Multijoy_Retro Connects Your ‘Wayback’ to your ‘Machine’

flight-finished

Moore’s law is the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. This rapid advancement is certainly great for computing power and the advent of better technology but it does have one drawback; otherwise great working hardware becomes outdated and unusable.  [Dave] likes his flight simulators and his old flight sim equipment. The only problem is that his new-fangled computer doesn’t have DA15 or DE9 inputs to interface with his controllers. Not being one to let something like this get him down, [Dave] set out to build his own microcontroller-based interface module. He calls it the Multijoy_Retro.

The plan was to make it possible for multiple controllers with DA15 and DE9 connectors to interface with a modern PC via USB. After comparing the available Arduino-compatible boards, the Teensy++ 2.0 was chosen due to the fact it can be easily configured as a USB Human Input Device. Other benefits are its small size and substantial quantity of input pins. The project’s custom firmware sketch reads the inputs from the connected controllers and then sends the converted commands to the PC as an emulated USB controller.

Four hundred solder points were required to support all of the desired functionality. Each function was tested as its hardware counterpart was completed. Problems were troubleshot at that time, then labels added to the wires. This method was necessary to keep everything neat and manageable. This whole process took several days to complete.

flight-inside

The enclosure is mostly 3D printed. Clear acrylic was used for the front panel which was made to look similar to controls you would expect to find in cockpits of old military aircraft. To ensure accurate and uniform connector-shaped holes a CNC Router was used to cut out the front panel. Labels were printed on a regular printer, cut out and attached to the back side of the clear acrylic.

Overall, this is a great build. The project covers many aspects; reverse engineering, electronics, programming, 3D printing and CNC machining. Not only does it solve a problem, it also looks good while doing it!

 

23 thoughts on “Multijoy_Retro Connects Your ‘Wayback’ to your ‘Machine’

  1. You’re supposed to buy new equipment that you like today. Either that or what good is all of this carefully planned obsolescence?

    1. Are you seriously suggesting that we should still carry DA15 connectors in computers for legacy compatibility reasons after everyone has started using USB anyhow?

      1. In this chicken and egg situation, i don’t think the end user gives a flying flip what kind of connector they end up using as long as everything works! No, in fact it was an engineer that says “AHA! I know how I can get more data through this cable, but its going to require a whole new connector spec to work!” and the marketing folk say “AHA! if we change to all new connectors, the end buyer will have no choice but to upgrade all his wares which means more money for us, mwuahahahaa!!!”
        When 99.9% of people aren’t going to notice a difference, since most crap has a USB to serial UART chip that takes that fancy highspeed data and cripples it to 9600 baud, anyway… At least I’ve never thought “hmm, im going to buy a completely new PC just because I want all USB ports on that sucker and stacking the earth with e-waste is a blast besides”. No, rather I am often forced to upgrade things that work perfectly fine because of “this carefully planned obsolescence”…

        1. You do realise those connectors aren’t RS-232 ports?

          And USB has only been around for 15 years (and not going anywhere soon) but outage has no time limit, I guess.

          Are you hoarding serial cables as well as incandescent bulbs?

        2. You ALSO realize all those ‘old’ school controllers had to have game/programs WHICH SUPPORTED THEM, unlike USB’s plug-n-play system, which (in one way or another) unified the controller driver system removing the requirement for a game to support the hardware you owned.. It wasn’t all about how to rake extra bucks from the consumer as you erroneously imply.

          1. You also realize that the operating system running on the majority of desktops which run the majority of flight sim software is SOME version of Window$, which, among other things includes libraries of drivers for all of those ‘old’ school controllers and myriads of other ‘old’ school hardware…like that dot matrix tractor feed printer collecting dust in your garage.

  2. I like the look of it, very ‘cockpit’-ish.

    On the subject of old joysticks, during a sort out of my (too much) stuff I’ve collected over the years I found some boxed Tandy analogue pistol grip joysticks which have round connectors. No idea what to do with them, just seems ‘wrong’ to throw them away.

