Hacking Joysticks

Topics here mainly have to do with getting old joystick hardware running with new computer systems because people don't want to give them up. We start with the Mac ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) gear...

Can I use my old ADB stick and pedals under Mac OSX?

Generally speaking, no. The whole software stack that supported ADB joystick gear (Input Sprockets and drivers) is not available in OSX. OSX only supports joystick gear on USB ports. The last Mac that had an ADB port at all was the old B&W G3, which is a pretty marginal machine for current X-Plane versions no matter how you upgrade it.

What about USB to ADB adaptors?

These exist. Griffin Technologies sells the iMate adaptor which does just that. However, it won't do you any good for ADB joystick support. The problem is what the iMate and its software do is to present OSX with a virtual ADB. This allows any ADB driver that runs under OSX (like the mouse and keyboard) to connect to its hardware. But that just gets you back to the original problem, which is that there are no OSX drivers for the joysticks.

Is there any third-part software?

Michael Milvich has written an OSX driver for Thrustmaster ADB equipment. It's available at SourceForge.net. No one knows of anything similar for CH gear.

So is there any hope for my great old (and expensive) CH stick and pedals?

Actually, there is, if you're up to some hardware hacking, meaning reasonably handy with a soldering iron and willing to tear into your precious old CH gear. Didier Chaveau did just this and has a web page describing what he did in detail to get his CH Pro Pedals hooked up to a USB port.

Yeah, OK... the page is entirely in French. This may pose an obstacle to some of you. I can summarize.

The key to the puzzle is a USB to Gameport adaptor. Didier lists one source; they're also available from other sources, listed below. The basic idea is to disconnect the ADB electronics in the unit and just connect the pots in the pedals (or joystick) directly to the analog inputs of the gameport. His circuit diagram near the bottom of the page makes the idea clear in all languages. Note the CH Pro Pedals have 3 pots - rudder input and the two toe brakes. Each of these pots gets connected between the +5 volt output of the gameport and one of the analog inputs.
Cool! Can I do this with other units?
It depends. In many cases, yes, but there are a couple of potential gotchas.

How can I interface other custom controls and instruments to my computer?

The USB to gameport adaptor mentioned above is a solution for simple setups. It's inexpensive, but has limited resolution - while it uses an 8 bit interface, it actually supplies only about 6 bits of usable data. There are a couple of alternate sources of equipment:
Here are a couple of web sites of people that are building their own sim cockpits. Lots of useful experience and tips to draw on.
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