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  History of Microsoft Flight Simulator

           Sitting back in the Cessna 172 Skyhawk cockpit I am enjoying the splendid scenery of Mount McKinley in the Alaskian Mountains in sunset. Hang on! It reminds of something! The imagination of a MS Flight Simulator 2004 pilot travels back to 1980...

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (the Alaskian Mountains), released 2003

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 for Apple II

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 for Apple II, made later 1979 (hit markets in January 1980)

           History of subLOGIC/Microsoft Flight Simulator...

           The year 1980 saw the first official arrival of a flight simulating program – subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 which was created by a young graduee of the University of Illinois, Urbana – Champaign, Bruce A. Artwick. By today’s standards, perhaps some readers may not disguise their amusement when looking at the crude line graphics, but on the other hand, at that time the program represented a major breakthrough in aviation simulation. Its revolutionary contribution lies in the fact that it exploited capabilities of contemporary computers not only for calculations of simulation of numerous flight parameters, but also for their graphic representation on the screen. Thus, this is how probably the first 3D flight simulator was born so that it could be used by any enthusiast on his home computer.

Bruce Artwick did not create the first version of Flight Simulator overnight. He seriously took the matter up as early as during his university studies. According to some references, he started to work on an initial demo which would prove his abilities when applying for a job. Later Artwick published his ideas in several magazines and he received positive responses from readers who wanted to buy such a program. Then he became a co-founder of his company called subLOGIC which produced flight simulators and accessories for various types of computers. The first version of Flight Simulator was released more than 30 years ago and it has become legendary...

subLOGIC 3D Graphics package - demonstration

subLOGIC 3D Graphics package - demonstration for Apple II, 1979

            In January 1980 subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 was released for the popular Apple II computer. However, there are several trustworthy sources (e.g. Charles Gulick’s book “40 Great Flight Simulator Adventures” from 1985) which claim that subLOGIC Flight Simulator was launched in 1979. The final version was certainly created in that year, nevertheless, the first print manual and MG tape with the program were dated January 1980. Even later media do not feature copyright of an earlier date (normally there is © of the year of the first issue of the particular version and © of the year of the release of the modified version). The detailed story about the first release of subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 is presented on its special page. The animated picture above presents the first ever demonstration (not flyable and with 5 x 6 square scenery).

           Pictures from Flight Simulator 1 for Apple II are sometimes monochromatic (white or green), but even the first variant comprised four colours, so the picture was in single colour only when a monochromatic monitor was used with Apple II. Flight control data for the Sopwith F.1 Camel were digital on the instrument panel, only altitude and speed were indicated in analogue way in two octagonal instruments. The oldest scenery was composed of 6 x 6 squares with a flat mountainous panorama in the north (the picture on the top). In addition, there were three airfields one of which was enemy and another one civilian. The scenery also sported an enemy fuel dump. The vital part of the game was “British Ace” 3D Aerial Battle Game mode in which you encountered a few enemy aircraft represented only by hardly recognizable spots. In this combat mode the mutual position of aircraft was indicated on a square radar screen in the right section of the instrument panel. Upgraded modifications, still designated as Flight Simulator 1 were marketed on 5.25” floppy disc. There is also the modification with 12 x 12 squares scenery, river and 3D objects (a bridge and a pyramid), but it is not probably made originally by subLOGIC.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 for Apple II

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 for Apple II

In March 1980 subLOGIC released their Flight Simulator 1 for the Tandy Radio Shack computer – TRS-80. At first sight it looks as it was a much older variant (some even say that this is actually the demo mentioned above), but in fact it is a full-scale edition for that popular computer. Its obsolete appearance is caused by technical restrictions. Its original manual, which is available to download says that the version for the TRS-80 benefited from experience of virtual pilots of the version for Apple II. This time Artwick placed a stylized instrument panel providing digital data and linear graphic speed and altitude indicators in the field of 128 x 48 points. There are many modifications of version 1 for the TRS-80 (I have nineteen of them) which are very similar. At first they were recorded on MG cassettes, then they were distributed on 5.25” floppy discs. All the modifications were monochromatic, so the picture was either black/white or black/green depending on the type of a monitor supplied with the TRS-80 computer.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 for TRS-80

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 for TRS-80, 1980

         Flight Simulator became extremely popular, so no wonder that Artwick was approached by fledgling Microsoft that asked him to prepare a version for IBM PC. This package came out as Microsoft Flight Simulator 1, 1.00 respectively (user manual), in late 1982, and was signed by Bruce Artwick. The program was distributed on a 5.25” floppy disc and its start-up was very easy, because a computer booted itself from that disc. If you check the content of the floppy in some kind of explorer, you will find only one tiny file “fs.com” which also enables you to run the simulator. In fact, the main part of the program and sceneries were dispersed all over the disc in order to protect them from illegal bootleg distribution. This is also why Microsoft Flight Simulator 1 for IBM PC (as well MS Flight Simulator 2 for PC and subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for various platforms) are not as widespread as later MS Flight Simulator 3.0 and other successors up to these days.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 for IBM PC (color composite monitor)

