• A Look Back at F19 Stealth Fighter by Microprose

    A Look Back at F19 Stealth Fighter by Microprose

    Written by Dominic Smith

    This is an article I've wanted to write for some time but for one reason or another, it just ended up not happening. However, I've now managed to lock the door and superglue myself to the office chair, so this time I have no excuse! I also have the dog looking on expectedly...so I can't disappoint!

    With that said, let me begin.

    Being passionate enthusiasts of flight simulation, we all have our favourite modern flight simulator; be it FSX, X-Plane, P3D, FS2004, you name it... we have one. It's our go-to world, and we love it! When we're not working, walking the dog, or being told what to do, we're flying high.

    That's now, but what about before... at the beginning? What brought us all into this fascinating world of flight simulation?

    We all have our own story about how it all began, so indulge me if you will, so that I may share with you my own little journey of how I fell in love with flight simulation.

    It was Christmas 1990 and I was 15 years old, a mere nipper. Excitement filled the air, in anticipation of the presents we would soon receive; something traditionally done after returning from Mass. After pouring my mother a generous glass of sherry (anything to speed up the process), we settled down in our usual positions eager for the unwrapping to begin.

    On this particular year, I had a sneaking suspicion that my big present was going to be something very special, mainly due to the guilt my parents felt from the previous year (an electronic encyclopedia, whilst useful, isn't exactly...fun).

    After my dad had rather animatedly passed around a few presents (his usual job at this time, performed exceptionally well this year due to alcohol levels), he knelt behind the chair and brought out a rather large wrapped box.

    'To Dominic,' he read, 'love from mummy and daddy'

    Encyclopedia forgotten, and the love for my parents restored, I took the present and started to unwrap the box. Letters began to emerge as I tore at the paper - first an 'A', then a 'T', then another 'A' - until in front of me I saw the magic words...Atari STe Discovery Pack!

    Microprose - F19 Stealth Fighter

    I could hardly contain my excitement. Thanking my parents (and secretly God), I rushed upstairs only to be told to come back down as there was one more present for me to unwrap.

    Sitting back down again, a bit impatiently this time, my dad passed me the present. It was the size of a book but was rather heavy. I was intrigued as to what it might be. I unwrapped it and as I did, a reddish box came into view and the words...

    F19 Stealth Fighter

    I looked at the screen shots on the back and was blown away. They were all fully 3D, (not just wireframe), with masses of detail and colour. Well...16 to be exact. By modern standards, they were basic to say the least, but for a 15 year old kid in 1990, they were jaw dropping!

    I thanked my parents, more than a few times, and once again rushed upstairs.

    Hastily clearing a space where my trusty ZX Spectrum 128+ had been (nicknamed 'The Toaster' due to the hot heat-sink on the side), I carefully took the Atari STe out of its box. Inside was a manual, a collection of disks (I was now entering the modern era of computing) and most importantly of all...a mouse! After setting it all up and connecting it to my 13 inch colour TV, I turned on the power.

    A few moments later, and not a minute too soon, I was looking at Atari's famous GEM desktop (similar to Apple's early OS), which, compared to my Spectrum's tape loader screen, looked space age. However...I hadn't turned this fabulous machine on just to marvel at a green screen. No sirree! I was here to play games and one game in particular... F19 Stealth Fighter.

    I slid the red game sleeve back and opened the weighty black box. Inside was a manual, a keyboard reference chart/overlay, and three disks. The manual was particularly impressive as it was almost 200 pages thick.

    After reading the loading instructions, I inserted disk 1 and double clicked on the icon. A menu came into view asking me to select my preferred control method (keyboard), and once done, I was rewarded with an impressive introduction to Microprose's F19 Stealth Fighter.

    Microprose - F19 Stealth Fighter

    1. CRJ_simpilot's Avatar
      CRJ_simpilot -
      Back in 1990 I was 10 and I wasn't playing Atari rather than Nintendo. I was a cub scout then and I sold what I think was more candy bars in Southern California at the time. So having won all of the awards they could offer, the next prize for me was a gift certificate to Kmart. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to buy with that gift certificate. A Nintendo. I played Mario 1 all day and night long. Loved that thing. Mario 3 would have to be my favorite.

      Never got into flight simming until about circa 2007 when I installed FS2004. Now I use FSX. Since then I have amassed at least 1 hour of flight time a day which amounts to at least over 4,000 hours. The only flying I did in Nintendo was a game called Top Gun I think it was. Then latter on when I got a Super Nintendo in circa '93 I played Star Fox like no one's business. At school we played on the green screen Oregon Trail, Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego and another game where you ran a cookie factory. I think the computers were Apple IIe's.

      Good times and Moore's Law is a definite truth. I mean my God. The smartphone we carry around has more power then those green screen computers and Atari's.
    1. avallillo's Avatar
      avallillo -
      Great reminiscence!

      My own introduction to simulation, aside from using the real ones starting with USAF UPT in 1971, goes back to the Atari Star Raiders game; which, although not a flight simulation per se, was a 3D romp through a simulated space (outer space, to be specific). There was also a hugely primitive Red Baron game, sold on a cassette tape by a developer who was apparently still in high school (!).

