Vintage Aircraft Controls Turned USB Button Box

The Gables Engineering G-2789 audio selector panels aren’t good for much outside of the aircraft they were installed in, that is, until [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced most of the internals with a Teensy 3.2. Now they are multi-functional USB input devices for…well, whatever it is you’d do with a bunch of toggle switches and momentary push buttons hanging off your computer.

Tracing wires from the panel switches.

With the Teensy going its best impression of a USB game controller, the host operating system has access to seven momentary buttons, twelve toggles, and one rotary axis for the volume knob.

Right now [MelkorsGreatestHits] says the code is set up so the computer sees a button press on each state change; in other words, the button assigned to the toggle switch will get “pressed” once when it goes up and again when it’s flicked back down. But of course that could be modified depending on what sort of software you wanted to interface the device with.

As we’ve seen with other pieces of vintage aircraft instrumentation, lighting on the G-2789 was provided by a series of incandescent bulbs that shine through the opaque front panel material. [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced those lamps with white LEDs, but unfortunately the resulting light was a bit too harsh. As a quick fix, the LEDs received a few coats of yellow and orange paint until the light was more of an amber color. Using RGB LEDs would have been a nice touch, but you work with what you’ve got.

This isn’t the first time that [MelkorsGreatestHits] has turned an old aircraft cockpit module into a USB input device, and we’re certainly interested in seeing what the next project will look like. Though we’re perhaps more interested in finding out where all all these old school airplane parts are coming from…

Hackaday Links: July 5, 2020

Remember all the hubbub over Betelgeuse back in February? For that matter, do you even remember February? If you do, you might recall that the red giant in Orion was steadily dimming, which some took as a portent of an impending supernova. That obviously didn’t happen, but we now seem to have an explanation for the periodic dimming: an enormous dark spot on the star. “Enormous” doesn’t begin to describe this thing, which covers 70% of the face of a star that would extend past Jupiter if it replaced the sun. The dimming was originally thought to be dust being blown off the star as it goes through its death throes, but no evidence could be found for that, while direct observations in the terahertz range showed what amounted to a reduction in surface temperature caused by the enormous star spot. We just think it’s incredibly cool that Betelgeuse is so big that we can actually observe it as a disk rather than a pinpoint of light. At least for now.

F-15c cockpit
F-15a cockpit

If you think you’ve seen some challenging user interfaces, wait till you get a load of the cockpit of an F-15C Eagle. As part of a new series on human interfaces, Ars Technica invited Col. Andrea Themely (USAF-ret.) to give a tour of the fighter she has over 1,100 hours on. Bearing in mind that the Eagle entered service in 1976 and has been continually updated with the latest avionics — compare the video with the steam gauges of the cockpit of an F-15A — its cockpit is still a pretty busy place. As much as possible has been done to reduce pilot load, with controls being grouped by function and the use of color-coding — don’t touch the yellow and black stuff! — and the use of tactile feedback. It’s a fascinating deep dive into a workplace that few of us ever get to see, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the series.

Sad news from Seattle, where the Living Computers: Museum + Labs is closing up shop. The announcement only says they’re closing “for now”, so there’s at least some hope that the museum will be back once the COVID-19 downturn has run its course. We hope they do bounce back; it really was a great museum with a lot of amazing hardware on display. The Vintage Computer Festival PNW was held there in its inaugural year, an event we covered and had high hopes for in the future. We hope for the best for these educational and cultural institutions, but we can’t help but fear a little for their future.

So you suffer a partial amputation of your left hand, leaving you with only your thumb and your palm. That raises an interesting conundrum: you haven’t lost enough to replace the hand with a prosthetic one, but you still don’t have any fingers. That appears to be what happened to Ian Davis, and so he built his own partial prosthetic to replace his fingers. There’s not much backstory on his YouTube channel, but from what we can gather he has gone through several designs, most of which are myomechanical rather than myoelectric. Through a series of complex linkages, he’s able to control not only the opening and closing of the fingers, but also to splay them apart. It’s all in the wrist, as it were — his input gestures all come from flexing and extending his hand relative to his forearm, where the prosthesis is anchored. This results in a pretty powerful grip — much stronger than a myoelectric hand in a head-to-head test. And the coolness factor of his work is just off the scale. We’re looking forward to more from Ian, and hopefully enough background information for a full story on what he has accomplished.