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 for IBM PC (color composite monitor, approach to Chicago Meigs Field airport), 1982

           Microsoft Flight Simulator 1 for IBM PC offered four colours, but it worked smoothly only in computers with CGA graphic cards and “color composite” monitors (you can read about a color problem in a MSFS2 review). By that time numerous IBM PC clones had been produced and the compatibility problem emerged. It is suggested that Flight Simulator was often employed as an IBM PC compatibility test program. For example, computers with colour RGB monitors generated only a black/white picture. The stylized instrument panel of the Cessna 182 was fitted with 8 analogue circular instruments, fuel gauges and several digital instruments (compass, radio, etc.). Four sceneries were offered – Boston with New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago. There were nine views out of the cockpit, but in comparison with later variants external views were not available. It was possible to select a season, time, clouds, wind as well as other flight parameters. There were also 10 preset modes of which Europe 1917 (officially named World War I Ace) was a war mode that was a variation of the “British Ace” included in earlier packages for Apple II and TRS-80. It featured some improvements such as a cross-hair, mountains surrounded the scenery from two sides, and there were also more ground objects. In 1983 upgraded version 1.05 was released. It was almost identical to the previous one, but it had working “warm reset” via Ctrl+Alt+Del keys.

         In the same year, i.e. in 1983, Artwick’s company came up with a new version for Apple II designated subLOGIC Flight Simulator II (partial modification release 1.0) on the 5.25” floppy disc. There were later the 1.05 and 2.0 partial modification releases as well. It was the Roman numerals which identified versions made by subLOGIC, because later versions under Microsoft label were designed for different computers. SubLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Apple II was roughly comparable to MS Flight Simulator 1 for IBM PC. The Piper Archer was simulated and the layout of the instrument panel, setup options, sceneries and Europe 1917 mode were very similar. If you find the quality of graphics on an instrument panel low, it is caused by emulation of color mode in Apple II emulator on the PC. The violet color of water seems a bit funny but there was the same violet color on a real Apple II computer too.  The Apple II computer supports six colors only: black, white, blue (used for sky), green, orange and violet. Then Artwick had to use the violet color as the water color.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Apple II - Chicago Meigs Field view

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Apple II (in front of Chicago Meigs Field), 1983

          In 1984 subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari computers was released (though the copyright on the floppy disk was dated 1983). According to subLOGIC, this program was to work on Atari 400 / 600XL / 800 / 800XL / 1200XL / 1400XL /  1450XLD (manual). It was distributed on a 5.25” floppy disc and sceneries were added on the another floppy disk. In 1987 a modification of Flight Simulator II v1.07 for Atari XE console was released on a cartridge. This issue was distributed with a new XE computer exclusively and it works on Atari 65XE, 130XE and 800XE too. However, all these modifications looked the same. As far as their functions are concerned, they were comparable to version II for Apple II. I believed that the difference was the black/white instrument panel, but I recently found out, that subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari (8bit) was able to depict the instrument panel in colors by using a right monitor with the composite artifact colors mode. I can even compare the real computer with the Atari 800 emulator.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari (8 bit)

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari (taxing at Meigs), 1984

         In 1984 Artwick also prepared a new version for Microsoft designated Microsoft Flight Simulator 2, or 2.10 respectively (manual), for IBM PC. In comparison to the previous version 1, it did not bring any significant changes. It was even more similar to the version for Apple II. When some RGB monitor was used, there were 4 colours and 4 hatched tones, but a colour TV or a “colour composite” monitor generated up to 15 colours. Mentioned problem with color display in MSFS 1 was solved. In the following years (1985-1987) several upgrades designated 2.10A, 2.12, 2.13 and 2.14 were released which introduced greater hardware support (Hercules, IBM EGA and LCD graphic cards, IBM PS/2 computers). Their designs were almost identical. Ten standard modes were pre-set in the four aforementioned U.S. locations. The user could add another 20 modes to an extra disc. In addition to 9 views out of the cockpit, it was also possible use a radar view – something like a satellite view with zoom. However, it is quite difficult to determine the exact date of all these modifications, because their manuals as well as the programs themselves are dated 1984.

