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A little background:
Like all other aviation enthusiasts, I became a fan of flight sims since they just appeared on PC, and it was natural wish to fly with more realistic controls, making at least a yoke and rudder connected to game port. When the Internet became available at home, I started looking for a suitable I/O interface, but in the end the few options available were either too limited or too complicated.
X-Plane, interface wanted
Then, after a 5-year break, when I bought X-Plane 9 in 2011, having a clear understanding of the troubles that cockpit builders might face using existing solutions, especially since some of them may have little or no electronics and programming skills, I decided that now was the time to create an interface for X-Plane, using my experience in electronics and “micro-coding” and my son’s programming expertise.
DIY B58 Panel and first I/O code on Arduino
Before that I started building a full-size Baron 58 panel simulator and used Arduino as a convenient platform (no need to deal with “bare-bone” micro-controller chip programming) to write input/output code for this panel that used UDP network protocol built into X-Plane. It was just standalone code (not library).
The fact is that over the past 20 years I’ve seen quite many home cockpits exposed in the Internet which just have been started and then eventually stopped, or became never been finished projects, eating a lot of money for years. This is not to say that this is only due to the interface, but if you need to become an expert in programming and electronics just to make a few LEDs and displays working in your cockpit, this could frustrate and stop many enthusiast.
Of course, with the appearance of cheap “development boards” (with microcontroller), it become much easier to develop an interface, and in 2009 I started using Arduino.
Universal Interface development
First, the current implementation of this project would have been impossible without my son (Roman) with his wide-range system and application programming skills. My programming expertise is mainly related to hardware (micro-controllers), scripts, web… So, this interface became a “father & son” team project.
The goal was to create an interface that would be a powerful, flexible, yet easy-to-use tool for home cockpit builders. In the end, using SimVimCockpit should allow you to concentrate on the cockpit building process, not thinking about how to make it work with the simulator, not wasting money on expensive modules and electronics.
- No programming skills required
- Only some wiring and soldering skills and basic knowledge of electronics is required.
- No expensive specialized electronics required, just common switches, LEDs, cheap display modules are used.
- Easy, intuitive input/output configuration – without need to understand internal data structure of the simulator.
- In addition, an instrument panel can be displayed on multiple LCD screens using mini-PCs or Raspberry and work with the same SimVim plugin.
Interface development stages (2011-2019) – XPData library – ArdRef – ArdSim – ARdSimX – SimVim
The SimVimCockpit is the 6th generation of our input-output interface for X-Plane. All history of development you can find here.
At first, we spent a little time learning the in-built X-Plane UDP protocol and in 2012 developed our Arduino library called “XPData”.
Then there were a few “transitional” libraries, that grew up to become ARDref / ArdSim / ArdSimX with using the plugin as main part of the system, and finally to the current SimVimCockpit Interface.
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