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Flight Simulator 4 from 1989 running on three immersive monitors (2017) (tinmith.net)
219 points by anyfoo 56 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

I am constantly amazed at the clever ways people manage to extend, repurpose and rearchitect software. This is incredibly clever in my opinion.

[2017] Also previously on HN, 70 comments:


Still impressive.

Also, one of the comments there, from bluedino:

"I remember you could do this with DOS Doom using the -left and -right parameters: you just needed three PC's that could run Doom AND a local area network."

> it is not possible to have two processes on the same machine listening on the same port number.

This is not true.

One strategy is to use multicast[1].

Another strategy is to use SO_BROADCAST+SO_REUSEADDR[2].

[1]: http://www.jarloo.com/c-udp-multicasting-tutorial/

[2]: http://hacked10bits.blogspot.com/2014/12/udp-binding-and-por...

sometimes i find myself grumbling over some article where anybody doing a little coding calls himself a hacker and thinking “in my days we use to code our own (insert any now commercially o free available software) ..” but this is hacking at its pure and best: radically transforming something with code.

What ever happened to FS (and flight simulators in general) ?

Is there a current commercial version? Did people just lose interest?

Or maybe the current 10 (20?) year old stuff is simply good enough

- rights to FSX have been acquired by a company which has re-released Steam edition, and made some minor improvements to the engine

- Lockheed released its own version called Prepar3d: https://www.prepar3d.com/

- X-plane 11 is largely understood to be the main competitor. FSX and X-plane have different underlying modelling principles. You can easily start an internet flame-war on which one is "better", but X-plane is actively developed and improved

- Aerofly FS2 is also a good "lighter alternative". Still a very solid sim, but easier to get into. Very pretty graphics as well.

All three of these support basic and advanced joysticks. I've had Saitek Yoke, Engine cluster, and Thrustmaster MFDs running in Aerofly in seconds.

From combat flight sim perspective, DCS suite is widely considered the current best-of-breed, though Falcon 4.0 modded / enhanced variations are still widely played. Tons of other "lighter" contenders as well.

To further elaborate on this... Flight simulators as a game genre has all but disappeared. There used to be lots of flight simulator games, like F-15 Strike Eagle and Red Baron, etc. Every now and then there's an "arcade flight simulator" game, but it doesn't seem to be popular with gamers and even less so with simmers.

Flight simulators have become pretty hard core simulators these days. X-Plane 11 and P3D seem to be the most popular on simmer forums, with MS FSX (and derivatives) still enjoying popularity.

Flight sims are a pretty deep rabbit hole and big investment. When you purchase a simulator, it's just a platform for running 1st and 3rd party addon aircraft and scenery. Some of these are fairly expensive (up to $100 or more for a quality aircraft), and the investment in these is why people still fly with FSX.

Combat flight sims are still around too, DCS:World is popular, but IL-2 series and Rise of Flight have some players too. Falcon BMS is popular for hard core fans of modern air warfare (with complex weapons systems that need a manual of their own).

As much as I'd like to still be enjoying flight sims, it's too deep a rabbit hole for me. It takes investment in hardware, software, education and practice.

This explains also why it's not a mainstream activity. It's far beyond what a casual gamer would find entertaining or interesting.

> What ever happened to FS?

Microsoft's IEB, under Don Mattrick at the time (best known for his blunders with the Xbox One launch and lack of success in reviving Zynga's fortunes while CEO), closed ACES studio in 2009, thus ending Flight Simulator development forever.


> Is there a current commercial version?

The last commercially released version, Flight Simulator X, is available on Steam from another publisher.

Regarding Microsoft's decision to stop development of Flight Simulator in 2009, I offer two data points:

1) The legend around Flight Simulator was always that there was one and only one reason why Microsoft published it: because Bill Gates thought it was cool.

2) Bill Gates stepped down from his day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft in June 2008.

Lockheed acquired it and they still put out new releases. Made it run 64 bit as well if I recall correctly. https://www.prepar3d.com

There's also the flyinside flight simulator, which is a completely new flight simulator engine, focused on (but not limited to) VR: https://flyinside-fsx.com/Home/Sim

A couple of options I know of:


http://home.flightgear.org (free)

I think you meant https://www.x-plane.com instead.

Yes you're right. Bizarre it came out that way as I went to visit the site before copy/pasting it here... Thanks for correcting it

I love this kind of tinkering. It sure is a lot of fun, given enough time.

> I decided to try just fuzzing over the memory locations that did change to see which one would have an effect.

I've been thinking for a long time to do this in an automated way. But I guess even if you can automate the fuzzy generation + screenshots, a person with a lot of domain knowledge will need to check them.

There's a program called cheatengine that does this! It is absolutely fantastic imho and you can use it for way more than just 'cheating' at games.


