Controls, Displays, and Workplace Design
John M. Reising Kristen K. Liggett U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory
Robert C. Munns Royal Air Force
Aircraft control and display (C/D) technology has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. The advent of compact, high-power, rugged digital devices has allowed the on-board, real-time processing of data electronically. The digital impact has allowed a major shift from electromechanical to electro-optical devices and has also had a far- reaching effect on the way in which C/D research is being conducted. Because electro-optical C/Ds are computer controlled and therefore multifunctional, there has been a shift away from experiments concerned with optimal arrangement of physical instruments within the cockpits, and an added emphasis placed on the packaging of the information that appears on the display surface. The reason for this shift is that multifunction displays can show many formats on the same display surface and portray the same piece of information in many different ways. Also, with the advent of such technologies as touch-sensitive overlays and eye control, the same physical devices serve both as control and display, blurring the previously held careful distinction between the two. The first section of this chapter discusses the history of cockpit technology from the mechanical era through the electro-optical era. Subsequent sections in this chapter discuss the impact and application of the new technology in the military environment.
The history of cockpit technology is divided into a number of different eras. For this chapter we chose three mechanization eras--the mechanical, electromechanical (E-M), and electro-optical (E-O), because they have a meaningful relationship to instrument design changes. Although we can, and do, discuss these as separate periods, the time boundaries are very vague, even though design boundaries are clear ( Nicklas, 1958). Mechanical instruments, of course, were used first. Nevertheless, the use of electromechanical instruments can be traced to the very early days of flight, around 1920.