Hackaday Podcast 052: Shorting Components, Printing Typewriter Balls, Taking Minimal Time Lapse, And Building A Makerspace Movie Prop

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys recap a great week in hardware hacking. There’s perfection in the air as clever 3D-printing turns a button and LED matrix into an aesthetically awesome home automation display. Take a crash course in RF modulation types to use on your next project. Did you know the DB-9 connector is actually a DE-9? Building your own underwater ROV tether isn’t as simple as it sounds. And Elliot found a treasure trove of zero-ohm jumpers in chip packages — what the heck are these things for?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (57 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 052: Shorting Components, Printing Typewriter Balls, Taking Minimal Time Lapse, And Building A Makerspace Movie Prop”

P-51 Cockpit Recreated With Help Of Local Makerspace

It’s surprisingly easy to misjudge tips that come into the Hackaday tip line. After filtering out the omnipresent spam, a quick scan of tip titles will often form a quick impression that turns out to be completely wrong. Such was the case with a recent tip that seemed from the subject line to be a flight simulator cockpit. The mental picture I had was of a model cockpit hooked to Flight Simulator or some other off-the-shelf flying game, many of which we’ve seen over the years.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the project that Grant Hobbs undertook. His cockpit simulator turned out to be so much more than what I thought, and after trading a few emails with him to get all the details, I felt like I had to share the series of hacks that led to the short video below and the story about how he somehow managed to build the set despite having no previous experience with the usual tools of the trade.

Continue reading “P-51 Cockpit Recreated With Help Of Local Makerspace”

3D Printable Stick Shift For Your Racing Simulator

If you don’t get enough driving in your real life, you can top it off with some virtual driving and even build yourself a cockpit. To this end [Noctiluxx] created a very nice 3D printable stick shifter you can build yourself.

The design is adapted for 3D printing from an older aluminium version by [Willynovi] over on the X-Simulator forums. Every version uses an off-the-shelf ball joint for the main pivot, below which is a guide plate with the desired shift pattern.  Each position has a microswitch, which can be connected to a USB encoder from eBay which acts as a HID. The position is held in the Y-axis position by a clever spring-loaded cam mechanism above the ball joint, while the X-position is held by the bottom guide plate. The gear knob can be either 3D printed or the real deal of your choice.

This design is the perfect example of the power of the internet and open source. The original aluminium design is almost a decade old, but has been built and modified by a number of people over the years to get us to the easy to build version we see today. [amstudio] created an excellent video tutorial  on how to built your own, see it after the break.

For more awesome cockpits check out this one to fly an actual (FPV) aircraft, and this dazzling array of 3D printable components for your own Garmin G1000 avionics glass cockpit. Continue reading “3D Printable Stick Shift For Your Racing Simulator”

Up Your Game With A Battle Tested Input Device

If you’re looking to add some realism to your flight setup without converting the guest bedroom into a full-scale cockpit simulator, you might be interested in the compromise [MelkorsGreatestHits] came up with. He bolted a genuine military keypad to his PC joystick and instantly added 100% more Top Gun to his desktop.

The Rockwell Collins manufactured keypad came from eBay, and appears to have been used in aircraft such as the EA-6B Prowler and Lockheed C-130 Hercules for data input. Each key on the pad is wired to the 37 pin connector on the rear, which [MelkorsGreatestHits] eventually mapped out after some painstaking work with a breakout board.

Once the matrix was figured out, he made up a cable that would go from the connector to a Teensy 2.0 microcontroller. The Teensy reads the keypad status and converts button presses over to standard USB HID that can be picked up in any game.

The joystick side of the build is a VKB Gunfighter, which is already a pretty nice piece of kit on its own. No modifications were necessary to the joystick itself, other than the fact that it’s now mounted to the top of a black project enclosure. It still connects directly to the computer via its original USB cable, as the keypad has its own separate connection. As luck would have it, the joystick is almost a perfect fit in the opening on the keypad, which presumably would have been for a small screen when installed in the aircraft.

Finding cockpit components from military aircraft on eBay is not as hard as you may think; something to keep in mind if you ever decide to tackle that custom flight simulator build.

Downloadable 3D Cockpits Enhance FPV Racing

First Person View (or First Person Video) in RC refers to piloting a remote-controlled vehicle or aircraft via a video link, and while serious racers will mount the camera in whatever way offers the best advantage, it’s always fun to mount the camera where a miniature pilot’s head would be, and therefore obtain a more immersive view of the action. [SupermotoXL] is clearly a fan of this approach, and shared downloadable designs for 3D printed cockpit kits for a few models of RC cars, including a more generic assembly for use with other vehicles. The models provide a dash, steering wheel, and even allow for using a small servo to make the steering wheel’s motions match the actual control signals sent. The whole effect is improved further by adding another servo to allow the viewer to pan the camera around.

Check out the video embedded below to see it in action. There are more videos on the project’s page, and check out the project’s photo gallery for more detailed images of the builds.

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