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September 6, 2010 10:26 AM   Subscribe

A fascinating look at some interesting, and at times mind-boggling, arrays of dials and switches.
posted by gman (48 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have a friend who runs a recording studio, and every time I look over his shoulder, this is basically what I see. He's explained to me about fifteen times, in easily understandable terms, what a pre-amp does. But two minutes after I say, "Oh, okay, I get it," the mixing board morphs into an incomprehensible soviet mess of dials and switches.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 10:32 AM on September 6, 2010


Oh, also: what is up with the globe in the dashboard? If it was ornamental, that's really dumb. If it rotated in real time, that is the best thing ever.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 10:34 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I don't see a Rockwell Retro Encabulator in there, so this seems incomplete.
posted by orme at 10:34 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Related mefi post.
posted by marble at 10:39 AM on September 6, 2010


I can run a mixer with no problem (it's not as complicated as it looks) but some of these instrument arrays remind me of the endless panel gag in Airplane! when Striker first sits in the captain's seat. Tried finding a clip on YouTube, to no avail.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


MiG29 3D from a link in the comments: (pause over stuff to get the description.)
posted by HLD at 10:45 AM on September 6, 2010




We've all got our switches, lights, and knobs to deal with, Striker.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:51 AM on September 6, 2010


That dial from the HMS Belfast could make for an intriguing game of Twister.
posted by pemberkins at 10:54 AM on September 6, 2010


STOP MAKING SMOKE
Environmental crisis averted.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:58 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Indeed the links in the comments are pretty great too:
soyuz
US Cockpits
TONTO (the Stevie Wonder synth)
Airbus
posted by victors at 11:06 AM on September 6, 2010


here's another mindboggling array.
posted by Substrata at 11:06 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The MiG 29 cockpit photos at the bottom feature stickers with handwritten messages on them. This is not the first time I've seen sticky notes on the control panel of aircraft.

When I was 12 and flying alone for the first time, I saw this. I don't know if they still do this, but back in the day they used to always take kids up there and show them the works, I guess in an attempt to make them less afraid of the aircraft or some such... I asked the pilot why he had post-its stuck to the little dialy things, and he told me, "Those are my cheat-sheets!"

I thought that was cool as hell, and I told the older man sitting next to me what I'd seen up there. Heh. Dude white-knuckled it all the way to our destination. I tried to tell him that we were probably a LOT safer since the pilot had all those notes to remind him exactly what to do, but that guy was not buying it. (I probably ruined flying for him for good that day.)
posted by heyho at 11:08 AM on September 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, also: what is up with the globe in the dashboard?

The little globe is part of the Soyuz inertial navigation system, and yes, the globe does rotate! It shows the cosmonauts their current position, or the position they would land if they fired the retro-rockets at any particular instant.

It's still in use today on Soyuz spacecraft. (More details here.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:09 AM on September 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


We've all got our switches, lights, and knobs to deal with, Striker.

Indeed.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:17 AM on September 6, 2010


How much of this stuff gets regular use? Is is the result of feature bloat? The alleged human tendency to complicate things? Are they like the superloaded computers most people use mostly to read e-mail and play Minesweeper? Or does most every single button on the Space Shuttle's dashboard get used every single mission?
posted by chavenet at 11:18 AM on September 6, 2010


Here's a page of flight deck simulations for several airliners and the F-16. It's a bunch of clickable pictures of the instrument panels, and when you click you get a more detailed diagram and you can see what the individual switches and so forth are called.
posted by FishBike at 11:25 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The B-52 instrument panel [giant JPEG from NASA] has always impressed me by being almost all engine instruments and controls. Having 8 engines, it has to have 8 of each gauge, lever, button, etc., that controls or monitors them.
posted by FishBike at 11:31 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


> The B-52 instrument panel

What's kind of odd about the B-52 is that most of the pilots are much younger than most of the aircraft, and there's not been much effort in modernizing the controls and instrumentation. It must take a certain kind of pilot to fly those things well, considering most of their peers are in front of glass cockpits with fly-by-wire.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:44 AM on September 6, 2010


Reminds me of a story I read once in Analog where an engineer/test pilot was presented with a major problem: The proposed instrumentation for a spaceship was so complex that in simulation, everyone who flew the thing died. The engineer tried the simulator, and yep, he died, too.

In the process, though, he noticed a few major flaws in the instrument panel's design, and immediately ordered the entire thing rebuilt in some key ways—starting with making the control panel a vertical one in front of a seated pilot, rather than a horizontal one above a supine pilot. Previously, the pilots were getting so tired out just reaching up for the control panel that by the time they had to complete certain maneuvers, it was virtually impossible to do so.

Post-redesign, the engineer tested it out again, and successfully completed the simulated mission.