    As much as I liked joysticks back in the day I can’t go back to them having gotten so used to joypads.

    1. Swap meets and flea markets around here are (or at least used to be) rife with “classic” controllers/systems. I’m sure that if you can find one in your area, you’d be able to trade or sell those puppies pretty easily. Or, if anything, you could donate them to a computer museum type of place.

      1. Or just look online for one of the Tandy user groups, there are still quite a few in the USA, they were popular computers back in the olden days. Failing that put them on Ebay and take whatever you’re offered, secure in the knowledge it’ll be going to someone who’ll treasure and take care of it. Well, depending on the games they play.

        I’d guess the connectors are DIN plugs. German standard for cabling that didn’t quite take off, some tape recorders from Back Then used them. By Tandy I assume they’re made for Tandy’s computers, not just made by Tandy for something else. If that’s the case, look em up online, the pinout of the connectors will help.

    2. It’s wierd, innit? Presumably joysticks were copied from fighter planes. Joypads seem to have taken over, maybe it’s easier on the hand? I dunno, uses different muscles, but perhaps more strenuously. Not for nothing is it called “Nintendinitis”.

      What would be interesting, is if fighter planes started using joypads too. Way things are going, in the future it’ll be a mouse and keyboard, either on the plane or thousands of miles away in a military base by remote control. I bet you can make planes much cheaper and deadlier if you don’t have to keep the canned meat inside from getting bruised or killed too much. Accelerate as fast as you want, loops, G-force, none of that matters any more. You don’t need as much armour, either. And making everything smaller means it goes faster too!

      That’s stage 2. Stage 3 is where the bombs themselves fly off around the world to where they’re needed. I suppose that’s missiles, come to think. Maybe 1 big intercontinental missile, with a lot of smaller short-range ones inside. Get your money’s worth out of the long flight, and destroy 30 targets or so at once, long as they’re within 100 miles of each other.

      Stage 3.5 is robots with machine guns and sniper rifles. Prob easiest to do sniping by remote control.

      1. Stage 3 was though of a while ago, it was proposed to make cruise missiles that could attack multiple targets, basically an unmanned bomber. After that missile was to fly around to annoy radar operators, do surveillance or simply crash into something at high speed.

        Dunno if anyone ever got around that.

  3. What’s with all the hate, some people like old technology, and this allows him to use the old technology he likes (old school joysticks) without having to keep a whole ancient system running.

    1. I don’t think there is any hate. PCF, up at the top of the thread, was fairly obviously joking, which perhaps was missed by one or two of our neurologically diverse friends here. There’s a lot of autism about here, doesn’t mean we need to explain everything literally, just expect to run into the odd case of being taken literally now and then.

      I think with help, autists can be taught to work out irony and shades of meaning by working through it step by step. Maybe it’s hard work, but just to stumble through the world, expecting everyone to make *your* sort of sense, is rude.

      Anyway… all part of HaD’s rich tapestry. That and all the barely-suppressed rage. I like it here. We certainly have *intelligent* conversations, even if a few of them are batshit insane.

    2. A standard cheap USB joypad has the sticks (potentiometers) and plain analog switches, so I wonder if you can’t just buy one of those and just solder a connector on it for the old hardware. Although I guess you need to have the right value potentiometers and I’m not sure what those joypad small sticks run at, I think the old joystick types used to be about 10K.

      Problem is to interface it to what the software expect maybe.

  4. He printed out what looks like a standard hobby box, and a sheet of acrylic? He printed out a flat sheet!? I hate to ask, I’m assuming I’ve got the wrong end of a stick, here somewhere…

  5. There are these handy USB to DB15 GPA adapters that sell for like $12 and USB to RS232 DB9 cables that are like $8, probably cheaper, and Holy God, Radio shack Sells both of them.

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