In The Beginning
The Compulink Information Exchange, commonly known as CIX, was formed in the 1980s in the days of 300baud dial up modems, 20 megabyte hard disks and 640 kilobytes of memory. Based on the U.S. Compuserve model, it was structured by subject by means of "Conferences" (Compuserve "Forums") as well as serving as an email client. Anyone could create a conference, and today there are hundreds.
By the mid 90's before the Internet really took off, CIX was the main source of information for its members, and a unique culture was quickly established where information was exchanged freely with no conditions attached. Substantial and very useful software programmes were written by members for free distribution, a tradition which continues.
It was inevitable therefore that there should be a conference devoted to Flight Simulator. The first message in that conference was posted on 1st April 1989. Membership of the Flight.sim conference peaked at around 250 members, making it one of the more popular and active conferences. In recent years the number of active members has been relatively few, but when one Ruth McTighe started posting occasional messages in the conference about VATSIM, one Peter Dodds sat up and began to take notice. What was this about live Air Traffic Control via the Internet?
Peter joined VATSIM in February 2003, and after much frustration, a failed attempt to make a flight from Hawarden, and a successful "listening watch" at Chicago Meigs in the early hours of one morning, his inaugural flight with VATSIM was from Stapleford to London City on 3rd March 2003 with Ruth McTighe manning Thames Radar and London City.
However, on this and subsequent flights, he realised that light aircraft flying seemed to be poorly represented on VATSIM, but was sure that it would have appeal. Accordingly he posted a message in the CIX Flight Simulator conference suggesting that members of the conference might be interested in flying light aircraft with live ATC, and that they could do so as a group.
The response was considerably more than Peter expected and 15 members joined in the first week. So was created a new CIX conference "CIX_VFR_Club" set up along the lines of a typical Flying Club at any UK aerodrome. Topics within the conference included, "Ops Room" and "Members Bar" and a lively dialogue frequently took place about anything to do with Flight simming, or indeed real world aviation.
CIX was essentially a text medium, but this was going to be too restrictive for running Club activities, and a significant distraction while flying, particularly as we "hand fly" all our sorties - no autopilots allowed. So almost before the term was invented, we opened a VOIP server using TeamSpeak to which all members have access. We used, and still use this medium to talk among ourselves as we fly, passing hints about weather, landmarks, navigation etc.
Within the conference events were planned, the outcome of events were debated, and, as one would in a real world Flying Club, chats around a pint (non-alcoholic if you're flying). After an initial meeting at Biggin Hill, members "adopted" that famous aerodrome as the Club's base, so if on Servinfo you see a gaggle of G registered aircraft around that area - it'll probably be this Club's members!
Before long, the Club was being noticed in the VATSIM Community. We began to attract people who were not members of CIX, but wanted to join our Club. These were welcomed as "Associate Members" although they were unable to join in with the Club chit-chat in the CIX conference.