If there’s one thing the Raspberry Pi is good for, it’s breathing life into old hardware. Of all the projects we’ve covered involving vintage hardware, we’ve never seen something quite like this Raspberry Pi-powered tank simulator that YouTuber Tom Scott had the privilege of demonstrating in his recent video. This simulator was originally built in the 1970s but still works today thanks to a little help from our favorite SBC.
According to Scott, this is the last 1970s tank-driving simulator left in the world. The unit features a box in which users can sit with realistic controls that would be found inside the cockpit of an actual tank. The screen shows them what’s in front of the tank while the box is rigged to tilt and move in real-time to simulate the effects of driving a tank in the real world.
Most simulators today involve virtual worlds rendered with 3D assets, but that kind of technology didn't exist in the 1970s.
Instead, this simulator uses a model landscape — an actual, physical model landscape, located outside of the control box. The simulator controls a camera that moves through the model landscape, which is made up of roads, trees, and buildings. The terrain is far from smooth, and causes the box to shift around as obstacles are driven "over."
What’s impressive about this simulator is how much of the original hardware has been retained. Everything from the model, cockpit controls, and camera rig has been integrated into the restoration. The biggest change was the computer which has been replaced with a Raspberry Pi.
The Swiss Military Museum explained that sourcing components for the restoration made the process especially difficult. The Pi is able to handle functions that were previously implemented by boards that are no longer available or are otherwise extremely difficult to obtain. The Pi is responsible for sending input to the camera vehicle inside the model and registering responses for the control box.