How to start?

Home It may be hard to decide where to start building. Some people like to make a full detailed plan, others just start somewhere.

I have setup this website in different sections.

bulletThe basic interfacing explains how to drive your keyboard with switches, and how to connect separate potmeters to your game port. If you have little experience, maybe some experiments with simple test circuits is a way to get familiar, before starting out building the real cockpit controls. Update: The MJOY-16 interface now replaces my earlier interfacing methods. 
bulletThe controls description section shows all cockpit control parts and dimensions in detail. You can build the modules one by one, since they are not cross-linked.
bulletThe cockpit console description shows all functionality and dimensions of this module
bulletThe Simpit description shows how to build a GA single seater simulation cockpit.
bulletVisuals shows a lot of different setups for your cockpit and outside views.
bulletTactile transducers can be mounted under your seat and everywhere else where you want to feel aircraft vibration.
bulletIn the motion platform chapters, you can read about my attempts at building one.
bulletThe software section describes some of the add-on's that I am using to enhance FS2004
bulletIn the Information sources sources section, you can find some links to other websites that contain lots of information.   

So you have read most chapters and you want to make a start with some flightsim enhancements, what next?

Improving visuals has a big impact on the flightsim experience. If you are still flying on a desk, and you can spend the money, I'd recommend to go the Parhelia way, with three screens instead of one. I got mine at Ebay for about €175. Parhelia is a bit outdated, Triplehead To Go now seems a popular solution to get scenery over multiple screens. 

Another addition that can still be added to the desk setup are Tactile Transducers. It's unbelievable how much this can add. In my setup, you get so used to it, that it's just terrible when you switch it off.

Rudder pedals with toe brake are easy to build, and add a lot to your flight control capabilities.

When going for new cockpit controls, you either go for a cockpit console (still desk flying) or make a real stand-alone cockpit like my simpit. Some cockpit builders go for a specific plane cockpit. I have always flown lots of different planes, from gliders to Dash-8, which is big enough for me. The simpit is a general setup, and will be suitable for both. 

The motion platform is a very interesting experiment, it is still in the tweaking stage. There are lots of possibilities, hardware and software wise.  I also have some new ideas to be checked further. Technical wise, the motion platform is somewhat of a challenge. Make sure you have all the skills required, or you will get stuck somewhere.  

Where to get materials:

On the cheap:

If you want to make use of dump material, get a good idea of what you might need, and regularly check your local dump/junkyard for goodies.

bulletOld VCR’s, fax machines, printers contain lots of useful parts, like gear wheels, timing belts, metal rods, etc. which are otherwise hard to get.
bulletOld copy machines are the ultimate for salvaging more heavy duty gear wheels, belts, pulleys etc.
bulletOld motorcycles or cars can provide the engine key switch.
bulletOld car radios can give you the transducer amplifier IC’s you were looking for.
bulletOld speakers can serve as base for building transducers.

(I realize now that the junkyards in Taiwan were a great place. In the Netherlands, all household and industrial junk is recycled by commercial companies, and they seldom allow the public to go through their stuff)

Where to buy parts:

Since the availability of parts varies a lot in different countries, I cannot give much advice here.

I have listed the web-sites of major part suppliers, where at least you can view component spec sheets. Those suppliers however do not sell loose parts, only large quantities. For single parts, electronics and computer shops are the best bet, and you can find alternatives by talking to the shopkeeper. Otherwise, mail order service is the only way. Farnell seems to be a good but somewhat expensive company for buying electronics parts.
If you happen to be in Asian countries like China, Hongkong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, check out the electronic markets there. Lots of components can be bought there off the shelf, for very reasonable prices.  

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