Analog control panels from sci-fi movies


The real spacecraft HMI is a little bit more tactile and intuitive.


As everybody who debugged a more elusive problem in digital circuitry knows better than they’d like to admit, there is no digital - there is only nonlinear analog.

Many mysteries become obvious when you start thinking in an analog way, when you realize that the clean, sterile logical levels are in fact messy and noisy and sticky and donottouchityoudon’tknowwhereitwas analog voltages, that independent signals can crosstalk each other into oblivion just by the virtue of going parallel to each other for long enough, that incorrectly terminated buses reflect the signals back only to add/subtract old data from new data, that light is nauseatingly slow and its speed on the wire depends on a myriad of variables and the same edge can arrive to the end of parallel lines at different moments.

Then you question yourself why you wouldn’t rather drive a garbage truck, that it’d stink less.


None of the interfaces are actually analog, with the exception of the batmobile and (arguably) the gamepod!


Very probably. According to lore, the Thinking Machines CM-2 and CM-5(below) were internally referred to as ‘Darth Vader Black’ in color. And they had more blinkenlights than lesser mortals could handle.



Unfortunately, the company more or less only existed because DARPA was throwing money at the area they served at that time, so they are pretty solidly dead now; but I’m not sure anyone has made more serious looking computers since.


Surely by ‘clean’ you mean ‘swap all the FRUs and then take a long shower’ in these cases, right?

I’m just glad that (almost) nobody (who I have to deal with) smokes near computers anymore. Tar + Grey IT Dust = pure evil.


I’ve got almost the complete run from about 1975 through the mid 80s up in my attic. Every time my parents moved I made sure my dad knew I wanted those saved! Fun reading. Interesting to get a feel for computer culture back before personal computers were much of a thing.


Nope. This was my equipment. First I cleaned them by disassembling the unit - undoing hundreds of screws, documenting the PCB interconnections, removing the control board, and rinsing the affected area with hot water. It seemed to work, but a few months later started to get flaky. The pee residue was somehow dissolving all of the many tactile switches. So I ordered those, disassembled the unit again, desoldered the old switches, cleaned it better (in acetone, IIRC?), and replaced them. It all took far too long, as I found more areas that cat pee had gotten to.


That’s downright harrowing.

The cost simply cannot be justified for most purposes; but there is a reason why the stainless steel keyboards intended for both vandal resistance and resistance to liquid ingress up to and including under power-wash conditions are so enticing…

That, and the usually-impractical-but-tempting “just pot the whole damn thing in the meanest epoxy available until it looks like a prop from 2001” strategy.




Also, I like this one. Arguably more analog than anything in the article:



The ones that are driven by clockwork and tensioned springs/descending weights/etc. I would still call “analog” even if they have a stepper for individual seconds. It’s only when they’re driven by binary electronics that they become truly digital.


I mean a stepper for minutes and hours, as well.

I don’t see how power source matters. A slowly-fading battery is as analog as springs/weights are.


What has always bothered me about the older Tardis console designs is that there is so little output. Lots of levers and buttons but hardly any lights, scales or screens. I guess if you are a Time Lord, you can just see the alternate futures corresponding to your possible inputs and decide which seems right.


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