           Mentioned should be also a special edition of MSFS 2.12 for AST Research, Inc (AST Research was a personal computer manufacturer). The version is exactly the same version as the version for IBM PC computers. Microsoft made a special edition with AST Research label on a floppy disk and a manual. The game itself is the same without any differences, even with the same file date. The version has been sold with new AST Research computer (IBM PC compatible). You could not buy the special edition separately. The user's manual was included in a blue three ring binder and the first manual page has a turquoise stripe - Special Edition for AST research, Inc. not for resale.

           Since 1985, subLOGIC also published their first add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.x and subLOGIC Jet 1.3 and higher. They released quite long line of the subLOGIC Scenery Disks.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.10 for IBM PC (RGB monitor)

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.10 for IBM PC (RGB monitor, in front of Empire State Building), 1984

           The next version, which was prepared by Artwick for Microsoft in 1984, was Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 for Texas Instruments Professional Computer (the computer was not IBM PC compatible but we can regard it as IBM PC clone). The simulated aircraft was Cessna 182 within already standard sceneries New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. The WW1 Ace mode was included too. Flight Simulator 1.0 for Texas Instruments Professional Computer allowed displaying in black/white mode, in grey shades or green shades (it depends on a monitor type) or eight colors in the color graphics mode. The version was distributed on one 5,25” floppy disc.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 for Texas Instruments Professional Computer

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 for Texas Instruments Professional Computer (at Meigs runway), 1984

          Still in 1984, subLOGIC launched their version Flight Simulator II for Commodore 64. Its design resembled the same version for Atari, but at the first sight is differed in colors of the instruments in the instrument panel. One of the released modifications was on the MG cassette. It is curious that the first side includes Champaign to Kankakee scenery and the plane starts on Champaign Willard airport (it is different from the floppy disk edition). The second side of the cassette includes WW1 Ace mode. The 5,25” floppy disk edition was released in the same year. By the way, it is very interesting that Andras Szigethy from Hungary made a conversion of C 64 release to Flight Simulator II for Commodore Plus/4 computer. It means that it is not an original subLOGIC release. The C +/4 computers were next computers in Commodore developmental line and they were not compatible with C 64.

           Thomas Funke from Germany gave the next interesting information about a modified version of subLOGIC's Flight Simulator II for Commodore 64 which was used in a professional flight training device in East Germany between 1988 and 1990.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Commodore 64 and scenery disk 7 - Washington

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Commodore 64 (a scenery disk 7 - Washington), 1984

           Late in 1984 subLOGIC made Flight Simulator II, version 1.00, for one of the first laptops in the world  - Data General/One. In fact the product hit markets in January 1985. Owing to the capabilities of this IBM PC compatible computer, this version was monochromatic. The colors depend on the DG/One model. There were few DG/One models: Model 2213A (1984) and model 2217A (1986) with larger grey or green LCD display, DG/One 2T - Model 2540A (1987) with green LCD display, Model 2513A (1987) marked as Model 2T as well, with smaller yellow-green LCD display and finally there was the upgrade to a high contrast gray LCD screen for Model 2213A and 2217A. Flight Simulator II was supplied on one 3.5” floppy disc of 720kb. The simulator was started by booting from the floppy disc similarly to the PC versions, but if you explore the disc, you will find only “read.me” file on it. The Piper PA-28-181 Archer II was simulated. Setup options, sceneries and Europe 1917 mode were practically identical to the previous versions.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Data General/One - near to Greater Kankakee airport

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Data General/One (near to Greater Kankakee airport), 1984

          In 1985 subLOGIC released Jet simulator for IBM PC (later also for C64, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST and NEC PC-9801). Although this simulator is not a linear member of the Flight Simulator family, Artwick is signed as its co-author and that is why it has its place here. The instrument panel had basic instruments and indicators were placed around the screen (likewise Flight Simulator 1 for TRS-80). Jet emulated several types of combat aircraft, and it offered more air combat than flight simulation.

subLOGIC Jet for IBM PC

subLOGIC Jet for IBM PC, 1985

           In 1985 Artwick developed Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.12 edition for Tandy 1000/1200HD/2000. Its functions and design were almost identical to those of the same version for IBM PC. Interestingly, MS Flight Simulator for Tandy computers also runs smoothly on IBM PCs. Moreover, you can change the graphics mode during the game.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.12 for Tandy - night Chicago below right wing

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.12 for Tandy (RGB monitor, night Chicago below right wing), 1985

