Flight Sim Programs
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I am a long-time flight sim enthusiast. Actually I have been at it since flight simulators ran on ATs and you flew around in small jerks over green plains with brown pyramid-shaped mountains on them. Below are reviews, comments and other things about flight simulators I have flown and liked.
The Microsoft Flight Simulator is THE flight simulator for many, and for once it is a product from Microsoft that has gained its dominance simply because it is GOOD.
The ultimate source on aircraft info (and on other types of military equpment), JANES have published several excellent flight simulator games.
A vision of the future
Flight simulators have come a long way since the first jerky, four-colored starts, both in terms of realism and in terms of hard-ware requirements. And they still have a long way to go. My vision of the future is something like this:
Detailed, photo-realistic maps of the entire world are available on the internet and are downloaded automatically as you fly towards new areas. You can chose to continuously upload your position, so to be visible in real-time to other virtual pilots. Various "layers" of representation will exist in this virtual airspace depending on your intentions: Just flying? Or looking for a dogfight? Or something else perhaps? Technically, this should be possible within the next 10 years (Computers are already nearly fast enough, but the amount of data to be moved and stored is enormous, we will have to wait for both bigger disks, and more important, a faster internet).
If anybody makes such a system, my guess is it will be Microsoft. Anyone who does may gain ultimate dominance over the flight simulation marketplace, although I like to think of an open system, so other programs may also fly in the virtual airspace. Finance? Probably there will be a fee on downloading the maps - it will still be much cheaper than real flying.