• FlightSim.Com 20th Anniversary

    FlightSim.Com 20th Anniversary

    By Nels Anderson

    The Start

    FlightSim.Com 20th Anniversary

    It's hard to believe, but it was twenty years ago on this very day that we flipped the switch and opened FlightSim.Com to the public, creating the very first full-featured community on the World Wide Web for flight simulator enthusiasts.

    On opening day we had a handful of articles, a well-designed message forum system and a library with some 2500 files, making it the largest collection of flightsim add-ons available for download anywhere. My, how we've grown since then!

    Early Days

    The site "took off" pretty quickly, recording its one millionth visitor in just over a year and two millionth less than six month later. In fact back in the early days keeping up with demand was one of our biggest challenges, as long time members may remember. It was during our second year that we started the First Class Membership program and with that support from our members we were able to keep from sinking under a mountain of bills.

    Our Last Big Anniversary

    For our tenth anniversary we ran a couple of retrospectives, first being Ten Years Of Reviews by Andrew Herd, one of the most talented flightsim authors I've ever had the pleasure of working with. If you read this ten years ago you might want to read it again, for some great nostalgia about those early years. Also, Andy Johnston put together a look at what had been the most popular freeware files, based on download counts, in that ten year history. Some are still relevant now.

    It's interesting to realize that the ten year retrospective ended with things related to FSX, and here ten years on FSX is still the primary sim for many of us.

    Where Do We Stand Today

    So, where are we at after all this time? In many ways, there has never been a better time to be a flightsimmer. FSX was not really ready for mass adoption when it came out, not least because you simply could not buy a computer that ran it well. Today, that's not really a problem as suitable computers are readily available. In addition, we now have the benefit of ten years of add-ons, both payware and freeware. Never was there previously so much time for developers to learn the inner workings before the next sim came out, and developers have taken advantage. And it just keeps coming, just look at our news for more products coming out for us to try almost every day. If you don't appreciate how good we have it right this moment, you're not looking!

    It must be mentioned that we have other options as well. X-Plane was around for our last big anniversary ten years ago and is of course far better now in that its development has been ongoing. We also have Prepar3D which started as more or less a slightly improved FSX but is moving on its own path with its third major version being the current one. P3D will of course only have a limited market, for a number of well known reasons that we don't need to repeat here.

    What old school flightsimmers may be missing is the possibility that the future of the hobby isn't even going to be on PC's but on phone/tablet type of devices running Android, iOS, etc. We've run articles on a number of such sims and they have large and vibrant followings, but ones that have mostly remained separate groups from our community here.

    Thoughts On The Future

    So, where do we go from here? The last ten years have been kind of static, since 2006 was the last release of a Microsoft Flight Simulator and we've mostly stuck with that all this time. As much as we may love it, its day will end at some point and we'll need to move on to a different sim or find other interests.

    The good news is that FSX isn't going anywhere in the short term. Thanks to Dovetail Games you can still buy a fresh copy from Steam, something that's pretty rare for software this old. Being on Steam also offers the possibility of attracting completely new people, though not in the numbers that Microsoft's hearty promotion used to bring in years ago.

    It can't be helped in noticing that our community has shrunk and will probably continue to do so. The "hard core" really has not changed much but those more casual enthusiasts on the periphery have declined in numbers.

    This could all change of course. At least two companies (Dovetail Games and NGFS) have promised completely new sims, though these are likely one to three years in the future. Other companies have made similar promises and failed to come through so we'll just have to be patient and hope for the best. A new sim based on new technology could revitalize the hobby.

    Where Is FlightSim.Com Going?

    Well first off, we're not planning on going anywhere. It's my intention to keep the site as a center of the flightsim world just as it has been for the past twenty years, as long as it's financially feasible. That, however, is increasingly becoming a problem.

    Because of the current state of the hobby, we do face some challenges however. Earlier in this article I mentioned how we had to start the First Class Membership program simply to keep the site going. We pay the bills here largely through advertising and affiliate sales but since the community is shrinking those sources are shrinking as well, but the bills are not. We are currently running a 20th Anniversary Membership Drive and I really hope you will consider taking part. Not only will you help us keep going but some of the best companies in the business are offering some nices prizes that you might just win. We simply need this support from the community if we are going to continue.

    Click Here For 20th Anniversary Membership Drive

    Some Personal Notes

    I don't think most people realize, but FlightSim.Com is not some huge company with a big staff. It's really just a handful of enthusiasts working out of their basements. Over the years the number of full-time people has varied between one and four (three currently). It all started because I was having fun running a phone line BBS (if anyone remembers what that is!) and saw the need to move to the Internet as the BBS concept became obsolete. Having an idea of what the Web could do, I had this utopian idea of how great it would be if the entire flightsim community could meet up in a single place versus having to search all over for files, answers to questions, etc. People being people, others had similar ideas and the hobby is probably more splintered now that it ever was.