            The year 1986 witnessed another major breakthrough in the design of new versions of Flight Simulator. Artwick fully exploited capabilities of Amiga and Atari ST computers, and released subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari ST and subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Amiga. Although they were designated with Roman II as the versions for Apple II, Atari, C 64 and Data General/One mentioned above, the amount of innovations was such that it could have been designated version III. They are pretty comparable with later MS Flight Simulator 3.0. The most innovative features included the system of roll menu bars, new views such as “spot, track, tower”, and besides the Cessna 182, the Learjet 25G is also offered. You can also open another view and modify its size and position. Moreover, you can also choose the direction of the view and open the map view. The display resolution was 320 x 240 and 16 colours were used. After I compared the Amiga and Atari ST editions, the only difference between them was a different colour and shape of the cursor arrow. The Atari ST edition has a white arrow, while the Amiga one is brown. Likewise, with the previous Flight Simulator packages for other platforms, upgraded editions followed, for example subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Amiga versions 1.1 and 1.2 in 1987. The first version 1.0 of Flight Simulator II for Atari ST was released separately in an edition with monochrome monitor support only and in an edition with color monitor support only (not working with monochrome monitors). The next partial modification 1.1 already includes support for color and monochrome monitors. A kind of monitor is detected automatically.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari ST and a scenery disk 11 - Niagara Falls

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari ST (a scenery disk 11 - Niagara Falls), 1986

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Amiga and a scenery disk 7 - Washington

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Amiga (a scenery disk 7 - Washington), 1986

          A rarity is the next picture. There you can see a screenshot from the first beta test version of subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari ST which was issued in November 1985. Still many functions are not operative, just one test scenery with mountains is included, there are used more colors on an instrument panel and plane exterior than in a final release.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari ST - beta test version

A beta version of subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Atari ST, 1985

           Back in 1986 subLOGIC also released its Flight Simulator II for NEC PC-9801. This edition was comparable to MS Flight Simulator 2 for IBM PC. As NEC PCs were produced in Japan, this version was intended for the Japanese market. That is also why it is very rare. It was supplied on one 5.25” (release for PC-9801F/VF/VM) or 3.5" (release for PC-9801U2/UV2) boot floppy discs which featured the kind of copy protection already mentioned above.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for NEC PC-9801 - Mount Fuji (Japan)

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for NEC PC-9801 (Mount Fuji - Japan), 1986

           Still in 1986 Artwick created Microsoft Flight Simulator 1 for Apple Macintosh computer. This was another example of parallel Flight Simulator editions sold both under subLOGIC and Microsoft, though they were created by the same man – Bruce Artwick. As far as its features are concerned, MS Flight Simulator 1 for Macintosh is comparable with subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Amiga and Atari ST. There are similar roll menu bars, new views, the second view, a direction view window and map window. However, there is also one substantial difference that is the monochromatic picture of high resolution. Interestingly, the following version for Macintosh was designated MS Flight Simulator 4.0 without versions 2 and 3 having ever been released. However, the version 1, respectively 1.00 and 1.02, was released separately for American and other markets.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 for Apple Macintosh

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 for Apple Macintosh (a spot view of your plane), 1986

           In 1986 was launched Tandy Color Computer 3. The Tandy Corporation wanted to get better computer for competition with Commodore Amiga and Atari ST and they wanted to continue its quite popular line of computers. Then it is not so surprising that in 1987 was released subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Color Computer 3 too. It was distributed in a usual paper box in VHS cassette format. The program itself is on one 5,25” floppy disk and it boots in Color Computer 3 under OS-9 Level2 operation system. Flight Simulator II allows displaying on color TV, RGB or color composite monitors. A simulated plane is Piper Cherokee PA-28-181 Archer II and the sceneries of Chicago, Kankakee, Champaign, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York are presented as well as WW 1 Ace mode (on the picture below). When I can compare the Color Computer 3 release with Atari, Commodore 64 and Apple II releases, the Color Computer 3 release is using more colors. In other side it seems that the version has lower resolution of instrument panel. A new menu system, new views and the second window view, known from Amiga, Atari ST and Macintosh, are not presented. There is no sound feature in this version. By the way, there exist a flight simulation program called Flight Sim I for Color Computer, but it has not any relation to subLOGIC/Microsoft Flight Simulator series.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Color Computer 3, WW 1 Ace mode

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II for Color Computer 3 (WW 1 Ace mode), 1986

