T80-FS1 Flight Simulator

written by Matthew Reed

Title:T80-FS1 Flight Simulator
Author:Bruce Artwick
Compatibility:Model I and III, disk and tape

An advertisement from 80 Microcomputing

The T80-FS1 Flight Simulator was a groundbreaking simulation program for the TRS-80, written by Bruce Artwick and released by SubLOGIC in February 1980. It was based on A2-FS1, the original Apple II version of the Flight Simulator, also written by Bruce Artwick and released a few months earlier. From the introduction to the T80-FS1 user’s manual:

The T80-FS1 is the second version of the FS1 program. Feedback from users of our initial Apple II version of FS1 has been used extensively in the TRS-80 version. Selectable downward view, bomb sights, visible enemy gun blasts, and a “simulation reset” command were all added to the FS1 since the introduction of the Apple II FS1. The T80-FS1 also has slightly higher frame projection rate than the Apple version.

In later years, SubLOGIC also created versions for the Commodore 64, Atari 800, TRS-80 Color Computer, Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, and the Commodore Amiga. But the most famous and popular version was the one licensed by Microsoft for the IBM PC. Known as Microsoft Flight Simulator, it sold millions of copies and was updated many times until the final version was released in 2006. It was one of the last programs sold that at one time had a TRS-80 version.

View from the runway

Map of the world (only available in later versions)

Although it might seem a common idea today, the concept of a visual flight simulator on a computer was revolutionary at the time. The aircraft simulation is quite accurate; according to the manual, no special routines were needed to support acrobatics. In only 16K of memory, T80-FS1 Flight Simulator offers a simulation of a Sopwith Camel with a 3D view out the windshield (albeit at a 128 by 48 resolution). The display is rendered at three to six frames per second (ten frames per second on landing with the disk version only). In addition to the windshield view, there is also a “Radar” view that lets you see an overhead view of the world with your plane in the center. Also included as part of the simulation is a World War I “British Ace” aerial battle game.

T80-FS1 was supplied on a protected cassette tape that was not copyable by normal TRS-80 utilities. It used a special loader that enables it to load on either a Level I or II TRS-80. The disk version, released in 1982, cost more ($33.50 versus $25.00), but it added several extra features such as improved frame-rate when landing and crash detection. SubLOGIC had a very liberal policy for upgrading from tape to disk. You could update to the disk version at any time simply by returning your original cassette (but not the manual) along with $10.00. That price even included first class shipping.

Radar view

Aerial view of the enemy airbase

The TRS-80 version of Flight Simulator is often compared unfavorably to others because of the lower resolution and lack of a dashboard. But I think it is still a very impressive program and I spent many enjoyable hours mastering the intricacies of the simulated Sopwith Camel.

Categories: Simulations, Software