Thanks! I just read the page and I didn't know it came with so many tools. I remember some people using it in games to actual 'cheats' like unlimited ammo, life, and so on. Also I was delighted when I saw you could use it to disable certain direct3d api calls that would make a game run very slow on integrated graphics, hence increasing the performance dramatically.

I had classes with Wayne at Uni. His group was the only one to get better marks than me in this final year assignment for some subject where we had to write our own webbrowser and server in C and TCL.

Ours was great, but theirs was better. I don't remember the details, but theirs did something like implemented HTML tables. This was 1997, and tables were still not supported in things like Lynx.

Anyway, good times, and Wayne is a smart guy.

A long time ago on some German computer show, they showed a flight sim hacker who basically made his own immersive cockpit. He had a camera rigged to his screen, right where the attitude indicator was, and this controlled servo motors who elevated parts of the platform he was sitting on. Mind you, that was way before Arduinos etc.

> Mind you, that was way before Arduinos etc.

Maybe it was in the era of ubiquitous printer IO ports? There seems to be some sort of "dark age" of low-level/analog computer output right between printer ports and arduino/raspberri pi.

Or the various interfaces of the home computers. The BeBox was an interesting twist on this with its "GeekPort".

This is great, and gives me hope of someday doing the same for my favorite DOS game EarthSiege (where the mech you piloted had four camera views)

"In 1989, computers only supported a single small display"

Macs supported more than one display at that point, I think.

PCs technically supported multiple displays earlier than that, it just wasn't something the VGA standard provided for. It was either a specialized expensive thing, or a mixing of standard graphics adapters occupying different IO ports. The Hercules graphics card [1] was popular for this application, since it could happily coexist with a VGA card.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules_Graphics_Card#Hercule...

Hercules cards were extremely useful, but in the case of PCs, support meant little more than “if you plug in a card, the hardware will provide it power”. That worked if the cards didn’t happen to fight over who owned which interrupt or which memory region. It was up to individual applications to detect the presence of the cards and to write to them.

In contrast, the Mac II supported multiple displays in the sense that QuickDraw would happily draw graphics across monitors, switching color depths along the way, without applications needing to even be aware of the presence of multiple graphics cards.

The Mac also supported having multiple identical graphics cards plugged in. In contrast, a Hercules card could coexist with a VGA card, but not with a second Hercules card, for example.

You're imagining the fighting of resource ownership issue. VGAs don't even use an interrupt line. It was a simple matter of the Hercules emulating an MDA which had a distinct IO space from VGA/EGA. So you could just slap a Hercules card into a VGA machine and start running software that supported the combination.

I don't know anything about Macs but I have no trouble believing it was superior.

The PC was incredibly primitive in this area. But that's also why there was essentially nothing to configure when you inserted a VGA and Hercules card into a machine. Their physical configuration is defined by their respective standards, and the standard didn't consider multi-monitor support. It's just fortuitous that Hercules/MDA and VGA standards didn't collide.

I even got my Hercules running in Linux! But could not get Linux to switch consoles from VGA to Hercules and back without blanking the inactive monitor. :-/

My solution was to write little C programs which addressed the Hercules screen directly. Fun times! :)

It was dog slow, even slower than in DOS.

Technically, you could even do dual monitors with IBM PC, by having both a CGA card and a MDA/Hercules card. Obviously, the utility was limited, but apparently people did it.

Obviously, the utility was limited, but apparently people did it.

For graphics yes. But around that time all Borland (C, Pascal) products supported debugging with to monitors (VGA+Hercules). And I used a little TSR for years that transferred the contents of the main VGA Screen to Hercules via 'PtrScr' key, which was handy too. All text mode of course.

Definitely not saying it was useless, just that the utility was limited because of the usual limitations of MDA; that is, it's definitely not the same as what people would think of as a dual-head setup today.

That said, I literally was born after Windows 3.0. So... I never personally dealt with such a setup. Maybe some day, as a matter of exploring older computers, I will get a chance to actually run such a setup and see what it was like.

It was definitely a thing to run multiple screens in a "one-per-task" kind of setup - the real difference is that hardly anything back then networked or multitasked, and so you had to design the workflow you wanted to use specifically around the idea of using all your displays. In the context of any specific application(coding, document editing, CAD etc.) the possibility of a custom tailored solution existed - it just wasn't the highest priority most of the time. You could get a lot of multitasking mileage out of more antiquated technologies like printed documents and pens in tandem with your computer. "Code review" meant literally printing it out and going over it with highlighters like an exam grader. I'm sure it still does in some shops.

I always wanted a setup like this to put debugging information on another screen. When I got to where I had the money to buy it, there were the beginnings of the much better approaches we have today.

It's probably worth mentioning that the idea of developing Windows software in Windows was something that only came around until 1990-91 or so. Prior to that, all the tooling (except for things like the message Spy and the resource editor) ran in the command line in text mode, including the debugger.