           The year 1988 brought great changes for subLOGIC and Artwick that also affected the future of Flight Simulator. subLOGIC released Flight Simulator “With torpedo attack” for MSX computers. This edition was absolutely unique and represented an exception from the civil flight simulation philosophy. It can be compared to the previous subLOGIC Jet or to the future MS Combat Flight Simulator. The software was supplied on a cartridge and was originally intended mainly for the Japanese market. As the dedicated computer became more and more popular around the world, the program was eventually widespread as well. The missions included a torpedo attack against an enemy ship or air combat with hostile aircraft, for instance. The graphics corresponded to the capabilities of MSX computers, i.e. there were no roll menus, additional windows or other gadgets of earlier Flight Simulator for Atari ST, Amiga or Macintosh. Its designation Flight Simulator was presumably chosen for commercial reasons.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator with torpedo attack for MSX

subLOGIC Flight Simulator with torpedo attack for MSX (a ship in sight), 1988

            Japanese market was evidently very interesting, because in the same year 1988, subLOGIC released a version of Flight Simulator with Torpedo Attack for NEC PC-8801 computers. The PC-8801 version was slightly different from MSX version. The instruments were placed a bit differently and there were used only four colors. In fact the simulation was almost the same. The release was distributed on one 5,25 inch floppy disk. A small notice for explanation: NEC PC-8801 was a computer based on 8-bit microprocessor Z80. Next releases of Flight Simulator for Japanese computers, mentioned here as well, were programmed for PC-9800 series computers. The computers included relatively wide family of 16-bit computers. The first one was PC-9801 which was based on i8086/5 MHz CPU, next models were equipped with i80286 CPU, the last one was PC-9821 with i80386 CPU. There were later even models with i486, Pentium and Pentium II. It is clear now, that PC-8801 was the 8-bit home computer for playing games while PC-9800 series computers were comparable with standard of IBM PC, although they were not compatible.

subLOGIC Flight Simulator with torpedo attack for NEC PC-8801

subLOGIC Flight Simulator with torpedo attack for NEC PC-8801, 1988

            Still, the most important project of that year was the preparation of a PC version. Nevertheless, things changed after contentions between Artwick and Stu Moment. Late 1988, Artwick left subLOGIC and with several of his colleagues set up a new company – BAO (Bruce Artwick Organization). Although the rest of the former subLOGIC team (with Stu Moment as a head) carried on creating flight simulation programs, it was Artwick who owned the Flight Simulator trademark.

            Despite all the disputes and changes, Microsoft Flight Simulator 3.0 for IBM PC was released in 1988 (although the copyright is dated 1987). It would certainly take several pages to describe all functions and setup options of this new version. The progress achieved with the aforementioned versions for Atari ST, Amiga and Macintosh was nearly brought to perfection. Several types of representation were provided. In maximum EGA or VGA – 16 colours and resolution 640x350. The simulated aircraft included the Cessna Skylane Turbo RGII, Learjet 25G (both with retractable landing gear) and Sopwith Camel. They shared the same instrument panel, but their flight characteristics were different. Flight over famous panoramas of Chicago, New York or San Francisco was quite realistic, and you were also offered stunts such as a flight under Golden Gate bridge or an aircraft carrier landing. It should be noted that World War I Ace mode was retained, and you could engage enemy aircraft in the Europe 1917 scenery. Version 3.0 featured distinctive balloon-like clouds. It was also the first PC version, which was not run from a floppy disc. It was installed on the hard disc with MS DOS operational system (or MS-DOS compatible). There was the special release of Microsoft Flight Simulator 3.0 for Tandy/IBM PC and compatibles in 1988 as well. The release includes both 3,5" and 5,25" disks.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 3.0 for DOS - San Francisco

Microsoft Flight Simulator 3.0 for DOS (in front of cloudy San Francisco), 1988

           As it has been mentioned, after Artwick left subLOGIC, the company went on producing flight simulators. In 1989 they released PC helicopter simulator called Thunder Chopper.

subLOGIC Thunder Chopper for PC

subLOGIC Thunder Chopper for DOS (two ships in sight), 1989

          Meanwhile, BAO prepared a new version for Microsoft which came out in 1989 as MS Flight Simulator 4.0 for PC. The sceneries were identical to those of version 3.0, and actually both version were very similar as far as their designs are concerned. However, the quality of simulation had been much improved. The aircraft were the Cessna Skylane RG – Model 182 (featuring continuous animation of landing gear retraction and visible deployed flaps), Learjet 25G, Sopwith Camel, then the new Schweizer 2-32 Sailplane glider (with an instrument panel different from the other types) and an experimental propeller aircraft. The scenery was dynamic and the air traffic at the airport was realistically represented. The weather generator was new as well.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0b for PC (an instrument panel B747-400 from Aircraft and Scenery Designer) - in front of Seattle

Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0b for DOS, 1990  (an instrument panel B747-400 from Aircraft and Scenery Designer, 1990)

           In connection with MS Flight Simulator 4.0 it is also necessary to mention a program designated Aircraft and Scenery Designer created by BAO for Microsoft in 1990. As its name implies, this product enabled modification or entire creation of new aircraft, airports or whole sceneries (scenery dynamics). The program was integrated into Flight Simulator as a user interface. This was the first step which initiated development of a vast range of home-made and professional accessories for Flight Simulator. Moreover, Aircraft and Scenery Designer also introduced new types of aircraft such as an experimental jet plane, the Boeing 747-400 (with a completely new instrument panel), Piper Cherokee Archer II etc. MS Flight Simulator 4 was the last version containing the full WWI Ace mode. In 1990 version 4.0b (the picture above) was released in which errors of version 4.0 were fixed.

