The Immersive Flight Simulator From 1989

The history of PC gaming showers games such a Wolfenstein 3D and Doom with the honor of having the most advanced graphics of the day. Often overlooked is Microsoft Flight Simulator and earlier, pre-Microsoft versions from subLOGIC, including the 1977 Apple II version. [Wayne Piekarski] was playing around with MS Flight Simulator 4 recently, and wanted it to be a bit more like his modern flight sim based on X-Plane 11. That meant multiple monitors, and the results are amazing.

The video and networking capabilities for MS Flight Sim 4, while very impressive for the late 80s, are still very limited. In 1989, computers only supported a single display, and while FS4 had the ability to network machines together for dogfighting, there was no way to set the camera viewpoint to the remote aircraft.

The solution to this problem came in the form of memory dumps. Since [Wayne] is running FS4 in DOSBox, he’s able to read the memory of one instance of the game, and write those memory locations to another instance of the game. There were only 18 bytes of memory in the instance of DOSBox that included heading, altitude, roll, and pitch information for the simulated aircraft. [Wayne] is sending this data to other instances of FS4 — effectively mirroring the game on another machine — and changing the camera view to look out the left and right windows. He displayed those views on additional monitors, and was done.

The results are exactly what you would expect. [Wayne] is now taking off from Meigs Field and buzzing the ten or twelve buildings in downtown Chicago with a panoramic 180° view. Check out the videos of that in action below.


17 thoughts on “The Immersive Flight Simulator From 1989

  1. I remember seeing an SGI workstation running “Dog” circa 1989, and that knocked MS Flight Simulator into a cocked hat. Not only was it multiplayer, it had graphics effects MS could only dream of (you could see opposing pilots through their cockpit window via alpha blending glass effects).

  2. Back in the day when I taught DOS basics, A+, and intro to hardware/software, one of my final exams included installing FS4, complete with mouse and SoundBlaster drivers, on a MSDOS 6x box with just barely enough memory to get by. If I could fly the Meigs circuit (with all the features turned on and working) without crashing the computer, you passed the exam.

  3. For those that don’t know about Meigs Field:

    “In a controversial move on the night of Sunday, March 30, 2003, Mayor Daley ordered city crews to destroy the runway immediately by bulldozing large X-shaped gouges into the runway surface in the middle of the night…”

  4. OK, not only is that a cool hack.. but it touches the special place in my heart where MS FS lives :) When I first got my Tandy 1K, Dad sent me money to buy ‘software’ for it. When I came home with all games, he was furious and made me return all but one for ‘educational software’ instead. I was able to keep Flight Simulator :) .. along with Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Rocky’s Boots, and other learning titles :)

  5. I remember trying to play Flight Simulator on a C64, which barely had enough processing power to run it. The funniest mistake I made was accidentally hitting a key to change views and having it display the plane’s wing. I mistook the wing for a runway and tried to land on it, with predictable results. There was also the time I hadn’t realized that the cloud ceilings were specified in feet, not miles…

      1. I remember that one… specially the crash reports !: “YOU CRASHED AT 250 KNOTS”…. I never landed that plane… but was able to bounce a couple of times on the runway and crash.
        It only had two flight options final approach was one of them… That was in 1985 :)

  6. So many fond hours…. I was a young lad playing flight simulator on and apple IIe back in the day… I bounced around vors and adfs and ils patterns all hours i was allowed to be on the computer (after playing 5 levels of math shark that is) I remember the first time I got to pilot a plane, and my flight instructor asked me a couple times how many hours I had and I replied none. He asked a third time- are you sure- I said yup, but that’s not taking into account the hundreds of hours of flight simulator time I did as a kid!

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