Flight Simulator History

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.

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.


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.

This information was gathered from The History of Flight Simulator website. Take a look at Chapter 1 of the Good Flight Simmer's Guide