Aircraft and Scenery Designer

Aircraft and Scenery Designer for Flight Simulator 4, 1990

           subLOGIC did not idle around, and in 1990 they released flight simulator with unusually long name subLOGIC Flight Assignment: Airline Transport Pilot. You may find interesting that its release had been preceded by a dispute between subLOGIC and Microsoft, in fact Artwick, about the use of source codes from previous versions as well as the title itself which was to be Flight Simulator: Airline Transport Pilot. Eventually, subLOGIC yielded and made an agreement with Microsoft. A lot of virtual pilots claim that Flight Assignment: ATP is much better than MS Flight Simulator 4.0. See a superb article by Marcus Vitzethum for more details.

subLOGIC Flight Assignment:Airline Transport Pilot - Chicago

subLOGIC Flight Assignment: Airline Transport Pilot (Chicago), 1990

During the following years Microsoft’s marketing strategy was probably aimed at servicing the other most common computer platforms, so in 1991 MS Flight Simulator 4.0 for Apple Macintosh was released followed by Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0b for NEC PC-9800 series computers (for the Japanese market) in 1992. Functions of both editions were comparable to version 4.0 for PC. The menu of the package for Macintosh was designed in a way typical for these computers. What is more, the Mac operational system allowed the customer to feel free when placing various windows on the screen. The design of the edition for NEC PC-9800 is practically identical to the version for PC, so you may easily get the wrong impression that this is only a language modification of the PC version. In fact, it was a genuine version on its own.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0 for Macintosh - Chicago

Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0 for Apple Macintosh (Chicago), 1991

MS Flight Simulator 4.0b for NEC PC-9800 series

Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0b for NEC PC-9800 series, 1992

In 1993 Microsoft launched a new generation with its MS Flight Simulator 5.0 for PC. The maximum SVGA resolution was 640x400 in 256 colours. Terrain, aircraft, buildings and clouds were textured and had their own shadows. Only the Cessna Skylane RG, Learjet 35A, Sopwith Camel and Schweizer 2-32 Sailplane were simulated, but each machine had its own type of the instrument panel. On the other hand, there were more sceneries – Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Paris and Munich. In 1994 upgraded version 5.0a came out in which errors of the basic version were corrected.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0 for PC - Chicago

Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0 for DOS (Chicago), 1993

 In 1994 was released next version for Japanese computers NEC PC-98 line. Actually it was Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0a for NEC PC-9821/ PC-9800/ PC-H98. As the computers are not compatible with IBM PC standard, Microsoft launched the separate edition which is functionally comparable with the same named edition for IBM PC computers. The simulator performs on MS DOS 5.0 operational system or higher and it is in Japanese language only. It was distributed on three 3,5” floppy disks. On the picture below is Tokyo scenery which is not included on installation floppy disks but it was sell as a separate add-on called Japan scenery. Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0a for NEC PC-9821 was the latest version dedicated to other platform than PC.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0a for NEC PC-9821/ PC-9800/ PC-H98 - Tokyo

Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0a for NEC PC-9821/ PC-9800/ PC-H98 (Tokyo), 1994

SubLOGIC kept abreast and in 1994 the company released Flight Light simulator with a fully revised code. A Cessna CitationJet was simulated and its stylized instrument panel was completely different from the previous designs of instrument panels created by subLOGIC.

subLOGIC Flight Light - Chicago

subLOGIC Flight Light (Chicago), 1994

           In 1995 Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 was launched. At the first glimpse it did not differ from version 5.0, but actually it was much improved. The program was supplied either on four 3.5” floppy discs or for the first time on the CD ROM.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 for DOS - New York

Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 for DOS (New York), 1995

            In December 1995 Artwick made another crucial decision. He realized that small companies did not stand a good chance of being successful in a heavy competition, so he sold his BAO to Microsoft. Artwick’s team joined Microsoft and he became a consultant. Curiously, his former company subLOGIC was sold to Sierra at about that time too.

