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Guest RSmith

Enter the good times, my how things have changed.

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When I was a teen-ager a friend of my family took me to visit the simulator squadron at our current military station at the time. (Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque NM). The simulator he toured me through was a HH-53 (Super Jolly Green Giant) type, and took 2 very large computer floors (thousands of square feet) of large, hot computers to keep the thing running. After all, it had several airfields to choose from, and used night time graphics 100% of the time (a way of making visuals more performance friendly). This simulator's budget had to be in the millions, if not 100's of millions over its lifetime. In fact time spent in the simulator was so precious, that I was only able to get about 10 minutes of stick time before being whisked away due to a waiting party of Israeli pilots waiting for their annual sim check-out. Yes, they came from all over the world (still to this day) to use the simulators.Summary:Size: Huge (2 sealed, climate controlled, static free clean rooms)Cost: 10's if not 100's of millions (over its lifetime)Hydraulics: No (because new visual system made it too heavy!)Visuals: (night-time only, for faster more realistic display)Accessibility: Virtually None (unless you were a mil flyer)Staff: 10-20 full time, constantly fixing something.Fun Factor: None, or near none.Airfields: 7? (high estimate)Other Aircraft: Ummm, No.Sound: Yeah right. Besides some beeping and clicking.. No.Guy to Cause Failures while you flew: Yes, one.Now, On any given night I sit down at my in-home cockpit (full cyclic, pedals, collective, chair). I turn on FS2002 (soon to be FS2004). Load up almost any helicopter or fixed-wing I choose, from and almost any level of complexity I desire. Sometimes its a Jet Ranger, sometimes a KingAir 350, perhaps an Erickson S-64E Aircrane, or maybe even a CH-34 Chocktaw, or a Falcon50 Biz Jet. All viewable from several perspectives, with full sound, animations, and goodies. Most handling as realistically as the military simulator mentioned above. If I need more aircraft or airfields, I can probably go find it free, or get it for a reasonable cost. I enjoy full color display at 25 fps (at least) for day, night, any season. I can easily add my own scenery if I choose.I can also connect to one of many 24x7 multiplayer servers. Vatsim, Hovercontrol, Zone, FSTower, list goes on... (of course I'm partial to Hovercontrol...LOL). I need a very small maintanence staff, and my sim will run 24 hours a day without breaking down, if I don't try anything "experimental". Oh yes, I can also communicate via voice, check email, and type this post during one of my fuel stops.Summary:Size: 1 PC, 1 19" Flatpanel Display, 1 home cockpit (8 square feet?)Cost: $60 -$150 (if you include game and a few add-ons, exclude: cockpit).Hydraulics: No, I think I would get evicted.Visuals: Sky is the limit! (oh wait, even that is possible!)Accessibility: Any time I feel like it, 24 hours a day.Staff: Me, and....err...me.Fun Factor: Unlimited. So far its been 5-6 years of pure joy.Airfields: 20-30,000 (depending on add-ons)Other Aircraft: Take your pick...almost endless.Sound: Like a symphony! A regular aural assault!Guy to Cause Failures while I flew: Yes, one.When I visited the military simulator I dreamed that one day a simulator so good would be available in people's homes, or at least somewhere the average person could get a chance to fly it. It was a wild dream, that seemed impossible.As I have said many times. FS2002 could be the last release that MS ever released and I would still be living a dream come true in regard to this interest, this hobby, and this obsession.

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In terms of helicopter specific controls there aren't a lot of affordable commercial options. Some folks have taken the time to convert normal store bought joysticks and pedals and turn them into cyclic works of art. I picked up my cockpit at www.flightlink.comQuite a few people here have told me they would never spend so much money on a set of controls like the ones I have. I totally respect their opinion, because its not a small amount. However, I have never regretted it, and plan on getting several years of good service from them. They are very heavy duty, and everything is constructed of heavy metal, vs. plastic and rubber. I didn't decide to purchase them until I was firmly committed to the hobby, so its been more than a phase, or impulse buy.

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Now that's putting things into perspective. :-) How lucky we are indeed!