And then he was promoted to director of the new moon base they were building, because he was the only guy in the entire department who didn't just write a memo about the problems, but instead marshaled resources to have the whole control panel physically rebuilt.
posted by limeonaire at 11:44 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of the science museums I went to as a kid. I don't care what they do, I just want to press all the buttons!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


MAKE SMOKE / STOP MAKING SMOKE
PUMP OVER / STOP PUMPING OVER
INCREASE SPEED / STOP INCREASING SPEED
START / STOP STARTING
STOP / STOP STOPPING
START STOPPING / STOP STOP STARTING
posted by The Discredited Ape at 12:17 PM on September 6, 2010 [12 favorites]


HAMMERTIME / STOP HAMMERTIME
posted by maqsarian at 12:57 PM on September 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


"Everything was automatic. I could sit in the red-leather driver's seat and make every inch of the car jump, by touching the proper buttons. It was a wonderful machine: ten grand worth of gimmicks and big-priced Special Effects. The rear-windows leaped up with a touch, like frogs in a dynamite pond. The white canvas top ran up and down like a roller-coaster. The dashboard was full of esoteric lights & dials & meters that I would never understand — but there was no doubt in my mind I was in a superior machine."
posted by adipocere at 1:03 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


TOUCH THIS/ STOP TOUCHING THIS
posted by ShawnString at 1:18 PM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


TV Tropes is missing the classic control panel scene from Playtime (at 0:17).
posted by hydrophonic at 1:45 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never touch that switch,
Even if you want to.
You don't know what it can do.
posted by Lazlo at 1:46 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clockwise from top:

START SPREADING THE NEWS
COLLABORATE AND LISTEN
STOP ME UP
PUMP UP THE VOLUME
START ME OH-OH START ME - START ME IF YOU THINK THAT YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE
STOP SPREADING THE NEWS
STOP COLLABORATE AND LISTEN
START ME UP
STOP ME OH-OH STOP ME - STOP ME IF YOU THINK THAT YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE
STOP PUMPING UP THE VOLUME
posted by The Discredited Ape at 2:14 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The (pre?)steam punk version of TONTO
posted by TedW at 2:16 PM on September 6, 2010


IBM 360 Mod 75, Mod 195
posted by MtDewd at 2:19 PM on September 6, 2010


START MAKING COOL MUSIC / CONTINUE MAKING COOL MUSIC
posted by mjg123 at 2:20 PM on September 6, 2010


LET'S START / DON'T DON'T DON'T LET'S START
posted by maqsarian at 2:21 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


MtDewd's Mod 195 link shows IBM right on the tipping point between brushed stainless and putty-colored plastic. They chose wrong.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:59 PM on September 6, 2010


How much of this stuff gets regular use? Is is the result of feature bloat?

Most of it is for the 1% of the time when you really need it. Take the Shuttle for instance, many of the few crashes during simulated missions (which are taken very seriously) are when the simulation crew pretends the instrumentation ha gone bad. The whole beast can pretty much fly itself via computer, but the human interface has a large footprint precisely because there's a whole lot that can go wrong, and a whole lot of evidence that has to be correlated in the form of instrument readings to diagnose those conditions. During those times, you don't want to be tabbing through menus to figure it out.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:15 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "Vostok" analog musical synthesizer looks like you can play Battleship on it.
posted by mazola at 3:37 PM on September 6, 2010


STOP / DON'T STOP
A LITTLE TO THE LEFT / RIGHT THERE
posted by zippy at 4:38 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


mazola it's a pegboard routing interface - take source X to input Y.
posted by mhjb at 5:46 PM on September 6, 2010


The B-52 instrument panel [giant JPEG from NASA] has always impressed me by being almost all engine instruments and controls. Having 8 engines, it has to have 8 of each gauge, lever, button, etc., that controls or monitors them.

It's funny how the steering column (left side) has the aircraft model on it, reminiscent of an old car's steering wheel. I'm also surprised at the amount of basic information provided in the cockpit that is basic memorized information, like "Ejection Procedure" and "Maximum Knots Half/Full Flaps".
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:08 PM on September 6, 2010


B-52 instrument panel

Now I'm wondering why it only shows two of the four main gear as down and locked...
posted by bitmage at 7:12 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'm a fan of the Concorde's flight engineer's panel.
posted by zsazsa at 9:21 PM on September 6, 2010


I never buy ANY new equipment unless it has flashing lights and dials on it. Otherwise, it's no fun at all!
posted by JtJ at 2:13 AM on September 7, 2010


zsazsa: "Personally, I'm a fan of the Concorde's flight engineer's panel."

Quick guide-- the entire middle panel is fuel management--crossfeed, jettison, heaters-- and the right-hand panel is electrical. The left hand panel is just fuel level gauges for each of the tanks.
posted by joshwa at 6:24 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's still in use today on Soyuz spacecraft. (More details here.)

Thanks so much for this link. A coworker and I have been puzzling over Gagarin's display. We have a Russian native to translate for us, but that doesn't help puzzle out the usage.

Do you have a link to a modern Soyuz control panel for comparison?
posted by DU at 8:06 AM on September 7, 2010


> Do you have a link to a modern Soyuz control panel for comparison?

I used the googles.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:29 AM on September 7, 2010


Actually, this pair is better:

Soyuz TM, apparently up to 2002: http://www.africaninspace.com/home/gallery/tech/14.shtml
Soyuz TMA, since then: http://www.africaninspace.com/home/gallery/tech/18.shtml
posted by DU at 8:38 AM on September 7, 2010


I should say that pair is better to compare "ancient" (1986-2002) to modern but yours is better for determining that the globe really isn't there anymore.
posted by DU at 8:40 AM on September 7, 2010


Yeah, here's a nice page from a Russian site that shows the evolution of the control panels. It would seem that the next to most recent iteration had that globe, but the current Soyuz-TMA manages to navigate the great beyond without it.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:48 AM on September 7, 2010


I've always enjoyed the control panels; thanks for the eye-candy.

One of my personal favorites is the SAGE radar terminal, complete with built-in cigarette lighter and ashtray.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:10 PM on September 7, 2010


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