Meyer throws his 1987 Corvette into fourth gear and hits the gas, gunning around a curving suburban street. He drives like he talks—fast and reckless. He's bleary-eyed from a long night ironing out the kinks in his latest version, which he's hoping to release in a few weeks. It will have some nice features, including a landing light that realistically illuminates just part of the runway on landing and takeoff, and a neat visual representation of ice buildup on an aircraft's windshield. The work kept him up until 6:30 a.m.
It's not unusual for people to work like crazy when they're desperately trying to turn their struggling start-up company into a corporate Goliath. But Meyer has no such ambitions. When I ask how big he'd like to grow the company in the next five years, he says he'd be happy to have one more person to help him write the code. "It's not a question of how many people you have working for you," he says. "It's a question of how good the program is."
In the coming years, he says, he's excited about the prospect of home computers becoming powerful enough to allow true atmospheric modeling. "When it comes to modeling a dynamic, 3-D sky, I know I can saturate the next thousandfold increase in computing power," he says. "The sky, it's awfully big, and there's an awful lot going on in it. But it will all be worthwhile when you can watch these incredible weather systems moving around."
Listening to his deafening enthusiasm, I wonder if Meyer could ever grow out of
X-Plane, or if the man and the program are so tightly intertwined that they've become like two sides of some chimeric cyberbeing. "Will there ever be an end?" I ask. "A point where you can look at it and say, â€It's finished,' and walk away?"
"I hope that never happens," he says. "I hope that for my entire life computers keep getting faster and faster, so I can keep making the simulator better and better, and customers keep getting excited over and over again. I hope that process never stops. Because as soon as it does, what am I supposed to do? Become like Hugh Hefner or Mark Hamill, an artifact or a relic? What will I do with myself all day?"
Jeff Wise is a New York Cityâ€based writer and a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.