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So, as most of you know, Airbus has adopted fly-by-wire (fbw) technology. Pretty much every single plane made by Airbus is a fbw plane. So I was wondering, before computers were everywhere, did Airbus implement fbw systems?

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As Ron notes in the comments the A300 did not have it and neither did the A310 however the A300-600 and A310 did have electronically augmented controls according to the airbus site.

One of the A300-600 and A310’s notable innovations had been the introduction of electrical signalling on secondary flight controls, replacing the web of cables and pulleys tradionally used. Béteille wanted to take this evolution further with the next Airbus aircraft – to computer-driven digital “fly-by-wire”, in which the deflections of the flying control surfaces on the wing and tail are no longer driven directly by the pilots’ controls, but by a computer which calculates exactly which control surface deflections are needed to make the aircraft respond as the pilot wishes.

The A320 on had Fly-By-Wire

There is a nice little video on the same page that has some facts abut Fly-By-Wire tech over the years. A quick history note is applicable here: what we know of today as Airbus had heavy ties to the Concorde program which implemented the first commercially used analog fly by wire system and depending on how you look at it Airbus' first Fly-By-Wire system as well. These engineers who would later go on to work at what is now Airbus and drive the mentality into the designs which is why they have largely chosen it on all their airframes.

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Actually Airbus's first full authority FBW airplane was the A-320 in the late 80s. Their earlier designs used FBW for secondary controls as did lots of other manufacturers.

The Avro Arrow had an analog FBW system, with mechanical reversion, in the 50s.

But to drift off topic a bit, the real granddaddy of all operational aviation "FBW" systems is on the B-29 bomber... although, OK, it wasn't actually a flight control system. The B-29's General Electric defensive fire control system used a central computer that received analog electrical signals from signal generators called "Selsyns" on each gunner's sighting head, that told the computer where the sight was pointed and the range to the target (by the gunner framing his target with the sight reticle, with the target's wingspan set on the sight, as he tracked it), and the computer corrected for a bunch of factors, parellax between sight and remote turret, TAS, density alt, 50 cal ballistics, computed lead angle etc, and the COMPUTER aimed the guns electrically by driving the remote turrets and pointing the guns where the computer wanted them, not where the gunner was pointing.

In effect, the gunner was telling the computer "I'll point at the target and tell you the range and you work out a firing solution and figure out where to point the guns". Incredibly sophisticated for the early 40s and pretty much the same as what a flight control FBW system does.

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    $\begingroup$ There were a number of analog computers in use; the B-29 system was very sophisticated but far from alone in this regard. You might as well use the BMW control system for the BMW 801 as an example (which predates the B-29). The first FBW aircraft in commercial operation was the Concorde - maybe this would be a better fit here. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Aug 23 '18 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ That is a mechanical controller - mechanical inputs, and mechanical outputs. A better comparison might have been the Norden bomb sight. In any case, the GE fire control system was electric commands down wires to a central computer with a mix of electrical and mechanical internals, and the computer electrically controlled the output, which varied from the input based on the computer's "programming". Basically the essence of a FBW control system where the control surface movement was often different from the input (as opposed to "control by wire" where the input and output are the same). $\endgroup$ – John K Aug 24 '18 at 1:28

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