            Close to taking over subLOGIC by Sierra in 1995, subLOGIC released an improved version of Flight Light simulator titled Flight Light Plus. Compared to its predecessor, it supported MS Windows and offered more aircraft types (Cessna CitationJet, Cessna 172, Beach Bonanza, Piper Archer, Mooney 201). You may also find interesting that in 1996 Sierra released subLOGIC Flight Light Plus named simply as subLOGIC Flight. The program was distributed on CD ROM with different box cover.

subLOGIC Flight Light Plus and USA East Scenery Disk - New York

subLOGIC Flight Light Plus (Cessna 172 instrument panel) and USA East Scenery Disk (New York), 1995

Part of the subLOGIC personnel moved from Illinois to Eugene, Oregon, and joined Dynamix (a game developer). They did not bring any code with them, just a huge geographical database. Then Sierra (a game producer) released Pro Pilot in 1997. They used just the database and knowledge of the former subLOGIC. Later they released 3 patches for the Pro Pilot and Pro Pilot ´99 in 1998. Sierra Pro Pilot 2000 has been cancelled.

Sierra (Dynamix) Pro Pilot

Sierra Pro Pilot (Cessna CitationJet), 1997

A mention should also be made about BAO Flight Simulator Flight Shop for MS Flight Simulator 5.x released in 1995 (consists of Aircraft Factory, ATC Workshop, new planes F/A-18, DC-3, T6D Texan and others, upgrade to version 5.0a) and BAO Tower (air traffic control simulator) from 1996. Both programs already support MS Windows 3.x and Windows 95.

BAO Flight Simulator Flight Shop - Aircraft Factory

BAO Flight Simulator Flight Shop, 1995

BAO Tower

BAO Tower, 1996

The new generation of Flight Simulator arrived in 1996 when Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 95 was released. This was the full name of the brand new product which is also known as version 6.0. As its name implies it was designed for the new operational system. Besides the well-proven types – the Cessna 182RG, Learjet 35A, Schweizer 2-32 Sailplane, Sopwith Camel, it also offered the Boeing 737-400 and Extra 300S. Apart from its detailed scenery, this version also benefits from capabilities of MS Windows 95. These include comfortable installation, a greater number of windows projected per second, or multimedia help which is available any time during the game. The maximum resolution on the whole screen is 640x480.

Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 95

Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 95 (Grand Canyon), 1996

In 1997 a special Japanese language edition of MS Flight Simulator 95 followed. In this connection I would like to point out that even the previous versions had been distributed in various languages, such as German or French.

Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 95 (Japanese edition)

Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 95 (Japanese edition), 1997

Yet in 1997 a new version came out – MS Flight Simulator 98, designated as version 6.1. The versions for Windows can be regarded as “modern”, so only basic information follows. The highest optional resolution is 1400x1050, 16bit colour depth, and for the first time 3D hardware acceleration is supported. New simulations include the Bell 206B JetRanger, Learjet 45 and Cessna 182S, i.e. a total of 8 types with a virtual cockpit, however, the latter is still far from being 3D.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 98

Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 (Grand Canyon), released 1997

The 1999 saw arrival of MS Flight Simulator 2000, designated as version 7.0. Likewise MSFS 2002, which followed later on, it was released in Standard and Professional editions. A typical aircraft simulated here is Concorde. This version, however, does not feature virtual cockpits. In 2000 it was followed by an update patch version 2000b in which the errors of the original version were remedied.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000 (Manhattan), released 1999

In 2001 MS Flight Simulator 2002, or version 8.0, was released. The highest possible resolution is 1400x1050 and 32bit colour depth. A total of 17 aircraft are represented. These comprise various types of Cessna, the Bell 206B helicopter, JetRanger, Learjet 45, Mooney Bravo, F4U-1A Corsair, Boeing 737, 747, 777 and others. On the other hand, Concorde is missing this time. The aircraft have virtual cockpits and the scenery utilizes new AutoGen system.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 (Grand Canyon), released 2001

           In 2003 Microsoft came with MS Flight Simulator 2004 A Century of Flight, designated as version 9.0. Among others, it contains a multimedia presentation of aviation history and several historical types such as the Wright Flyer, Vickers F.B.27A Vimy, Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis”, Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny”, DC-3 and others. In 2004 it was released an update patch 9.1 in which errors of version 9.0 are corrected.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (Golden Gate Bridge), released 2003

           The Microsoft Flight Simulator X was released in 2006 and an official add-on called Microsoft Flight Simulator X Acceleration expansion pack was released in 2007. They look  amazing! See pictures below. Stunning graphics (view of Rio de Janeiro), new planes, missions, many next nice things (animals), much fun (Red Bull Air Race)!!! There are couple of Flight Simulator X releases called Deluxe (Professional) edition, Standard edition and Gold edition (issued in 2008).

