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Using that old PC for DCC There are a number of people using PC's for DCC functions. Mike Brandt's DCC-MB controller web site (The DCC-MB Home Page) gives a number of good reasons for using a PC as a DCC controller. There's no reason why a PC can't be used for other DCC related applications.
DCC / RS-232 Interface The DCC / RS-232 interface converts the DCC data stream into a series 8-bit data bytes and transmits them to a PC's serial port. This is sort of the reverse of Mike Brandt's DCC-MB controller and allows the computer to work with standard data bytes. The basic interface uses 5 IC's to feed groups of 8 bits to a Universal Asynchronous Reciever/Transmitter (UART) which sends them in a standard serial data format. The DCC / RS-232 Interface Page will provide all the necessary information.
DCC Signal Monitor While working on the DCC / RS-232 interface and the preliminary software to decode the incoming DCC data I started using the WinSniffer program from DigiToys. While testing my software it slowly evolved into a DOS based version of WinSniffer, requiring the DCC / RS-232 interface rather than a sound card. Right now it's missing all the 'bells and whistles' which I hope to have finished in the next few weeks. The DCC Signal Monitor Software Page gives a full description of the monitor, the source code and the program.
Use a PC as a Multiple Accessory Decoder. I've used various digital input/output boards for other projects and like the capabilities for 'real world' control. With a serial interface to allow the computer to read the track signal, all turnout/signal control could be handled by one PC rather than by a large number of (expensive) accessory decoders.
I've found parallel input/output boards available for less than 75 cents per data line. With the expense of driver circuitry to provide either switching transistor or relay output it should be possible to a have a large number of outputs for less than $2.00 per output.
A few advantages of using an old computer as an Accessory Decoder:
- Low cost - (the real reason for this approach).
- Custom output circuits - Output drivers can be built for any purpose; turnout control, signal control or, even, 120vac lighting control.
- Group switching from a single decoder command - Unused decoder addresses can be used to control a table of decoder commands, allowing a single accessory decoder command to be used to setup routes, etc.
- Output status recording - A data file of the state of all outputs can be stored on disk, allowing all turnouts to be pre-positioned before an operating session. This could be useful to allow an operating session to continue from the previous session with a minimum of setup
The Accessory Decoder Software Page has a description of the operation, a few ideas for customizing decoder operation and, of course, the source code and programs.
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Copyright © 1999 Kenneth A. Jesser