Interfacing An Old Engine Cowl Flaps Indicator To USB

[Glen Akins] had a WW2-era aircraft engine cowl flap indicator lying around (as you do) and thought it would make a jolly fine USB-attached indicator. The model in question is a General Electric model 8DJ4PBV DC Selsyn, which was intended for four-engined aircraft. For those not familiar with the purpose [Glen] explains in his detailed writeup, that piston-engine aircraft of that era were air-cooled, and during conditions of maximum engine power — such as during take-off — flaps on the side of the engine cowling could be opened to admit additional cooling airflow. These indicator dials were connected to a sender unit on each of the flap actuators, providing the pilots an indication of the flaps’ positions. Continue reading “Interfacing An Old Engine Cowl Flaps Indicator To USB”

Retrotechtacular: Synchros Go To War (and Peace)

Rotation. Motors rotate. Potentiometers and variable capacitors often rotate. It is a common task to have to rotate something remotely or measure the rotation of something. If I asked you today to rotate a volume control remotely, for example, you might offer up an open loop stepper motor or an RC-style servo. If you wanted to measure a rotation, you’d likely use some sort of optical or mechanical encoder. However, there’s a much older way to do those same tasks and one that still sees use in some equipment: a synchro.

The synchro dates back to the early 1900s when the Panama Canal used them to read and control valves and gates. These devices were very common in World War II equipment, too. In particular, they were often part of the mechanisms that set and read gun azimuth and elevation or — like the picture to the left — a position indication of a radar antenna. Even movie cameras used these devices for many years. Today, with more options, you don’t see them as much except in applications where their simplicity and ruggedness is necessary.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Synchros Go To War (and Peace)”