Simulate driving a 1970s tank with Raspberry Pi

Lots of you flagged up this video by Tom Scott, showcasing a 1970’s-era tank simulator that Switzerland used to train their military.

Look how happy driving a tank around a model village makes him!

Why did they flag it up? Because, while the majority of the original simulator remains in tact, the computer powering everything was too old to find replacement parts for, so a Raspberry Pi was subbed in. Now visitors to the Swiss Military Museum, where the simulator lives, can drive a tank around a model village.

More about the tank simulator

Its proper name is the Panzer 68 driving simulator (FASIP). There are tonnes of brilliant photos, plus details about all the other upgrades made during the restoration process on the museum’s website. Shout out to museum staff Gerold Handschin, Michael Salathé, and René Demarmels, who did most of this work.

tank simulator
The model village tank driving trainees practice on

It took them several days to translate the original paper-based computer program into a modern language for the Raspberry Pi. The simulator’s camera, screen and some site lighting also needed replacing.

tank simulator

Simulators are *how* old?

I am an insufferable millennial who believes no useful technology could possibly have been invented before the year MSN Messenger launched, so I was surprised to see simulators employed in the 1970s to teach tank driving. I dug a little deeper (Ed: she googled it for 15 seconds) and found out how long simulations have been training people.

The first flight simulator was invented in (insert mind blown emoji) 1929?! Blue Box was revolutionary in enabling trainees to experience dangerous flying situations in a safe environment. It could “reproduce settings of various levels of complexity, which allows pilots with different levels of skills to achieve flight expertise.” These things work, people. I’m pretty sure I could successfully fly a fighter jet thanks to upwards of eight thousand hours spent playing WipEout in the early 2000s.

12 comments

Paul Byford avatar

See also Langham Dome, where anti-aircraft gunners were trained in WW2.

Ashley Whittaker avatar

Googles…

Jongoleur avatar

The tank trainer looks wonderful!

The flight simulator was mainly known as the “Link Trainer”, after its inventor and manufacturer. “Blue Box” was a US nickname.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Link_Trainer#%22Blue_Box%22

Ashley Whittaker avatar

Your actual knowledge trumps my Googling here 👍

Len Samuelson avatar

At age 12 or 13, (1969 or 1970) my family visited The Franklin Institute (a museum of science and technology In Philadelphia Pennsylvania, USA), where they had a Link Trainer. After standing in an interminable line, I got a 2-minute lesson in humility and the skill of the pilots of that time… The “fighters” were far less responsive than I expected, and I could barely control it, much less shoot down the “enemy”. Much Much respect to the people who took on those roles then!!

thagrol avatar

It wasn’t just tanks. Flight simulators used models and cameras back before they were computerised.

Rod Hart avatar

I worked on the USAF Link C11c flight trainers back in early 60s. They were analog computers.

Kevin avatar

Tom Scott did actually make a video featuring the blue box flight simulator. Sadly, no Raspberry Pi in that one (at least as far as I remember!)

mohamed Fezari avatar

Interesting simulator more details can be found in https://www.festungsmuseum.ch/fasip/

Philip McGaw avatar

Could we get more technical information about this please?

I would love to know more about the hardware interface and integration between the RPi and the simulator.

Stephen Martin avatar

Ok, I know what I want for Christmas!
Honestly this is the coolest thing. Back in the 1960’s my father, who was a commercial pilot, got me some seat time in one of those Link trainers. It was a real challenge because you flew by instruments with the lid closed, no view of the world. A decade later he was training new pilots for jets in Denver with what was at the time the most advanced flight simulators in the world: https://youtu.be/jLOIoS5sJ4E

Ashley Whittaker avatar

Time for a trip to Switzerland perhaps?.. (There is no tank emoji, my apologies.)

Comments are closed