Designing “tomorrow’s” electronic flight displays… back in 1976!

Ever wonder how today’s incredible digital flight displays and simulators developed?

Well as a relatively new private pilot back in 1975, I was enlisted to participate in a new-technology experiment to test the feasibility of using electronic flight displays for instrument flight and training.

The technology of the day allowed me to “fly” a simulator employing an ~8″ CRT (read “old-TV set”) driven by a roomful of computers delivering half a dozen moving lines to convey flight data.

I was intrigued by the experience, and as a University of Illinois Industrial Design grad student, applied to my grad committee to participate as a display designer on the project, which was being conducted by U of I’s Aviation Research Lab (ARL) under US Office of Naval Research (ONR) sponsorship.

My assignment was to address symbology and human factors design for some future time when computers became compact and powerful enough to drive more sophisticated displays like today’s.

Well yesterday I came upon my following 1976 presentation slides from that project, which I predict you’ll find interesting. (Click the first image to see it full-size, and then advance using the left-right arrows.)

Let me know what you think!


PS: That simulator pilot appears to be my fellow grad student, Bruce Artwick. You may be familiar with a personal side-project he was working on at the time, now known as MS Flight Simulator!

4 thoughts on “Designing “tomorrow’s” electronic flight displays… back in 1976!

    1. Jerry, As you can see, they had requisioned the nose of a real airplane, and would eventually be able to project the graphics on that curved screen in front. It seemed super cutting edge to me at the time.

  1. Thanks for sharing this amazing study Greg. That was “cutting edge” at the time but of course looks quite primitive now. How exciting to have been on the ground floor.
    Fascinating evolution of MS Sim: “[Artwick] released the first version of Flight Simulator for the Apple II in 1979. His original Apple II software was purchased by Microsoft in 1982 and became Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0.” (Wikipedia)

    1. I actually designed the logo for Bruce’s flight sim company, subLogic, and was invited at the time to join him and his marketing guy as a partner. (Had I done so, I could now own a personal Vision jet!)

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