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Hardware / Software compatibility : What does it REALLY mean ?


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Hardware / Software compatibility What does it REALLY mean ?


We often hear questions such as : 


  • “This unit is an Airbus Throttle, so why isn’t it fully compatible with my Airbus addon ?” (TCA Throttle quadrant)
  • “Such an expensive piece of equipment should be directly compatible with the simulator” (Honeycomb Alpha & Bravo)
  • “The compatibility specifications says it is compatible with MSFS, but with my "xyz" addon for MSFS,
    the autopilot section of my throttle quadrant isn’t working.
    Is my throttle quadrant defective or is the compatibility advertisement lying ?” 
  • "My controls works with the "xxx" aircraft but not with the "yyy" aircraft.
    What is wrong with the controls ?
  • "I was asked to calibrate/check my throttle quadrant with the Windows JOYSTICK utility, but it
    is a THROTTLE, not a JOYSTICK !"


The answer is as follows :

Whatever the price or the purpose/shape/design/look of a USB control is, it is always the same product inside :
a set of potentiometers (or Hall sensors) and buttons connected to a USB board hooked to a computer.

That USB board is basically always the same : It send analog signals and ON/OFF signals to the computer.


See the Windows properties of Honeycomb Bravo and Thrustmaster TCA :
àExactly the same system !

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This means that, even if the knob of a button has the shape and look of an Airbus fuel cutoff,
it doesn’t mean that by “a magic trick” it will be recognized as such in the simulator.


It is nothing more than an ON/OFF contact that must be assigned to the corresponding function in the simulator.
See a detailed post here



So what are the potentials issues ?


- 1 - The simulator / addon combination doesn’t allow interface of a specific   
        For instance Controlling the Pitot heather may work with the stock aircraft in  
        MSFS but  not in an MSFS addon.
à However the device may still be considered as MSFS compatible !


- 2 - The type of button isn’t compatible with the way the simulator manages the
        incoming signal :

        For instance, if the device has an ON/OFF rocker switch labeled “Strobe  
        Lights “ but  the simulator only offers a toggle function for it, then, there will
        be an incompatibility  in signal structures between the hardware and the

        This has as concrete consequence that you need to cycle the rocker switch ON and OFF

        to switch the Strobe light ON and cycle the same rocker switch to switch the Strobe light OFF.

        This is the  “Edge / Level triggering difference”         
         Edge triggering : Pushbuttons
         Level Triggering : Rocker switches 

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 - 3 – The interaction between several devices connected to the computer.
          If you only have one joystick with 3 axes and 8 buttons, it is pretty simple.
          But if you use a yoke with buttons, a throttle quadrant with buttons, a
          rudder, a general purpose switch box, then there are potential conflicts
          between all those devices if ALL the buttons and ALL the axes are not
          correctly assigned.



This is how I call “Default assignments” and “Plug&Play” !
These are legacy of the ’90 when one only had one joystick with 3 axes and 6 buttons.
It made sense then to assign all of those to their respective functions in the simulator (Ailerons, Elevator, Rudder, Flaps, Trim for instance)


But nowadays, not only do we use 2, 3 or more devices together, but also they have 6 or 8 axes, and 32 or more buttons each.
So, the default assignments the simulator does isn’t reliable AT ALL as default assignments assume the device assigned is the only one in use !

This leads to conflictual commands and erratic behaviors in otherwise perfectly working devices and simulator.

So my advice to avoid these issue is as simple as it is radical :
Do NOT use the default assignments. Erase them ALL.

Then reassign all the axes and buttons one by one to your desire.
This may look like a time consuming task, but it will save even much more later !




Those are great of course !

But keep in mind they will not generate functions or features that do not exist in the simulator !
What they do is :
- Give access to internal functions and variable of a specific addon (L-vars, K-vars, Offsets, ...)

- Shape a signal (turn edge triggering into level triggering for instance)

- Allow some sort of programming with the available functions and variables


In no way they will do magic trick just because you install them.

Like the device itself, these programs do not contain any intelligence or feature not available in the simulator

The use of those programs add to the multiple assignments conflicts possibilities.

à If you assign a button or an axis somewhere, make sure it isn’t assigned  

     somewhere else !  
(For instance a buttons is assigned in a Configurator AND in the simulator at the same time : problems guaranteed)




Whatever their price, look, shape, color, brand, etc. control devices are dumb !

They just send ON/OFF’s and analog signals.
The brain is in YOUR head.

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