      But as for realistic simulation of actual atmospheric flight, the original Bruce Artwick Sublogic Flight Simulator was my first, for the Atari 800. Primitive as even this offering was by today's standards, it was amazing in its day, and was a source of many hours of fun, even for an airline pilot (in that era I was a relatively new FE/FO at American).

      I chased just about all of the subsequent developments in PC based flight simulation - Check Yeager's Advanced Flight Simulator (which provided the first opportunity for formation flying); Sublogic's ATP, which was essentially Flight Simulator with only big iron on offer; Disney's Stunt Island, which while not purely a flight simulator, had the first really realistic 3D city scenery to fly over, to say nothing of an introduction to movie making for what may well be the current crop of directors and producers in Tinseltown; Falcon, in several of its variants; The aforementioned F-19; A Blue Angels simulation, the title of which I no longer recall; Flight Lite; and of course MSFS starting with FS3.

      The long and winding road!
    1. anaismith's Avatar
      anaismith -
      Microprose was great. Still using Falcon 4 under the guise of BMS to this day.
    1. btwallis's Avatar
      btwallis -
      Oh my what a great bit of nostalgia. I had this game as well the F-!5 Strike Fighter and others. Absolutely loved them. I had a box of all these old game and then 15 years ago has a basement water incident, lots of old stuff got removed by the restoration company to clean it up and somehow the box of games "got lost", you and I know was stolen. And I /they did not have an inventory of what was in it. So I had to guess and put value to them (how does one do that) got a small cheque bit they were gone forever. At the time I was particularly annoyed.

      Anyway live moves on and now its P3DV4 and XP11.3.
    1. jkmax's Avatar
      jkmax -
      My "hook" was Flight Assignment A.T.P. (Airline Transport Pilot -1990). Nearly 30 years ago. Yikes!
    1. bdliddicoa's Avatar
      bdliddicoa -
      This game was fantastic: the missions were very well-crafted and made you feel really accomplished to finish some of them. Still remember flying far out into eastern Poland to build up enough points to get the Medal of Honor. Also, this was an era before Google Maps satellite view: for Cold War buffs, the Kola Peninsula was an area of great mystery and it made it so much fun to explore.... Thanks for taking us down memory lane again!
    1. nelsond's Avatar
      nelsond -
      It was 1986 or around that time...two words...Commodore 64. That was one of the first games made for Commodore. I remember it well. I spent many hours on late night missions sneaking around enemy radar sites and bombing target objectives. It was nothing less than awesome. I got my money's worth out of that floppy disk. It would be great to have a makeover for Windows10. Don
    1. jkmax's Avatar
      jkmax -
      This inspired me to load up (thank you DOSBox) Flight Assignment ATP and do the KORD to KCLE run. What a time warp. Those days of e-flying is where I learned about Jet Routes and VOR navigation (big steps for a wanna be pilot). It also had a career path angle to it. A "reason to log the hours" other than shooting stuff down. Great article!
    1. rooitou's Avatar
      rooitou -
      I never had F-19 Stealth Fighter, because I went the ZX Spectrum route rather than Atari, but I had the remake for PC called F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter 2.0. I was already a working adult by that time and bought the game for myself, but still remember the late nights flying stealth missions and doing my best not to get detected by radar. Every mission was an accomplishment. Oh how I miss those days!

      I bought F-117A Nighthawk again about two years ago on GOG and it actually works on my modern PC, but sadly it is just not the same anymore, not with all the whiz-bang we have nowadays.
    1. Markg55's Avatar
      Markg55 -
      FS-1 ( by Sub-Logic I think ) on my Commodore 64 is what got me into Flight simming. During any given flight it would pause and....Loading....Loading.....Loading.
    1. vegad's Avatar
      vegad -
      Good article, thank you. In 1990 I was already in the USAF. I do recall enjoying many hours of F-19 SF. Like others, I started this flight simulation addiction with subLOGIC's Flight Simulator on the C64. It's been a while. As I type this I'm flying a B757 on my way to KLAS, using P3D. What a difference from those days.
    1. harrry's Avatar
      harrry -
      I too saw the sun come up many times while playing this.
      If anyone is interested it is available on steam for the PC.
    1. lmhariano's Avatar
      lmhariano -
      I was 8 years old when we had the first computer ever had at home. My dad left over the desk a manual of JetFighter I, and I started to read it. Then, one day, he opened Jetfighter there... I was lost forever. It's been 27 years, and still no hope of recovery
    1. Huddison's Avatar
      Huddison -
      Fantastic article Dominic! I played both F19 Stealth Fighter and Gunship on the good old Commodore 64 back in the mid 1980's. In fact, I still load up and play Gunship on my C64 to this day!

      There's something about the whole presentation with Microprose games that's sorely missing from today games: Items like the keyboard overlay, the map, technical supplements and thick manuals were all part of the experience.

      For those of you who are interested in revisiting those glory days, I made a video a while back talking about this very topic: https://youtu.be/tBdVkpFD2RI (skip to 'Microprose Games' in the timeline
    1. Alpeggio's Avatar
      Alpeggio -
      Wow Dom, that took me back to happy times. Something very special to the presentation and game design back then.
      ZX Spectrum 48 followed by Commodore Amiga, before PC's for me.
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