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

Microsoft Flight Simulator X (Rio de Janeiro), released 2006

Microsoft Flight Simulator X Acceleration Expansion Pack

Microsoft Flight Simulator X Acceleration Expansion Pack, released 2007

           In 2010 was released a flight simulation program called Prepar3D. It is not the program made or produced by Microsoft, but I have to mention it, because it is based on a source code of Microsoft's ESP which was a commercial version of Microsoft Flight Simulator X.  Lockheed Martin bought the code, hired members of the original ACES Studios team to continue development of the product. Prepar3D allows users to create educational scenarios in the air, sea and on the ground. Most Flight Simulator X add-ons work in Prepar3D without any adjustment because Prepar3D is kept backward compatible. The differences with MSFS:X are in graphics. Users will experience higher quality graphics such as more realistic rainy or snowy weather with the modernized shader model. For higher quality graphics are increased texture limits which can be set as high as 4096 x 4096. Blurries are greatly reduced because Prepar3D actually uses multiple cores for rendering ground texture instead of just one. New is a user interface compatible with Windows 7.

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D - F-22 Raptor over Langley Air Force Base

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D (F-22 Raptor over Langley Air Force Base), released 2010

           On 29 February 2012 was released Microsoft Flight. Microsoft changed not only the program name, but even its philosophy. Microsoft announced that it was inspired by many years of FS tradition, but the result is more a game than flight simulation. Microsoft left their slogan: “As real as it gets”. The philosophy of the simulation approaches to flight arcade games. So it is completely different than in Microsoft Flight Simulator series. The game was not distributed in box, but only through the Internet download. Basic package of the game was for free. You must buy additional aircrafts and scenery locations. There are following modes in the game: free flight, multiplayer through the Games for Windows LIVE account, missions and search for air caches.

Microsoft Flight

Microsoft Flight (mission - collect rings before the timer runs out), released 2012

           On 26 July 2012 Microsoft announced, that they cancelled next development of Microsoft Flight. It was very surprising decision without giving specific reasons, just five months after it was issued. Microsoft Flight with its philosophy is mostly focused to easy game flying. In my opinion, the Microsoft Flight has nearby nothing with previous long genealogy of Microsoft Flight Simulator. So I do not consider the Microsoft Flight a follower of Flight Simulator series, but I had to mention this side direction.

           On 18 December 2014, Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition was released. According to official announcements, it is a re-release of Microsoft Flight Simulator X Gold Edition, which includes the Deluxe and Acceleration packs and both Service Packs. It includes "all standard Steam functionality", and replaces the GameSpy multiplayer system with Steam's multiplayer system. It is updated Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 support. FSX: Steam Edition has not a box distribution, only Internet download with activation is available. There are not visual differences except the Steam Edition sign.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition

Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (the user interface), released 2014

           Late in 2015 Dovetail Games released also Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition Premium, which is the same like previous issue. It in addition includes some add-on collection.

FSX: Steam Edition Premium

Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition Premium, released 2015

           Lockheed Martin continues with development of Prepar3D. The version 3 was released before the end of 2015.

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v3 (F-22 Raptor over Langley Air Force Base), released 2015

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v3 (F-22 Raptor over Langley Air Force Base), released 2015

           On the 9th of July 2014 Dovetail Games announced a licensing agreement with Microsoft to distribute Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition and to develop further products based on Microsoft's technology for the entertainment market. On the 11th of February 2016 Dovetail Games announced their plans to launch two new flight simulation titles in 2016: Dovetail Games Flight School and Dovetail Games Flight Simulator. Flight School should be released in April 2016. That will be a standalone experience focused on learning to fly.

           The Dovetail Games Flight Simulator is scheduled for launch in the latter part of the year. Dovetail says: "DTG Flight Simulator is still very much in development and is planned to be more expansive and evolved than Flight School. We are committed to developing a cutting edge flight simulator which takes full advantage of modern PCs and can be continuously built upon. For starters, Dovetail Games Flight Simulator will be a 64-bit simulator using DirectX 11 and take full advantage of modern GPU and CPU performance. We are in this for the long term and intend to support and expand upon DFS for years to come. We aren’t just going to make a new simulator – we intend to build a new simulation platform which grows with you, our players, over time".

           In my opinion, this is the most important information, because in fact it means that the long Flight Simulator history is still alive!!!

The family tree of Microsoft Flight Simulator

The family tree of Microsoft Flight Simulator (press the picture to zoom)

           It is years since the first version of Flight Simulator was released, and I am convinced that it will also be there in the future as well as human desire to fly.

 

© 2005 - 2016 Josef  Havlík

 

NAVRCHOLU.cz

 

Individual pages:

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 - Apple II

subLOGIC Flight Simulator 1 - TRS-80

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1 - IBM PC

subLOGIC Flight Simulator II - Apple II

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2 - IBM PC

Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator series

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

Microsoft Flight