    So, what I'd like to ask the hard core of simmers who've stuck with us all these years is to continue to be active and involved and maybe even step up your game in those areas.

    • If you're a developer, repainter, etc. please upload your files here even if you have other places to offer them.
    • If you've ever thought of being a repainter or designer, give it a try and share your results with us!
    • If you have any skills as a writer, we can use them. Get involved writing reviews or tutorials. Or even if you just have an opinion on something, write an Op-Ed.
    • Click on an ad, go and buy something! Not only will you end up with a new "toy" to play with, you'll support us in a small way as well as the companies that create things.
    • Use the features we offer. Post in the forums, leave comments on files and articles, create an avatar in your profile so we recognize you.

    Final Thoughts

    Though FlightSim.Com is "my" web site, I really don't think of it that way. I've always felt it was yours, to do with what you want, and I'm just here to help make that happen. Really, the site lives and dies on the actions of the community (you!) more than on anything I do. If you think it worthwhile, please consider all that I've written above.

    I'd be remiss at this point in not thanking the people who've made all this possible over the past twenty years. The list is so long that I'm not going to attempt to name names, but hopefully you know who you are and how much I appreciate your being here.

    Nels Anderson
    [email protected]

    20th Anniversary Membership Drive


    51 Comments
    1. RodTod's Avatar
      RodTod -
      Great article! My first flight sim was on an old Texas Instruments monochrome computer. I have been with Flightsim.com since the beginning. I have downloaded thousands of files, and my purchases here at last check were over $1000! Yes...it is an addiction! I cant tell you how much I appreciated this site and what you have done for the Hobby. Flightsim is what has kept me sane after a day at my high stress job in Hospitals. So, thank you Nels for this site and all that we have benefited from it.
    1. Roger Wensley's Avatar
      Roger Wensley -
      My first sim flight was on a 1995 Toshiba T4400C laptop, which was the first to have a colour screen and weighs a ton, and I still have it. I don't use it. I also became involved in addiction when I learnt to fly in 2004 and then started to make grass fields around Ottawa that I saw when flying, and posting them on flightsim.com, where they still reside. I had no idea that scenery making is addictive, and I still don't understand how that can be when it is often boring, irritating, and sometimes downright unpleasant. Thanks Nels, without you and your website none of the above would have been possible. Hmmmm ..... .... ... .. .
    1. alanmerry's Avatar
      alanmerry -
      Other flight simulator download web sites are available, but I find FlightSim easier to use with its efficient search facilities and, somehow, its articles and forums seem more friendly. Is there more room in my 'hangar' for more downloads? I expect the people who upload their work on FlightSim will come up with something!
    1. KCD's Avatar
      KCD -
      Great article Nels. I honestly cannot say when I first joined this site, my bio says 2005, but I know that it was long before that. So long, in fact, that I had forgotten my membership and signed up again. I'm happy with my 2005 date; however, and don't intend to go wandering off into the world of cyber planes ever again, things are too good here! Over the course of my known membership, I've posted on several forums many times, sometimes to seek answers, others to share screen shots and antidotes. I've made a wonderful group of friends I never would have had were it not for your efforts, and had countless hours of enjoyment as a result of your hard work. Recently, I wrote my first review. It was posted a short while ago; there will be more. Congratulations on twenty years, sir, you've made my days! I intend to stick around so you can continue to make more!
    1. franzair's Avatar
      franzair -
      Franz. Congratulations Nels. You made this site a prime spot for simmers and real pilots like myself. Keep up the good work. Maybe some designers can do something to make the planes easy to install into toe Steam version. Well done.
    1. shermank's Avatar
      shermank -
      Congratulations, Nels....and thank you for 20 years of service to our community. I am one of those who remembers BBS a well as the likes of Compuserve, AOL, etc. But FS.com has outlasted them all, and grown with the trend. I began computing in the mid 1980s when my office management decided to add computers. That meant electric typewriters (or at least the keyboards). I figured I better learn to type because Pick and Punch was not going to cut it. With that in mind I bought a Commodore 64 and paid $1000 for it. That night, after unpacking and trying it out I wondered who I could sell the damn thing to. It seemed way beyond me. But, reason prevailed. I went back to the store where I bought it and got some valuable lessons. I used the Easy Script word processor and some kind of typing tutor program.

      FWIW, I still am a terrible typist, but the C64 opened the door to early Flight Simulators on 5.4 inch floppies. I remember one in which the idea was to deliver mail to a handful of destinations. But, I also remember FS4, with its wire frame buildings. I loved it, especially because it centered on Chicago where I worked. I also remember its Easter Egg, a limited WW1 battlefield for airplanes.

