You know, I have a theory that Atari computers are now so typecast as games machines that few owners realise the potential of their machines. Most Atari games seem to be over-priced, as is generally acknowledged, so it is with some pleasure that a line of entertainment is emerging that gets a little bit away from
the 'arcade' style, that helps to show some of the capabilities of the Atari and above all is at a very reasonable price indeed.
I refer to the aircraft simulator type of program now rapidly becoming popular represented here by the 747 FLIGHT SIMULATOR from D.A.C.C. Ltd.
The program is very well presented generally, supplied in the usual cassette box with colourful insert showing a very true example of the normal screen display and is complete with very detailed notes in a small booklet.
I strongly recommend that the notes are read thoroughly to reap the most benefit in running the program.
The program itself runs with either TWO joysticks in ports 1 and 2 to operate all the aircraft controls or if you prefer, entirely from the keyboard. If that still does not satisfy you, then a combination of joystick and keyboard can be used and the choice is up to you as no user selection is required as a preliminary for use of either keyboard or joystick.
Each 'run' does however require some user selection. The detail of the program is so complete that it requires you to specify the amount of fuel carried, within a stated range, and the number of passengers. These parameters have an effect on the aircraft performance and can be altered considerably from one run to another. The final user choice for any run, is to decide whether you want Take-off, Straight Landing Approach or Random Landing Approach. The choices are more than adequate and are really only a point of commencement. If you sufficiently master the art of flying, you could in theory take off, fly around for hours and then land.
It must be said that the screen display is not a multi-colour graphics display but the technical qualities of the program more than make up. The top part of the screen is the pilot's window. The usual inverted V runway shows here
but the view is true perspective 3-D and panning effect. Aircraft of the 747 type are really flown mainly on instruments and these are shown in the lower half of the screen. The six main dials are on the left and show airspeed, rate of ascent or descent, altimeter, artificial horizon, flight compass and rate of turn to left or right. The compass shows continually changing digital readouts for accuracy but note that all others are circular DIAL movements. The lower right half of the screen has no less than sixteen further moving dials in four columns of four, one column for each engine, and there are other moving flight controls for flap control, slats, spoilers, brakes etc.
Just in case you think it all gets too easy, the extreme top edge of the screen has a row of indicators which may indicate at any time that one or more engines has malfunctioned, or flaps, brakes or what-have-you are inoperative! You really are then flying by the seat of your pants!
This program has been sold for some time for several other machines but has been expanded for the Atari. Unfortunately it is not available on disk but there is a valid reason. So much code has been packed into the 48K that there is no room left for DOS!
Whilst I would dearly love to see it on disk, I can most heartily recommend the cassette. Not only is it very good value for money, it is a lovely change from the arcade blockbusters and oh what a thrill it is to see your jumbo lifting off!