The beginning of the Microsoft Flight Simulator series goes back in the year 1976. Bruce Artwick founded Sublogic Corporation to commercialize his Flight Simulator program which was meant to graphically demonstrate the difference between older 8-bit computers, such as the Apple II, and the newer 16-bit computers, such as the IBM PC. Sublogic Corporation licensed a version of Flight Simulator for the IBM PC to Microsoft, which marketed it as Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0.
- Flight Simulator 1.0 – Released in November 1982, it was mainly used to test for IBM PC compatibility. FS1 was build to run as an individual from the floppy disk, without the need for an operating system. Advertisements claimed, “If flying your IBM PC got any more realistic, you’d need a license”.
- Flight Simulator 2.0 – Released in 1984, it had small improvements, better graphics, support for RGB monitors, and more precise simulation. Joystick and mouse were supported and the scenery coverage expanded to include the entire United States, although a limited amount of airports. Later on, Scenery Disks added more coverage to consist of Hawaii, Japan, and part of Europe.
- Flight Simulator 3.0 – Released in mid-1988, it expanded the amount of aircraft as well as airports and buildings to the scenery area of same size as in FS2. Flyable aircraft were the Gates Learjet 25, Cessna Skylane, and Sopwith Camel with able to change camera views from instrument and control panel to various external camera angles.
- Flight Simulator 4.0 – Released in late 1989, it brought several improvements over FS3 including better aircraft models, more detailed roads, bridges, and buildings as well as programmable prerecorded dynamic scenery. A large series of add-on products were produced because FS4 allowed users to quite easily build aircraft and scenery from parameter customizations inside the program.
- Flight Simulator 5.0 – Released in late 1993, it is the first version of the series to use textures that achieved a much higher degree of realism. The scenery coverage was expanded more to Europe as well as the scenery format was migrated from the old to the new and more complex format. Also, featuring the use of digital audio for sound effects and individual custom cockpits for each aircraft type.
- Flight Simulator 5.1 – Released in June 1995, it added wide use of satellite imagery as scenery and more weather effects like storms, clouds, and fog. With the release of “Flightshop” program, nearly any aircraft could be built. The freeware program “Airport” allowed users to build airports. FS5.1 only had a total of 250 airports worldwide. With help of community, a huge amount of downloadable content came available to the FS5.1. Bruce Artwick’s company was acquired by Microsoft and employees were moved to Microsoft’s campus to continue Flight Simulator development.
- Flight Simulator 6.0 – Released in mid-1996, it was commonly known also as Flight Simulator for Windows 95 to advertise the change in an operating system. It featured a vastly improved frame-rate, better haze, and additional aircraft, including the Extra 300 aerobatic. More of 3D details were included, which could be noticed in major cities such as New York.
- Flight Simulator 98 – Released on September 16, 1997, it is generally regarded as a service release, offering minor improvements. Two notable exceptions were the first helicopter included as well as an improved interface for adding additional aircraft and sceneries. The default Cessna 182 had a photorealistic instrument panel and an updated flight model. The old Learjet 35 was replaced with the newer Learjet 45. The scenery was now including 45 detailed cities as well as over 3,000 airports worldwide compared to only 300 in the earlier edition. Support for the Microsoft Sidewinder Pro Force Feedback joystick allowed the pilot to receive simulated forces on the aircraft controls.
- Flight Simulator 2000 – Released in late 1999, it was available in Standard and Professional editions. Scenery 3D elevation changes were included and FS2000 demanded very high-end hardware to have decent framerate especially when performing sharp turns in a graphically dense area. The weather engine got rain and snow as well as the ability to download real-world weather. Some of the new aircraft was the supersonic Concorde and the Boeing 777. New airports were added by 17,000, for a total exceeding 20,000 worldwide. A radio navigation database was included to make longer international flights possible with GPS included for the first time. Some larger commercial airports had detailed apron and taxiway structures based on Jeppesen’s aviation database.
- Flight Simulator 2002 – Released in October 2001, it added automatically generated 3D objects, built-in Air Traffic Control, and computer-controlled air traffic. An option for a target framerate was added, although the heavy stutters in the previous edition, FS2002 with automatically generated 3D objects, ran smoother even on comparable hardware.
- Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight – Released in July 2003, it commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brother’s first flight, including several historical aircraft such as the Wright Flyer and Douglas DC-3. More improvements were made in weather engine, better ATC communication, interactive 3D cockpits, and more variety in automatically generated 3D objects such as barns and street lights.
- Flight Simulator X – Released in October 2006, it featured improved multiplayer support, including the shared cockpit and possibility to occupy a control tower. Flying across both the Arctic and Antarctic was impossible in previous editions but in FSX this problem was solved. The first expansion pack Acceleration was released in October 2007, including multiplayer air racing, new missions, and three new aircraft. In December 2014, Steam edition was released to replace the GameSpy multiplayer system with Steam.
- Flight Simulator (2020) – Available for PC on August 18, 2020, it was first introduced on June 10, 2019, at Microsoft’s E3 conference by a short teaser trailer. Powered by satellite imagery and Azure AI with all new weather engine and aerodynamic physics. Microsoft has told they will keep this edition up to date for the next decade. The release date for the Xbox edition remains still unknown. We will take a closer look at the next-generation edition tomorrow, so stay tuned!
Microsoft Flight Simulator will be available for Windows 10 on August 18, 2020, as downloadable worldwide from Microsoft Store and Steam as well as boxed disc-publication from Aerosoft. Prices are for Standard 69.99 EUR, Deluxe 89.99 EUR, and Premium Deluxe 119.99 EUR.