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AVSIM's 15th - A Retrospective - Part 1

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Tom Allensworth

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Never stop being a kid. Never stop feeling and seeing and being excited with great things like air and engines and sounds of sunlight within you. Wear your little mask if you must to protect you from the world but if you let that kid disappear you are grown up and you are dead.
The airplane is just a bunch of sticks and wires and cloth, a tool for learning about the sky and about what kind of person I am, when I fly. An airplane stands for freedom, for joy, for the power to understand, and to demonstrate that understanding. Those things aren't destructible.

Richard Bach, 'Nothing by Chance,' 1963

This month we celebrate our 15th anniversary. I find it hard to believe that it is now 15 years since AVSIM was a downloadable monthly magazine. A lot of water has passed under this bridge and all of us on the AVSIM Staff are proud of this accomplishment and the many contributions that we have made to our hobby and our community. We take a look back now, and hope you will enjoy some of our retrospective.

 

Though my memory isn't quite what it used to be, I can still see those times and incidents within our hobby that are formative and which AVSIM had the opportunity to participate in and share. I would like to reminisce a bit, and hope you will bear with me (and the other members of our team who have contributed to this retrospective). If you remember some of these and would like to add your memories, or provide corrections, please add a comment and help fill the gaps.

 

The Microsoft FS2000 Boycott: Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don't. In 1998 we launched a "boycott" of MSF2000. We felt that the boycott was justified as FS2000 really had some issues that MS should not have allowed to make it into the RTM. The community will probably argue for years whether that boycott was justified or not. All we know is that the next release corrected many of the issues found in 2000 and more. The law of unintended consequences... We had not intended to "make a name for ourselves" by instigating a boycott, but that appears to have been the result. The name "AVSIM" was considered language not used in front of children in Redmond, Washington for a number of years after.

 

The Papa Tango Affair: Some will argue the significance, or importance, of this phase of our collective history. I will argue that it was a very formative point in the history of flight simulation, and an event that still reverberates today (more later on that score). In short, Peter Tishma, AKA "Papa Tango", signed a contract with American Airlines and the UK carrier British Airways as well as Austria's Lauda Airlines for use of their logos on his products. Peter took those contracts and attempted to corner the market, so to speak, on every livery he had a contract on. Lauda, BA and AA were only the lead actors in this scheme - more were to follow. In short, Tishma argued that he had the rights to every logo that he had a contract with. Therefore, his "thinking" went on, he had control of the use of the logo within flight simulation. Take that to its logical conclusion, and Peter insisted that his contracts allowed him to "regulate" the use of those logos in freeware and anywhere else they were found in flight simulation. Imagine a PMDG not able to produce a Boeing Aircraft today, without prior approval (and a hefty fee we suspect) because PT had a contract with Boeing for its trademarked logo in flight simulation.

 

AVSIM called Peter's bluff. Peter had AA look into some sites (that shall remain nameless) and they in turn were sent letters of "cease and desist". AA and Lauda liveried files were being removed as fast as they could be found. Peter had managed to coerce some, via the law department at AA, to drop any possible competitive product (freeware or otherwise).

 

I was in Kuwait in April of 2001 (yeah, note the date and location) when I received an email from American Airline's lawyers asking to have a talk. This was in response to an AVSIM letter sent to those same lawyers questioning their sanity, in a manner of speaking... In a nutshell, they were told and ultimately understood the truth, and the PT affair became a nasty memory. Although a memory that refused to go away (more on that later).

 

Had PT succeeded, there would not be freeware as we know it today for liveries that were under his control. Any add-on that attempted to replicate a real world livery under control of PT would have had to been "vetted" and approved by PT. You can imagine, I am sure, that a commercial "charge" would have been applied for the privilege of having that logo approved. PT's sights were set on more than AA and Lauda.

 

Once that Pandora's box was open, you can also imagine that every commercial producer who had a logo contract would have been at least looking at, if not practicing the same.

 

I think that the PT affair and AVSIM's stand (alone I might add... other sites caved without even questioning the validity of PT's claims - a fact that I am particularly proud of) were water sheds in flight simulation's history. It could have altered our hobby for the bad. Forever.

 

Joe Jurecka, Jason Grooms, Marty Bochane and the Early Days of Online ATC: Many in our community are unaware of the history of the development of online ATC as we know it today. In the summer of 1997 and through the summer of 1998, AVSIM provided the first beta server in support of what were then Sqauwkbox and the ATC client that were the foundations for organizations that came later - specifically SATCO. SATCO spawned its rival IVAO. SATCO itself was replaced by VATSIM.

