Trouble in the software business: this time, it's serious!


Via my friend Bruce Williams, an accomplished aviator, flight instructor, and technology guy,  I hear that the first-ever, 5000-person cuts Microsoft has just announced in its work force include the team responsible for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Williams himself, who was a major figure on that team across six versions of the program over 15 years, presented the news on his website under the headline: The End of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Sigh. Further reflection the news here and here.

Of course there are other flight simulators. I've always loved X-Plane, even before its creator, Austin Meyer, started flying a real-world Cirrus airplane (fancier version of the kind I used to own). Still, there was something magical about even the earliest versions of Flight Simulator, with the familiar opening shot of a little plane ready to take off from the sadly now defunct Meigs Field in Chicago. At this fascinating site you can see screen shots from those embryonic versions, which provide a startling reminder of how much imagination you needed to apply when using the earliest computer games:

(See if you can detect any change in graphics in the intervening years: below is a screen shot of Flight Sim X, via Tom Bukowski at



I don't mean to make light of real pain and hardship caused by software layoffs and those in all other industries. But the end of the FS era is poignant enough on its own to deserve a mention.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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