The seminal Flight Simulator franchise is embracing multithreading with the latest version, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and in this supported feature for Intel's Visual Computing microsite, engineers explain the threading techniques that help enhance the sim's visuals.
Though it might not be obvious at first, processor demands are considerable for a complex application like Microsoft Flight Simulator, which requires launching a computer-generated aircraft, tracking and displaying the craft's movements above diverse landscapes, and responding to flight maneuver physics: "For many years (since 1982 when the IBM* PC version was released), Microsoft Flight Simulator has pushed the boundaries of processing power and graphics display capabilities.
Not everyone realizes that the first version of Flight Simulator, created by Bruce Artwick, flew on an Apple* II computer in 1980, where budding pilots had to use a lot of imagination with only a four-color or monochrome screen to display the surroundings and a rudimentary two-gauge panel that delivered airspeed and altitude data.
The second generation Microsoft release, FS 1.0, modeled the behavior of a Cessna 182, improving on the prior Apple version by offering eight gauges, an improved coordinate system, four unique scenery areas with 20 airports to choose from, a pair of COM radios, and distance measurement equipment (DME).
The simulator factored weather into the flight performance, giving the user nine different view directions, but the display characteristics were closer to abstract art than photorealism, with only four colors plus dithering to replicate the cockpit and scenery."
Improvements in Microsoft Flight Simulator over the past 25 years have followed improvements in personal computing as displays, and an Intel-Microsoft joint effort has led to multi-threading specific changes in the latest version:
"The collaborative engineering engagement between Microsoft and Intel took place over approximately six months, beginning in December 2006. Early in the engagement, the Microsoft developers and Intel development support team targeted their efforts on enhancing the visual quality of Flight Simulator X, rather than on improving the frame rate.
The Flight Simulator X Service Pack 1 download includes these performance improvements and graphics enhancements along with the architecture optimizations and the multi-threading capabilities."
You can now read the full feature, with engineers explaining the threading techniques that've helped enhance Microsoft Flight Simulator X's visuals (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).