 

Joe Jurecka, Jason Grooms and Marty Bochane, names not too many recognize in the hobby today, are the grandfathers of all online ATC as you know it. A lot is owed to them by the many thousands that benefit from their handiwork today. Their collective contribution to our hobby with Squawkbox and the ATC client set the stage for many hundreds of sites and virtual airlines that were to come and still exist today.

 

From these beta trials and group gatherings on the AVSIM server, an organization evolved that was to be become SATCO - founded by Randy Whistler. The morphing of SATCO into an offshoot and then a replacement which was VATSIM is a history in-and-of itself, but suffice to say that AVSIM was there at the beginning and we are pretty proud of the role we played in nurturing the early development of this now very popular and important aspect of our hobby.

 

I would like to think that there are old timers around that remember "Friday Fright Nights" where IMC conditions were set server wide for flight into KORD (or anywhere else for that matter. Weather was a universal setting in those days). Those were certainly the good 'ol days...

 

The FLY Generation and Richard Harvey: Late in 1999 and early in 2000 there emerged an effort to develop an alternative to MSFS that caught our attention. This was the development by Terminal Reality of the flight simulator FLY!. This effort was lead by a gentlemen by the name of Richard Harvey. FLY was an attempt to take the visuals and the accuracy of flight far beyond what MSFS, Flight Unlimited and ProPilot had accomplished up to that time. One of the ground breaking aspects of FLY was the cockpits. Never before had simmers seen the fidelity of a cockpit as they saw in FLY. Today FLY is continuing in development in an open source environment and its future is solely the result of efforts by a small and dedicated team whose product evolves daily.

 

Behind every story is another that adds substance and meaning. FLY was no different. Richard Harvey was the lead of the FLY team and stands out in our collective history for a number of reasons. For years flight simulation enthusiasts had begged Microsoft to be more engaged with its customers. Don't just listen, but respond. Let us know that you are hearing what we are telling you. Recognize us as your customers and our suggestions, complaints and desire to be heard.

 

Richard took that message to heart and communicated with a vengeance! Through the AVSIM Forums, Richard became a part of and dedicated member of the global simulation community. He engaged with our members and heard them. He explained the whys and where for's of why Terminal Reality could or could not do something requested by a user. Richard set an example for everyone as to how a developer could and should be engaged with his customer base; before, after and between products.

 

We all know what happened in September of 2001. FLY was a serious product and circulating in the community. Richard and his team spent countless hours in the AVSIM FLY forum working though the kinks, user suggestions and all the while maintaining the gentlemanly demeanor that we had all come to know him and his team for. Known to only a small group at the time, Richard had suffered multiple rounds of cancer and treatments over the proceeding two years. In 2002, his cancer started to get the better of him.

 

We had scheduled a FANCON to be held in San Diego on September 14th, the Friday following the attacks. We naturally canceled that event for the year, and immediately scheduled our next FANCON for Reno / Lake Tahoe the following year, which would coincide with the Reno Air Races. As the time approached for FANCON Tahoe / Reno, we realized that having Richard in attendance would be a great thing to do for a great guy and for the community he so cherished. Richard and his wife, Tara, attended. We awarded Richard our first Lifetime Achievement award the night of our banquet. By the following spring, Richard had passed on, finally loosing the battle that he had fought so hard and long with. At our FANCON in Tahoe, with Richard and Tara present, AVSIM announced the college scholarship program in Richard's name.

 

[imgleft]http://www.avsim.com/tom/RichardHarvey_sm.jpg[/imgleft] The Richard Harvey Endowed Scholarship: The AVSIM team has never had a prouder moment than the day that we launched the RICHARD HARVEY Endowed Scholarship Award for college students attending Embry Riddle Aviation University. Our scholarship drive saw immediate contributions from hundreds in the community, including many of the commercial organizations that are still supporting our community today. As I write this, a scholarship award is made every fall to a deserving junior or senior at ERU. The scholarship has grown in value and is now self sustaining. It is indeed one of the prouder moments both for us on the AVSIM Team, and for the hundreds of community members who contributed to make that scholarship come to life and continue to live today. Every fall there is a recipient of the Richard Harvey Scholarship for Aviation, and in a way that pleased Richard very much, his name and legacy is continued. Some day, we hope to look back and find dozens, if not hundreds, of pilots and areonautical engineers who have benefited from and known the name, Richard Harvey.

