To connect your toggle switches to a PC running your Flight Sim you will need some sort of interface card. These are usually connected with a USB cables, and have connectors that you wire up to your switches. You connect it to your PC and it will show up in Windows as a generic USB joystick.
I began this project with a single USB card from Leo Bodnar. These commercial USB cards are readily available, relatively affordable and super simple to use. The cards I will list below all have the same basic use although some have more features than others.
Wiring a toggle switch or button and getting it to work on a PC is very simple using these cards. You simply attach two wires, one to each terminal on your switch, attach one to the ground terminal on the card, then the other to a button input on the card.
Plug the USB cable into you PC and the card will show up in Windows as a generic game joystick. Open up USB game controller settings in Windows, and you will see your card. Click properties, flick your toggle switch and bang- you have an input working as a device in Windows. You can then program this in DCS to do whatever you want- but more on that later. That is how easy it is.
The types of USB Interfaces I have in my cockpit are listed below.
The Leo Bodnar BBI-32 was the first card I ever bought to get my first button box working with DCS World.
'BBI' stands for 'Button Box Interface', and the 32 indicates it has 32 inputs. You can wire 32 switches to this card, and it has a common ground. That means that you don't have to run two cables from every toggle switch, you can run one down to the card from each switch and just connect all the grounds together up on your panel. The BBI will work with any hardware that needs a simple on-off input, like buttons switches and rotary encoders, however it has no analog inputs for potentiometers (like volume knobs or rudder pedals).
Cost is about $55 AUD ($43 USD), excluding shipping. You can also purchase a slightly cheaper version with no connecters installed if you want to solder you wiring direct to the card.
The Leo Bodnar BBI-64 is is basically the same as a BBI-32, except it has double the inputs, so you can attach 64 separate buttons or switches to your PC. Windows will only show 32 buttons on a USB joystick, but don't panic they are there! DCS World, and most other software (including the third party config software on the Leo Bodnar website) will recognise all 64 buttons.
Cost is about $65 AUD ($49 USD) excluding shipping.
These BBI - 12 Position Rotaries are small PCB's can be bought already soldered to a 12 Position Rotary Switch, or as separate cards you can solder to ones you already have.
In order to wire up a rotary switch to one of your USB cards in normal circumstances, you need to connect the ground pin, then as many pins as positions your need. So for the A-10C KY58 knob, this means wiring seven cables, and losing six inputs on your USB card for the one knob. But with these small PCB's, only two wires need to be connected, the ground and a single input. The PCB on the bottom of the rotary essentially adds extra inputs to your BBI-32 (they only work with a BBI-32), so if you wired up the maximum 11 of these to a single BBI-32, you would see 132 switch positions available!
Cost is about $9 AUD ($7 USD) including the rotary switch, excluding shipping.
The Leo Bodnar BU083X is a USB joystick card. It functions as the same as one of the button boxes above, but has a few more features up its sleeve. The above two cards can handles basic inputs, basically only on-off buttons and switches. This joystick card however, has 8 analog inputs with 12-bit (4096 steps) resolution each, 32 button or 16 rotary encoder inputs, and a separate 8-way "point-of-view" hat switch input. This means you can use it for potentiometers to do all your volume knobs and axis like rudder trim, and i even have one with a hall sensor running my modified rudder pedals.
Cost is about $90 AUD ($69 USD) excluding shipping.
The Leo Bodnar BU0836A is similar to the BU083X above, however it is in a much smaller package. It has the same amount of button inputs, however the matrix for all the buttons is not on the PCB itself, rather it has twelve pins for six columns and six rows. This wont be an issue if you are wiring up your own button matrix, or you can purchase this breakout board.
I have only one of these in my pit, running the axis for my rudder pedals (it's cheaper, and I didn't need the button inputs down at my feet).
Cost is about $45 AUD ($35 USD) excluding shipping.
This is much cheaper than the BU083X, but remember you will need to add the $27 AUD ($20 USD) breakout board if you want to use all the buttons without making your own matrix.
The Groovy Game Gear GP-Wiz40 is a very good quality, but cheaper, alternative to the Leo Bodnar USB Input cards listed above. Designed to be used in retro arcade machines, they have 40 button inputs but no Analog axis. They do have a 'digital axis', basically four inputs that act like momentary buttons like a hat switch.
One thing to note- unlike the Leo Bodnar cards above you can only connect a maximum of four of these GGG cards to one PC, and when you order them you have to select a device number.
Cost is about $32 AUD ($25 USD), or you can spend a little extra and buy this version with screw connectors already soldered on.
The PhidgetLED-64 Advanced is a little different to the cards above, because you don't attach any switches to it, you attached LED's to it. It is an output card rather than an input card, so rather than sending a on-off signal to the game, the game is sending an on-off signal to an LED attached to the card. I used this for my Caution Panel in the early days before DCS-BIOS was released.
It served me well for many years, however it had a few cons.
So all in all, it was a great card that served me well for many years, but in today's day and age and with the advent of DCS-BIOS, I would not recommend this card to anyone who is using it for DCS World. Use a ridiculously cheap Arduino and an LED matrix instead. That's what I have since done, and the PhidgetsLED-64 has been removed from my system and gathers dust on a shelf.
Arduino Uno, Nano, Mega and DCS-BIOS. Lots to tal about here, so they get their own section.
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