Visual Basic gets a huge amount of grief, but when it was first released, this was a huge part of the reason why it was so amazing. It took Windows development from a relatively complex and obscure process involving a multi-step build/edit/compile and turned it into 'drag the button where you want it, click, and add an event handler... all in Windows itself.'

Oh yeah, you could run CGA+VGA, too -- they ran at different address ranges.

A lot of graphical software had commandline switches to override the videocard autodetection, "in case it failed", but this could also be used to force the software onto one monitor or another.

I ran dual-head under DesQview for quite a while. The CGA monitor whined like mad so I kept it off most of the time, but when I needed more display real estate, I'd turn it on and put my text sessions over there, leaving the graphical stuff on the VGA.

Have to if you want a bit graphic those days. The Cga is so low resolution you can’t use it totally on its own.

But OP is amazing to do this btw.

Yup... that capability was introduced with the Macintosh II and Color QuickDraw. The II essentially switched the platform to a PC-style model where there was a case with drive bays and six expansion slots and you had a separate video adapter in a slot to run your monitor. Apple made it possible to install multiple video cards, each running its own display.

This was 1987. so at the time PC's were way behind in terms of the architecture needed to do this. Apple had a 24/32-bit [1] address space and an OS abstraction layer sitting in front of the graphics hardware. The closest in the PC space at the time was Windows 2.x, which ran in a 20-bit segmented real mode address space or OS/2, which nobody had. PC Video cards of the time were also hardwired to certain physical addresses, so installing two in one machine would run the risk of physically damaging hardware when the two boards both attempted to respond to a memory operation in that shared space. (The MDA was a unique case since it had its own memory window, separate from the rest.)

1] The original Mac II marked the first use of the fully 32-bit 68020 in the Macintosh. The earlier 68000 did operate internally on 32-bit addresses, but only exposed 24-bits on the package. (The 68000 was introduced in 1979, so >16MB was a fantasy.)

The net result of this is that programmers would often pack flags into the top 8 bits of a 32-bit address, with the knowledge that the hardware would just mask them off and ignore them. Since the Mac II had a fully 32-bit bus, that wouldn't work and Apple added external hardware to the CPU that would mask down to 24-bit addresses. Even the early Mac II ROM wasn't '32-bit clean' enough to run without this masking.

(PC's had a similar problem on a smaller scale. The (seg<<4)+ofs addressing scheme used in real-mode allowed 64K-16 addresses to be generated past the 1MB bound. On a chip with a 20-bit address bus (8088, etc.), these would wrap around. On a 286, they would address new memory locations. So AT class machines had masking of the A20 bit to allow them to wrap around addresses too. This masking also made its way into CPU packages, since there are implications for caching if you mask A20 and wrap the address space at 1MB.)

Flight Sim 4 was the first fight simulator I played. Talk about a blast from the past.

Yeah, I got a huge rush of nostalgia. It was so cool, I remember learning so much about how planes worked trying to figure that game out.

That looks very similar to multiplayer game design. Here, side monitors are acting like spectators and getting dead reckoning after player synchronization.

Thanks for this: MS FS was literally the first PC game I ever tried to play on my grandfathers 386 - and I failed miserably for years.

Beautiful stuff. I am so glad people continue to explore and keep alive technology from the years when I was growing up.

Descent ! 1995 and there in nothing close to it today in 6 degrees of freedom 6DOF flying.

Wow a fellow Aussie! Good read.

This is awesome.

When I remember those softwares from the 90s, I almost (but not) think that software has not improved as much since.

Hardware improves much faster. Actually Software could always and can always be done without computers, like the old punch holes in the cards and Ada Lovelace's writings.

Still today, of course, Anything that can get done with real physical logic gates can get done with paper and pencil. Just takes longer, Result is the same.

Examples of great software that dropped my jaw back in the 90's:

- Microsoft Flight Simulator (Instead of becoming better and more famous, is almost forgotten)

- Bryce 4 (mind-blowing back then, wonder if still alive)

- :at request - Simcity ( I had never play, but my sister was addicted)

-:at sister's request - Empire Earth ( not sure that old, it's like Age of Empires)

- Myth: The Fallen Lords (best video-game ever made, for me, it is the saddening story you can hear about software death)

Age of Empires 2 was what made my little brother decide being a programmer. It's trigger system in the map editor is so primitive and lacking, you'd have to spend hours for some basic things that can be done in seconds via a loop. We (mostly I) developed a program that multiplied the triggers with special names by changing keywords (or key-numbers like 42^^) by modifying the save file. He loved the reverse-engineering and how easier things get using a proper programming language. On the other hand, I think if someone is creative and analytic that way to find themselves writing scripts-like stuff in a map editor, then they are already good candidates for being programmers.

