The History and Heritage of the Age of Simulation

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Bryan Lintott

Abstract: Simulation of modern technologies has an important and informative history and an inspirational heritage. Simulation was utilised early in the development of aviation. Aircraft are controlled through a coordinated series of inputs from the pilot, similar to riding a horse. The difference is that falling from a horse is not as hazardous as falling from the sky. In response to this steep learning curve, the Antoinette simulator of 1910, operated by humans responding to the trainee´s inputs, was developed. World War I´s Allied and Central Powers utilised simulation to enhance combat effectiveness. Major Lanoe Hawker VC, of the Royal Flying Corp, pioneered British military simulators with a ´Rocking Fuselage´ for firing at a moving target, with a later version in which the ´Rocking Fuselage´ was mounted on a track. Hawker´s distinguished and innovative career abruptly ended when he was shot down and killed by Manfred von Richthofen. The advent of fly-by instruments and navigation by radio-directional beacons provided an ideal opportunity for enhanced simulation. Overcoming initial reluctance, a common historical occurrence with innovative technologies, Edwin Link combined his expertise and experience from the family´s piano and organ company to produce the iconic Link Trainer. The ability to incorporate communication from a ´ground controller´ and record on a map the pilot´s course enhanced the allies´ training programmes. The advent of shipboard radar, during WWII, in the maritime realm enabled operation in low or non-existent light situations, such as fog. However, this new technology resulted in a new class of accidents – misinterpretation of screen information leading to collisions. From the 1950s onwards, simulation has been integral to the training of deck officers in radar technology. In the late-1950s. N.S. Savannah, the United States´ atomic-powered merchant ship, pioneered civilian maritime simulation of a nuclear reactor and propulsion system. During the 1960s, maritime simulation was increasingly utilised to understand operation and crew performance better. In 1976, the use of CGI at the Computer Aided Operations Research Facility (CAORF), US Merchant Marine Academy, demonstrated the value of simulation in deck officer training. Increasingly, computers: analogue, electro-mechanical and digital, drove simulation forward. Early advances enhanced the experience for the operator and monitoring by the supervisor. DARPA´s pioneering role in the integration of ´networking, instrumentation and command and control´ has been transformative. This led to ´… outcomes that were in no way predictable, through after-the-fact were understandable.´ (Thorpe 2010)The material culture of simulation is in the collections of many museums – especially the Link Trainer. Most museum-based simulators are no longer operational due to malfunctions, lack of knowledge and concern about damage by "enthusiastic" public members. However, in a twist, there is interest in simulating simulators. The ´Rocking Fuselage inspires the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust dogfight simulator´. In recent decades, the software associated with simulation has also gained its own historical archival value. Given the complexity of modern simulators and simulations, the question arises: what will be retained in museums and archives for future generations to engage with, personally or professionally, that records the Age of Simulation?

Keywords: history, heritage, museums, archives

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003581

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