Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives -#Potluck – #memoir – Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator by Tasker Dunham

Welcome to the  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

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This is the second post from the archives of Tasker Dunham. The blog is a personal memoir about growing up in Yorkshire in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and later. It is not always about Yorkshire, nor is it entirely memoir, but most of it is. I have selected this post as I remember my father building a replica biplane for my brother when he was four, along with a headset borrowed from the station we were based on. I use to hijack from time to time and practice my dive bombing…there is also a poignant aspect to this post that touched me.

Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator by Tasker Dunham

Like something from the future, it was the most amazing colour graphics workstation I had ever seen. I had got a job in a university where it was being used to understand complex proteins by constructing and manipulating computer-generated images of the kind of ball and stick molecular models photographed with Watson and Crick in the nineteen-fifties. These models give insights into life at the sub-microscopic level: such as how molecules of oxygen displace molecules of carbon dioxide in haemoglobin. The details are so magically implausible you could come to believe in creationism. One researcher was moved to tears on seeing for the first time an image of part of the antibody she had been working on for the past three years.

Flight Simulators: Elite, Aviator and SGI DogfightFlight simulators: Elite and Aviator for the BBC computer,
and SGI Dogfight for the IRIS workstation

It was the nineteen-eighties. The workstation (a Unix-based Silicon Graphics IRIS 2000 if you must know) came with a set of demonstration programs, among them a flight simulator called ‘SGI Dogfight’. Again, it was well in advance of anything any of us had seen before. The best you could have at home at that time, which replicated the dynamics of flight and motion with any reasonable accuracy, were black-and-white wire-frame simulations such as ‘Aviator’ and the space trading game ‘Elite’ published by Acornsoft for the BBC Computer. The IRIS 2000 simulator had coloured graphics and a choice of aircraft including a tiny Cessna, an enormous Boeing-747 Jumbo Jet and a super fast F16 jet fighter. It came nowhere near the lifelike realism of simulators you can buy today, but for the ordinary home user there would be nothing like it for quite a few years. You may now pause for a moment to speculate about the relative amounts of time we spent flying aeroplanes and modelling proteins.

BBC computer game Elite badgeFor the first few weeks, I was the only one who could land the Jumbo Jet without crashing. I had not wasted hundreds of hours flying under the ‘Aviator’ suspension bridge and dodging ‘Elite’ police ships for nothing. I was one of the glorious few to have fought my way through to the secret code for my ‘Elite’ badge. What the others did not seem able to grasp – and some of them are now eminent professors – is that the pilot of a Jumbo-Jet sits the equivalent of three storeys up from the ground, so that when you come in to land, assuming you have managed to line up the aircraft with the runway at the right height, distance and speed, which is no easy feat in itself, you are still thirty feet up in the air as you touch down. If you try to land with your seat at ground-level you will be too low, and smash into the runway with terrific force and die.

It all seemed terrifically futuristic. Yet my brother had a flight simulator twenty years earlier in the early nineteen-sixties. You might call it Grandad Dunham’s flight simulator. How could that be possible? That Grandad Dunham was our dad’s grandfather, our great-grandfather, who had died in 1941. He spent the last two years of his life living with his daughter’s family after he woke up one morning to find his second wife dead in bed beside him. When he moved in, his son-in-law carried his chair through the streets of the town on his back.

Grandad Dunham's Chair - Flight Simulator

Here is that very same chair, at least twice refurbished, and exceptionally comfortable it is too. Turned on its back and covered with an eiderdown it makes a wonderful aeroplane cockpit. My brother played in it happily for hours. Sometimes he would let me be his co-pilot. He chalked some controls and instruments underneath the seat. They are still there after more than fifty years.

What makes it particularly poignant is that my brother died at thirty six. The grandchildren he never saw will very soon be the same age he was when he drew those simple chalk marks. They will be able to have all the latest tablets and smart phones, and flight simulators so immersive and realistic they will not be able to tell whether or not they are in a real aeroplane. Who knows how things will be? But one thing I do know. No matter how advanced the technology, even in a hundred years, it will never be one half as much fun as Grandad Dunham’s eiderdown-covered chair with the chalk marks on its upturned seat.

©Tasker Dunham 2015

I am sure that brought memories back for many of you.. have you a video game that you played or still play?

About Tasker Dunham

I grew up in Yorkshire and worked in Leeds before going to university late, and then lived in various places around the U.K. before moving back to Yorkshire where I now live with my wife and family. I have worked in accountancy, computing and higher education, as well as in temporary jobs in factories. This memoir is based on people, places, things and events I knew, with some names and details altered to avoid difficulties. I tend to post two or three times each month.

Some items recall people and experiences, others try to give things a humorous slant, and some are of the “look how the world has changed” kind.

Connect to Tasker

Blog and post links:

Thank you for dropping by and I hope you will head over and check out the rest of Tasker’s archives … and as always love to get your feedback.. Sally.

19 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives -#Potluck – #memoir – Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator by Tasker Dunham

  1. What a great post, Sally. This is the sort of innovative and creative game I used to play as a child. So good for creative development. Our children don’t necessarily benefit as much as some people think by having all the thought elements taken away with the perfection of the computer games of today.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree Robbie.. training in all kinds of skills from project management, construction and sometimes hiding from your parents.. We still had a large bomb site when we moved to Portsmouth in the high street and we had a den under the rubble that was pretty well kitted out.. we were only 5 and 6.. Goodness knows what the workmen thought when they bulldozed to build a block of flats!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve posted before about how lots of things we used to do are considered so dangerous as to be protected out of existence (the bomb site would now have barriers round it), while at the same time children can look at all kinds of unseemly things on the internet that even adults don’t want to know about. Which causes most harm – physical or mental?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator (reposted by Smorgasbord Blog Magazine) | Yorkshire Memories

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – Solar Minimum, Jazz Guitar, Vitamin Deficiency, Italian Cookery and Mischief in the court of Charles II | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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