PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


While it's great fun to match wits with your computer, there is nothing as satisfying as vanquishing a flesh-and-blood opponent. Only a few games allow two players to fly a simulation at the same time (Flight Simulator andFalcon are the best known), but aside from the preferred method of hooking up two computers side-by-side (via the serial ports), you make connections over telephone lines (via a modem; short for "modulator/demodulator"). The trouble is, in order to sustain a high frame rate, the two computers have to communicate at a furious pace—something that can't be done over today's nondigital information highways.


The latest buzzword is "multimedia," which in practical terms means adding sound to your applications. This has more swank-appeal than the older term, "audiovisual," which always reminded me of those educational films you had to sit through in high school, like The Wonderful World of Colloids or Oil: Your Friend Beneath the Earth. The most interesting part of all this is the emergence of the CD-ROM [Compact Disk-Read Only Memory], which looks exactly like an audio CD, only it contains data—huge amounts of it; on the order of 600-plus megabytes, or as much as 400 floppy disks or a dozen hard disks—instead of music [although some CD-ROMs contain music, and/or full-motion video as well].

Usually, the kind of data best served on CD-ROMs (which require special players) are endless lists of things, like every phone number in every phone book, a map of every single street in the United States, all the agricultural statistics from 1975; or insanely complicated operating systems like Unix or Windows: NT. CD-ROMs are also well suited to distributing games that would otherwise require many disks to install. For instance, you get not only Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe on one CD-ROM, but all the upgrades and add-on aircraft as well.

Flight Simulator, which can communicate at 57,600 baud via serial ports, doesn't recommend setting your modem any higher than 9,600 baud, which makes the planes strobe along like disco lights in an 8-mm home movie. If you can't make direct serial-port-to-serial-port connections, you can get a 9,600-baud modem for under $100.

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