EPIC (Extended Programable I/O Card)


It's impact on the home built cockpit market has been of epic proportions, so I guess the name is well earned.

A cockpit - even home built ones - contains hundreds of switches and buttons, LED's, relays, 7-segment displays and rotaries. An I/O card is the interface between the computer running the flight simulation software and the physical cockpit.

Example 1:

If a lever in the cockpit is moved, an electrical contact is closed. The I/O card senses this input and sends an output, either to the PC that it is connected to (a keyboard button press or a memory offset), or to another EPIC card (to light a LED or change the numbers on a 7-segment display).

Example 2:

The FMC auto-tunes the NAV radios. The moment it does so, the physical displays must change to the new frequency. The I/O card can be programmed to monitor this frequency change in Flight Simulator (via so called "Pigeon Holes") and reset the 7-segment displays in the radio whenever it detects a change. It could also be programed to play a sound or switch on an LED at the same time.

What output the I/O card should produce (or which state changes in Flight Simulator it should monitor) must be defined in a file. EPIC uses its own programming language EPL. It is similar to C+ and gives the programmer complete freedom of design. It is actually possible to programm your own logic into the panels of your simulator, thus expanding it's capabilities and the degree of realism beyond the flight simulation software it is based upon.

 

Actually, in its latest version EPIC is not an ISA card anymore - it is now an USB device.

To the left is a shot of what you get when you buy the USB Epic. At least, if you order it in the US - European buyers settle for a PCB and EPROM only and have to buy the case and an EEPROM (needed for updating the firmware) separately.

Unfortunately, the card is not the only item you need to put on your shopping list. By itself, it actually isn't good for much. To make it usable, you also need the Expansion Module, and - depending on your needs - several other modules.

The Files section of this site contains my EPIC files. Almost every line of code is commented, so the files can be used as a reference for those who start experimenting with the EPIC programming language. Extensive references on the hardware side of EPIC can be found in the excellent EPIC Manual by Johnny Martin (PDF-Format, 1,75Mb).