      It has been a great hobby and I look forward each and every day to flightsim adventures. Over the years I even took real world lessons and have about 20 or so hours in my old log book. I never did get my PPL because of medical restrictions. So, I content myself with Real as it Gets flying.

      Again, congratulations on this great resource for those of us who love the hobby.

      Sherman Kaplan
      Highland Park IL
    1. asos's Avatar
      asos -
      Great article.

      I still think this site is the best around...

      Will be uploading files soon, and have unloaded some in the past.

      Nick Tselepides, Athens, Greece
    1. FlyingDragon's Avatar
      FlyingDragon -
      Thank you Nels for years of enjoyment! I am a loyal Flightsim Fan for life!
      It's my definitive site of choice along with the Flight Sim Store

      Continued Success

      Jeff B.

      Montreal Canada
    1. FlyingDragon's Avatar
      FlyingDragon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Roger Wensley View Post
      My first sim flight was on a 1995 Toshiba T4400C laptop, which was the first to have a colour screen and weighs a ton, and I still have it. I don't use it. I also became involved in addiction when I learnt to fly in 2004 and then started to make grass fields around Ottawa that I saw when flying, and posting them on flightsim.com, where they still reside. I had no idea that scenery making is addictive, and I still don't understand how that can be when it is often boring, irritating, and sometimes downright unpleasant. Thanks Nels, without you and your website none of the above would have been possible. Hmmmm ..... .... ... .. .
      Thank you Roger!

      You make Canada great"
    1. graaant's Avatar
      graaant -
      Congrats, Nels! You've done a great job, making this an attractive, easy-to-use, fully-stocked site. 20 years -- well-deserved!
    1. dalerika's Avatar
      dalerika -
      Congrats, 20 years is not a short time for a service in the flightsim world. Thank you!
    1. texvindictive's Avatar
      texvindictive -
      Thank you for your site and the work you do to put it together. I have used it for many years.
    1. andyjohnston's Avatar
      andyjohnston -
      Woo Hoo! Got a mention!

      Started with FS-5.1 in the late 90's, and started creating various stuff for FS-98. Have 200+ files here, and several hundred which were on my own site which has since fallen apart...

      I can remember back in the day I could download several files to a floppy disk, won't try that anymore!

      Thanks for everything Nels, and let's keep going!
    1. lnuss's Avatar
      lnuss -
      Congrads on 20 years, Nels, Dan, Rick, and thanks for being here. This has been my simming mainstay site since the FS98 days, partly features, partly friendliness, partly user interface.

      Larry
    1. avallillo's Avatar
      avallillo -
      In the words of the immortal Bob Hope, Thanks for the Memories! And there will be more to come, I'm sure. This has been, and will no doubt continue to be, the best Flight Sim site in the world. Best wishes for the next twenty years!

      Tony Vallillo
    1. Roger Wensley's Avatar
      Roger Wensley -
      Flying Dragon, this is about Nels here, and what I do is just a reflection of the great flying environment that is Canada, and Canada is to blame for my flying addiction. Nels is at least partly to blame for facilitating my scenery-making addiction!
    1. cocalnino's Avatar
      cocalnino -
      Hi Nels my best congratulations for the 20 years birthday of your creature FS main site. Thanks a lot for your great work that I follow and I enjoyed very much since the early nineties of the past century. Hoping you'll go on many years yet, have the best regards and thanks again from Venice IT by Antonino Gianola
    1. rockinrobin's Avatar
      rockinrobin -
      Joined in 1998, and visit the site virtually every day. Have downloaded hundreds of files to add to my enjoyment of this great hobby! Have also learned thousands of things from using the forums, too. Keep up the good work.
    1. Kdierken's Avatar
      Kdierken -
      Congrats on your 20th anniversary with flight sim's website Nel, that is quite the accomplishment for someone that had a dream for us flight simmers to go to. My flight simming started back in FS98 after I could no longer fly real due to health reasons, so a friend introduced me to FS98 then onto 2002 pro, and still very much involved with it ever since as I have been virtual flying with FS9(2004) since it came out. There might be a day that I have to go to FSX, by then it will be as old as the Flintstones, but to me as I have seen the difference between FS9 & FSX. Again thanks for what you have created Nel, I hope many more years. Kenny
    1. garyghostrider's Avatar
      garyghostrider -
      I would like to add my appreciation, congratulations and agreement with all of the preceding comments. Thank you for 20 years of hard work and devotion to the flight simulation community. I for one could not imagine how we could have enjoyed this hobby as much if it were not for FlightSim.com. The perpetuation of flight simulation over the last 20 years is due largely in part to the efforts put in to maintaining this website as well as countless contributions by designers, artists, authors and everyday folks who needed a foundation from which to develop the community we now have. I will get off this soapbox now and go flying but again, thank you for the past 20 years and I look forward to what the next 20 have in store.
      Gary (aka garyghostrider)
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