 

Richard in his last post to the forums said; "Try to stay away from things that are dark, dreary, introspective, tear jerkers, etc. Think HAPPY -- be HAPPY. If that is too much to ask, then I'll change the word HAPPY to POSITIVE. That's the flow of feeling I want rolling through my soul as I depart this earth from each of you, is absolute POSITIVE energy. Don't stall on me, I have to soar!"

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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Funny to look back on all that Papa Tango stuff nowadays, but it was a ballsy stand that Avsim made, and I think everyone into flight simming (with obviously one or two exceptions) appreciated it.

 

Ironically enough, sat on the shelf in front of me as I type this, is the binder in which Papa Tango's Flight Academy product came (that's right, the one they had to reprint for reasons I won't rehash here LOL). I use it to hold approach charts I've printed off for flight simming, the original contents having long since been turfed, since it was I think for FS98, so Papa Tango's legacy is with me in some small part even still where flight simming is concerned, although in an altogether more amenable manner than it was when that fracas kicked off.

 

Al

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Extremely interesting. I was lurking here for part of it but missed much also, more than I thought.

 

Amazing that AVSIM has a history of knowing when to stand up against ill informed popular sentiment, only to be proven right in the long run.

 

Impressive account, and am really looking forward to the rest of the story.

 

Stephen

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I remember the Papa Tango affair back then, when I started using FS. I started doing this when I was sixteen and now am nearly 30! I wish to thank AVSIM for all of their positive contributions. I remember seeing Project Freeware's planes and how gorgeous they were for FS98. Now, I marvel at a gorgeous Atlanta and Birmingham on FS X. I'm mainly using payware and "selfware" now.

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Tom, I remember the Satco - VATSIM issue very well. Avsim took the lead on reporting the problems and called to task the leader of Satco and

the allegations of the missing donated funds being channeled to him personally. I remember the mass of emails between you and I and the

phone calls. In part it was you and AVSIM, who reported the events and published the logs of emails I sent, which started the demise of the

former organization. Today, VATSIM is a global leader in online flight simulation and ATC. For your part, I say Thank You for your non partisan

reporting, for AVSIM providing us with a top line server in our young years and your continued support, in print for VATSIM. Harv.

PS. Tom, I still have many of those emails and logs from more than 10 years ago. <G>

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RIP Richard Harvey. So much to say about him and the dedication of him and his troops to Fly! and the community. He always took the time trying to help whether that was in the forum or even in the online chat that was held my AVSIM. And what would my life be without AVSIM! It's been the homepage in my browser for over 10 years now.

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I'm so glad you mention Richard Harvey.

Be sure he touched at least one life in his life.

 

I will never forget his "Don't stall on me, I need to soar" .

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Guest ShahFly

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Remembering Richard Harvey is still an emotional experience for me. Though I never knew him personally, I remember him as one of the most decent people to ever walk this earth. A model visionary, entepreneur, enthusiast, and family man if ever there was one. RIP Richard Harvey.

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Reminds me of the early days when Avsim was a mailing list.

 

Back in those days many of us still did not have personal emails.

 

So I was trying to convince my boss why I still needed to have listerv access for 'work' 'purposes'. when 95% of the listserv emails I was getting was from avsim and

Flight-sim@iup.edu. lol.

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Aww, man

The thing about Harvey and hist last post really brought a lump in my throat...

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I remember Fly very well, It was an eye opener of things to come. Today in FS2004 and FSX developers are achieving the level of detail that Fly delivered years before. When Fly came out computing power didn't enable a large enough resolution to display those instrument panels properly, Back then we still had CRT monitors and probably running Fly in 1024 X 768 screens. There was a lot of detail to fit into that small a screen.

 

Goes to show how spoiled we are today with large wide screen monitors and higher resolutions. If only we had those back when Fly first came out. Glad to hear the Richard Harvey Scholarship is doing well. I agree with Svenks, bit of a lump in my throat as well...

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Guest braniffops

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Just accessed a like off the wayback avsim page, and it took me back to Project Freeware's old website. Would ya believe that you can still get a PF Fokker F100? :)

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Guest Bill Van Caulart

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Good read so far Tom. Love the fs2000 boycott bit. "AVSIM was a four letter word" (paraphrased) hahaha

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This was very well written. Well done, Can't wait for the next part! Long live AVSIM!

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