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Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson
20 Years of Military Flight Simulations on the PC by Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson.

Flight sim guru Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson chronicles the first 30 years of computer flight sims, the software, hardware, people and the culture.

The beginnings

Air Warrior is born

If there is a landmark year it was 1987. In 1987 AirWarrior was born, developed by Kelton Flinn, an early try at online gaming

Air Warrior made its debut on the Mac II with simple black and white graphics, no real physics model, and lacking ballistics and other things we now deem as crucial to any decent flight sim. It wasnít long before Air Warrior appeared on the PC.

In 1987 Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainerappeared, attempting to teach the basics of flight on the PC, a needed preparation for the games that would follow. In the same year the first iteration of the Falcon series was released by Spectrum Holobyte and Gunship (1987) was released by Microprose.

Many simulation fans today count one or more of these last four titles as their "first love" in PC gaming, or at least their introduction to the hobby. Falcon, in 1987, preferred an IBM AT and required 256K to fly under DOS 2.x. 256k wasnít cheap at the time and not everyone could afford the 12 or 16MHz AT. It was still too early for the 640K machines or for 256 color VGA graphics, but the excitement was kindled.

Falcon 1987

In 1988 there were at least three significant releases for the PC, and among them were Falcon AT and Battlehawks 1942. Battlehawks marked LucasFilm Games‘ entry into the genre, and Falcon AT was a landmark in its own right. A friend remarked,

"I recall walking into the computer department of a large pharmacy chain and seeing something incredible running with 16 color graphics. It was perfectly fluid. The voices were incredible. For the first time, I was seeing something that approximated the real world, including joint tactics. It was Falcon AT that pushed me to upgrade to a 386/33."

With Falcon ATFalcon AT, established their name as a premiere simulation developer. The quote from a simulation fan establishes the intimate relationship between the growth of hardware and software. The gaming industry was rapidly establishing its own identity, and simulation fans were becoming identifiable as a group.

Read on

This article is ©2001 Leonard Hjalmarson and Thrustmaster ® and hosted with permission in the Flight Sim Museum. Unauthorised reproduction is forbidden.