The story of Flight Simulator started in 1977, when Bruce Artwick formed his own company, SubLogic. Artwick had two passions, computer graphics and flying. The idea of simulating an aeroplane on a personal computer started to take form the same year on one of the first Apple II computer with a 10 KB assembly program.
Artwick also wrote articles about this idea in several magazines. As numerous readers wanted to buy the program, he launched the first official release of Flight Simulator on January 31st 1979. First sales occurred in February. The program became an instant success.
The program used very simple graphics, just a few lines on the screen to indicate the instrument readings and the terrain; but the illusion was realistic and powerful. In a few hours, any budding pilot was able to take off, fly circles around objects, find the airport again, and land without seeing "Crash!"
Several improved versions were soon developed for the Tandy TRS-80, the Commodore 64, and the Atari 800, they featured 18 instruments including Oil pressure and Temperature, Fuel, Tachometer, and even a radar display.
In 1981, Microsoft bought the rights of Flight Simulator. One year later, the IBM-PC version was released and became the first successful game program for the PC and compatible systems.
From then on, and until 2004, 9 major updates were released by Microsoft, millions of units were sold all over the world and quite an industry has grown up providing utilities as well as aircrafts, flight panels and sceneries to use with the main software. To date, Flight Simulator is still the most popular entertainment title ever produced for the personal computer.
For more information, see this very detailed site about Flight Simulator history.
FlightSimBooks.com provides full text of eleven classic flight simulation books.