The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
Forget Everything Else—Go For the Fastest CPU
I assume you already own a computer or you probably wouldn't be reading this book. But unless you bought your computer with flight simulation specifically in mind, a hardware upgrade might be in order.
If you have absolutely no intention of tweaking your old computer, or of selling it and buying a new one, skip this chapter…
…unless you're a rocket scientist who just wants to see if I know what I'm talking about, in which case, do read on.
In a perfect world, this would be a "device independent" book. That is, all the games described here would work exactly the same on every computer platform: IBM, Amiga, Atari, Macintosh, 3DO, etc. But no such luck. Computers remain segregated by their operating systems.
This is a DOS book. All the programs herein were written for DOS (that is, IBM compatibles) because that's where the numbers are. There are more DOS programs of every kind—games, simulations, spreadsheets, word processors, databases—simply because there are more DOS computers than any other, and software developers logically seek the largest audience.
Windows 3.x is a different deal. It is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that puts a pretty face on DOS, which is its operating system. Windows 4.x is a combined operating system and GUI. Neither of these has anything to do with flight sims, which typically run from the DOS prompt (usually "C:>" on your screen).
If a game is successful in the IBM format, it will likely be "ported" to other platforms. Of these secondary releases, the most numerous are for the Amiga (a superb game machine with synthesized—not merely digitized—sound). A few programs, like Microsoft's Flight Simulator and Electronic Arts' Chuck Yeager's Air Combat, are also available for the Mac, another excellent game machine.
But for the sake of clarity (not to mention sanity), let's assume a 100 percent DOS universe. With that as a starting point, it's possible to make some reasonable assumptions about what hardware you ought to be looking at (and in what order of importance); to set out some guidelines; to describe low-end, mid-range, and "ultimate" systems; and to discuss peripherals like joysticks, mice, and sound boards.