So untill I receive real proof otherwise I will take 1980 as the birth year of FS. So I feel like I owe you an apology!

February 9, 2005

Update of Wanted List and Reactions Pages. Most wanted: volumes 1 and 2 of MicroWINGS Magazine.

November 25, 2004

This date marks the start of a big upgrade of the total website. The first changes can be found on the introductory page and the news page. Look for the links to some visual additions.

The first is a draft of a new video (in cooperation with Josef Havlik and based on an idea  by Marcus Thompson) about the development of Flight Simulator over the years containing video-clips of all relevant old versions. You will probably need a high speed connection for the 95 Mb download. The second is a copy of the poster-session, created for the Dutch FS weekend in the Aviodrome in October 2004.

Then there is interesting news about the ever so often requested downloads of old FS versions, for which a new companion site has been created:    "The Old FS Vault".

Look out for more changes and updates before the end of the year. For more information and other news see the NEWS page.

December 13, 2003

A complete revision of the Timeline, introducing the concept of "generations" and adding FS2004 (FS9).

The content of the central STORY has also been reworked as  introductory chapter of the "Good Flight Simmer's Guide", release 2002 by Mike Clark, published by PC Aviator.

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For more information, click on the cover above.

Flight Simulator Microsoft
This website Jos Grupping 2001 (joscmg@xs4all.nl)