WELCOME to state-of-the-art virtual reality as it was 24 years ago.

Today virtual reality headsets are readily available to the 30m or so British people who enjoy video games.

By plugging one into a games console smaller than many coffee table books, gamers can fight prehistoric monsters, pilot a spacecraft, drive in Grands Prix and witness the birth and death of galaxies.

In 1993 virtual reality gaming systems were rather larger and more expensive.

The one pictured here spent a few days in Swindon in 1993. It was supplied by a firm called Virtuality, which specialised in providing machines for video game arcades.

It also sent them to toy shops. This one was in Beatties, whose Bridge Street building would one day be home to the Ellington’s and Bedroom night clubs, among other businesses.

We said: “Would-be fighter pilots can take the controls this week – without leaving the ground.

“Beatties toy shop in Swindon has the next best thing to a supersonic fighter plane, with the latest in virtual reality simulators.

“The Harrier jump-jet dogfight simulator will be at the Bridge Street store until Saturday – and all of the £3 charged for the rides will go to the Koalas, a Swindon charity that raises money for children with special needs.”

Shop manager Tim Workman told us: “The idea is that you are flying a Harrier at speeds of up to 550mph, chasing enemy aircraft.

“You have to shoot down three enemy aircraft before you run out of fuel – but if you hit them you are refuelled by a Hercules and can carry on.”

We added: “Tim admitted that he hadn’t managed to get that far himself.

“He said small children seemed better equipped for the challenge after years of playing computer games.”