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Thrustmaster Digital

by James "Nutty" Hallows



I wanted to take this opportunity to tell all you Thrustmaster users of a project that I've been involved with for some 7 months now. You cannot begin to understand the relief I feel being able to actually speak about it now. In what seems to have been a year of doom for Thrustmaster users, it has been painful not having been able to tell you about this earlier.

But thankfully, the news has now broken, and by way of a tribute to the expertise, dedication and sheer hard work of its developer, who has done more than any one individual in his support of Thrustmaster controllers, I am delighted to write this article. In it, I hope that it will do justice to his work, and so that you too will soon be sharing the precision of Digital Thrustmaster Controllers, that I have enjoyed for all this time.

This article is very much aimed as an introduction to what we've been up to, and to fill you in as to the status of the project as it currently stands. Hold on to your hats then, because this is going to blow your mind.

F-22 PRO F-16 FLCS F-16 TQS RCS/Elite rudders

There's a large section of the flight sim community who firmly believe that only Thrustmaster (TM) controllers offer the ultimate in programmability, realism and true HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick). But it's not been a good year for TM users. No new high end controllers have appeared on the market by TM, and there's been no talk of USB equivalents of their top of the range F22 Pro joystick and TQS throttle.

In fact, we've had to sit around and watch TM bring out low end controllers from the Top Gun Platinum, through to the bizarre "Fragmaster." And recently, we've seen TM sell off their controller market to Guillemot, leaving us all with an uneasy feeling of uncertainty as to the future of our beloved controllers.

Earlier in the year, David "Mystic" Sandberg closed down his excellent "Six Degrees of Freedom" site which provided a comprehensive resource of well tested and superbly written files for TM users to download. And very recently, the TM community lost one of its most influential and helpful characters, Bill "Cowboy" Wilson, a very good friend of mine, and a very great loss from my online life. (Have a good one buddy, wherever you are.)

But through all the gloom and doom I've sat quietly by, with a very contented smile on my face. Because for the last seven or more months, I've been flying with something we've all dreamed of .... Thrustmaster Digital Controllers.

And instead of having to splash out a large wad of money for a complete new set of controllers, all I had to do was to swap over the chips in my present TM joystick and throttle. I can't tell you just how much of a relief it is to be able to finally talk about a project that's been in development for sometime now ... welcome to Thrustmaster Digital !

Click to continue



First off, let me say that this isn't my baby. This has all come about from the real guru of Thrustmaster - the person who for my money understands more about TM hardware and software than anyone else out there, and that person is of course Bob "Sticky" Church.

Bob contacted me sometime in February this year, and asked me whether I'd be interested in working with him on a secret project for the high end TM controllers. Well, what else could I say, except an immediate and enthusiastic "Yes" !!! So let me dive straight into the details you all want to know, without boring you too much about how this has all developed.

The bare essentials

Bob has developed new chips for your TM F22 Pro, F16 FLCS and TQS controllers. They're very simple to install - just remove the old ones and replace with these new ones, and that's it for the hardware changes. Nice and simple. And with this simple chip upgrade, you are now in possession of digital controllers. So what do these chips do and what advantages do they offer?

1.) Connectivity

Now, remember all the problems you faced when you bought these controllers, took them home and madly ripped them from their boxes, only to find that there was no PS2 keyboard connector or adaptor? And so you went out, bought one, and discovered that not all PS2 adaptors were compatible. This problem comes up time and time again in the newsgroups, and in a bunch of e-mail I regularly receive.

Thankfully, someone discovered the solution - but it was a pig to unearth. And the same was true for the wheelmouse, and how you had to go through a series of steps to get that to work with the TQS throttle. Well, the beauty of these chips is that that's all of a thing of the past.

With the new chips the keyboard and mouse do not plug into the controllers. The F-22 PRO (or F-16 FLCS) connects directly to the TQS throttle, the throttle to the rudders and the rudders to your gameport. Your keyboard and mouse connect to the computer as per normal. And if you have Masterpilot, this of course no longer needs to be connected through your controllers, as before.

2.) The digital response

I remember well the first thing I did when I received the 1st set of chips from Bob. After having inserted them, and fired up Foxy, I went to the joystick analyser to see what all the "digital" hype was all about. Now, I'm not one who's easily impressed with hardware. But my jaw dropped when I saw the response. Suddenly, the stick was rock steady.

I mean, you all know that I've stripped my pots down and rebuilt them to ensure that they were in perfect working order. But even so, with my original stick, when moving it the joystick analyser always showed a lot of jitter (I'm not talking about spiking now). But now, I can move my stick, and the cursor follows my movement exactly, with no jitter. The jitter associated with the throttle at certain positions of its movement has also vanished.

Hold the stick in one position? The cursor sits there stationary. Take my hands off the joystick and allow it to centre itself - the cursor sits in Foxy's joystick analyser dead centred and perfectly motionless. I honestly couldn't believe it. It just wouldn't move on its own, and when I moved the stick, it followed my movements exactly. Now, I'm sorry, but I've tried lots of joysticks out in my time, and I've never seen one behave this perfectly.

Go to Part II


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Last Updated November 1st, 1999

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