What I wanted to say, then diverged and started telling a completely unnecessary story, is: AoE2 is a really timeless piece of software. Look at the still kicking community for this 20-year-old game!

The beauty of AOE2 was the perfectly calibrated units and civilizations such that nothing is truly superior or inferior. It depends on the player's skill and strategy what they want to prioritize. I have spent many weekends in the 2010s playing that game with 7 other friends. Nothing comes close for me to the fun I had playing that.

Microsoft Flight simulator is not almost forgotten. Even after getting discontinued for consumers, there is still a large active community on steam more than 10 years after launch and people still pay for the commercial p3d version of the engine.

I'm sad that Microsoft chose to discontinue Flight Simulator and Midtown madness, but I can hope for a return much like age of empires.

Here is the Steam community playing FSX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8DadVR-rl0 (sometimes has NSFW language)

Thanks for sharing, Zeusk.

Is too late too edit my comment now, but I stand corrected.

Microsoft Flight Simulator will never be forgotten.

Myth: T.F.L. the same. Not on Steam , tried to get killed by his own parents, but we never let it die, even going a little off. And some heroes reversed-engineered the server and there is a Multiplayer server still running today.(will never forget you guys from Project Magma)

and here I remember the eighties for Binary Systems Starflight, what they did on two 360k diskettes amazes me even to today. The Wizardry, Bards Tale, Ultima, and Kings Quest, series. Elite is around in new forms today but it is from the eighties. Then throw in all the C64 games namely from Microprose and such, Silent Service, Stealth Fighter, F-15, Gunship, and even Pirates.

Not only did they have the imagination but you needed to really concern yourself with the limitations of the systems. My first "flight simulator" experiences are all C64 base. Looking back we can see that titles that originated in the eighties and nineties are still with us in new forms.

: ) wow, hey, I know this one, Ultima is what is called U.O.L. right? my cousin is addicted, still today. Great game.

maybe like other things, for example, inks for painting and marble for sculpting were very expensive in times of Fidia , DaVinci, etc... so they didn't waste it, and made the best Art,

Ultima is an RPG series (probably the founder of the CRPG genre). It has 9 single-player games as well as Ultima Online.

Bryce is still around, although it's gone through a couple new versions and owners: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryce_(software)

It's lost some ground to other software, though, I think, such as UE4 plugins for that ecosystem.

I went to the website[0] and under the "notes" section, it just says "No".

[0]: http://www.daz3d.com/bryce-7-pro

I'd add SimCity in there as well. Groundbreaking when it was made.

If you played SimCity to create the perfect city, there's still nothing with a similar engaging dynamic.

BUT, if you played it like a city-painter, I recommend Cities: Skylines as an evolution. You can also mod it and the language of choice is C#. Just look at the mods, the community is (was?) amazing.

C:S is great if you want to plan a city, but its simulation elements are sorely lacking. I'd love to see the original design doc for SC2013 (fully agent-based, with histories) get made; that'd probably be the best you can get for a simulation engine.

added : ) thanks for sharing.

Comanche in 1992 was jaw dropping. Seemed to be the first 32-bit game too, as it came with it’s own boot disk.


> Seemed to be the first 32-bit game too

First 32-bit PC game, perhaps. Acorn users were playing 32 bit games well before 1992 (e.g, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zarch in 1987)

Wasn't this also one of the first uses of voxels in a flight sim fighter?

What do you know of Myth’s demise?

It was one of my favorites too!

It is still "alive". Some people will never let it's tomb abandoned. It will probably never die completely. The community resides on Project Magma[1].

I think there is a need for more players; more then a need for more servers, hehe. I think(not sure) the only fully legal way to get the Game is buying the old original CD from eBay or taobao. I didn't say anything about downloads and I didn't say anything about other ways. Enjoy!

GLA!!! (good luck all! people used to shout it in the starting of the game by the chat tool, wishing luck for enemies and allies)

Ahhhh! How could I forget about Fallout 2 , the second best game ever made, after Myth, hehe.

1- http://projectmagma.net

An idea: Mario on 3 monitors..

> It is amazing how low-res 640x350 is when displayed on a large 1920x1080 display, although you didn't notice it as much on a 14 inch CRT, which is smaller than many laptops these days

Yes and No. Screens are measured diagonally, not by square inches. A 14" screen could be 14"x0.1".

I don't understand what you're trying to say?

A 14 inch CRT was also measured diagonally.

The wider the aspect ratio, the smaller the area with the same diagonal measurement. A 14" 4:3 monitor (like the old CRTs) is about 94"^2, but a 14" 16:9 monitor is only about 84"^2.

Sure, but a 15" 16:9 display is a bit over 96 sq.in.

The original didn't say that a 14" CRT has the same area as a 14" laptop — just that it was "smaller than many laptops these days".

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