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Excellent write-up. We should be grateful for what we have, not nit-picking what we don't. Flight simming is a great hobby, but your enjoyment of it is tied to your attitude.Tony

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I agree with everything you say. I quite shamelessly use FS2k2 as a Walter Mitty-type escape. In my fantasies I am a fearless bush pilot although the truth is I have acrophobia so bad when forced to fly on business my palms sweat until I debark. I have recently seen a few threads complaining that with the add-ons the hobby has become too expensive. Except for FSNavigator I never purchased any add-ons before buying FS2k2. Now I have $350-400 invested in my installation. Still a lot cheaper than golf if not as healthy. Despite the soaring cost I cannot begrudge former freeware developers from turning to the profit side. They see others getting paid for their efforts...why not them? It must be doubly galling to give your work away and then have to put up with the abuse from those who find flaws in it. Triple galling to contribute your effort and see it pirated by someone who charges fees. I know I wouldn't do it so my hat is off to all the freeware developers...and you'll hear no complaints from me.

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Hi Roadkill (Roadkill?!)<<<>>> You raise an important point ... imagination is everything. I quietly chuckle when I see people getting in such a tizz about having the very latest video card and drivers, antistroppy filtering, mippymapping, Auntie aliasing and all that stuff, and having to have dust and used napkins in their virtual cabins and loo paper in their virtual lavatories; but the real detail of what we do must be in the mind to really enjoy it. I can get as excited taking a Beaver over the breathtaking drop on the edge of a mountain range as I can in real life (well, almost); but you gotta live it in your mind!Mark "Dark Moment" Beaumonthttp://www.swiremariners.com/newlogo.jpg

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First off, great write up Jordan! My Dad was in Aerospace enginereering and when I was a kid I used to go to the windtunnel and see the computer setup they had which took up several floors and quite a bit of money and I rememebr the displays they had and now I see what we have in the way of desktops and just how far technology has advanced, pretty amazing stuff!The Golf analogy is great, this is a hobby for most and when you think about other things you can be doing some do get expensive. I play Golf and at $25 to $100 a round, I don't feel to bad to pay for an addon that I can enjoy for longer than 18 holes! (I won't even go into how much I paid for my set of clubs, I am better at landing the Seneca in a strong cross wind in 0 visability that I am at chipping onto the green! LOL) As far as comradery, I have that with you guys! LOL.Imagination is vital and I have a good one, but a visual or 2 takes it even further with me. I am still in awe sometimes when I get a glimpse of a setup in the sim that looks so real, it's hard to tell the difference, be it aircraft detail, weather, lighting or a combination of all three. I have been flying around the Caribbean (Jamaica) lately and with the freeware mesh available, the FSSky world clouds, improved water textures, realistic AI (correct airlines and aircraft) and my Cessna 421 (nice co pilot), all I need now is a heat lamp and a fan and I am there!!! (nice tropical drink would be nice!;-) ) Regards, Michaelhttp://mysite.verizon.net/res052cd/mybannercva1.jpgCalVirAir International VAwww.calvirair.comCougar Mountain Helicopters & Aviationwww.cgrmtnhelos.com

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Ditto's Jordan !! - Very good perspective on simming & real life alternatives. My shift to simming was purely economics. As a poor banker, I either relied on customer invitations to fly corporate owned aircraft, or infrequent "best-friend" invitations to join on owned / rented aircraft trips. Cost - was a big deal to me, after my "private" certificate - and I've missed nothing more, than those days of flying VFR down the Florida coast, or up the Delaware River from Mercer County.........Once again, when put in perspective, simming is an amazing accomplishment of the software engineers - and is a prized possession and pastime - for me !Maybe someone in the space industry (NASA, Lockheed, General Dynamics, US Space Alliance, etc.) could offer some comments comparing FS2k2, or maybe FSCOF in a few weeks, to what software the Shuttle actually uses....... I think we'd be proud of how advanced our simming has evolved to !RonKORL

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>You raise an important point ... imagination is everything. Exactly. Which is probably why it is so difficult to describe to a non-simmer why simming is such a fascinating hobby.

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All of you have said a mouthful.Why, just two weeks ago, I had an absolutely jaw dropping experience with FS2002 on my lowly 600Mhz (now retired) Celeron.For some reason, I had never done the Alaskan Tour Pilot "adventures" in FS2002.So, I strapped on the Grand Caravan, and took my load of 7 passengers up into Denali National park for some sightseeing and lunch. It was amazing.Flying around Mount McKinley at 12000 Ft, only to have it tower above me another 8000 ft was absolutely awe-inspiring. I could make out every crack in the glacier.I am still in awe of that flight. Now with FS2004 and it's clouds and my new Athlon processor, I think I hear McKinley calling again.....

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