THE THREE DREAMS OF RADIO CONTROL
To enjoy the history of radio control it is not necessary to be an electronics expert. Anyone who flies, drives or sails models can appreciate this electronic revolution by reference to the Three Dreams of Radio Control. Here they are, told from the perspective of model airplanes.
DREAM ONE – ANY CONTROL
Long before humans took to the skies themselves, they flew model airplanes. For over a century (and continuing today) people have launched models which they spent considerable time and money on only to watch them head toward a tree, an object or out of sight. At that moment they experienced the first dream – “If only I had some control; I don’t care if it’s left, right or other – any control at all might save the day”.
This dream lead to the development of single channel radios; typically controlling only rudder by means of rubber band powered escapements or motorized servos.
DREAM TWO – MULTI
Over the years flyers yearned for more controls to be able to do more of the things that real airplanes do, especially aerobatics.
This dream lead to various multiple controls coaxed from single or multiple channels and culminated in reliable reed systems.
DREAM THREE – PROPORTIONAL
Dreams one and two usually involved all or nothing or “bang bang” type control. When the button or lever was pressed on the ground the rudder or other control surface would proceed to deflect to the limit of its travel. Many pilots dreamed of the day the transmitter would have a control stick and the control surface would move only to the degree the stick was moved by the pilot, “just like a real plane”.
This third dream, proportional control, was first realized by skillful blipping or pulsing of control buttons, then mechanical or electronic pulses then increasingly sophisticated analog and digital systems.