So finally the day dawns that the multi-computer cockpit is about to see the light of day. The master computer has been assembled and 5 slave computers for the external views are all ready to be installed.
Suddenly you realize that each slave computer needs its own mouse and keyboard.
While it is quite technically possible to run the slave machines as “headless” computers (i.e., without keyboard or mouse), in actual practice that is not really feasible. Sometimes the slave machines need re-booting or tweaking, often they need some sort of attention and that means keyboard and mouse access.
So each machine needs a permanently connected mouse and keyboard, but where to locate them? Five keyboards take up an considerable amount if space – and just imagine all the extension wiring!
The “Master” computer really needs to be connected to it’s keyboard and mouse via cable for performance reasons, so this will to a large extent determine the physical position of the PC housing because the keyboard and mouse needs to be very easily accessible from the pilot’s seat.
The “Slave” computers have less restrictions. The solution is to get cheap wireless combination keyboards, mice and “unifiying transcender” (called “wireless desktops” in the computer industry) which will eliminate the cabling problem and will do just fine since keyboard and mouse performance is not an issue on a slave machine. They just need to be the simplest smallest units without any programmable keys or buttons.
OK, that means we now have 5 keyboards and mice which need to be accessible. They don’t have to be within reach of the pilot or co-pilot’s seat but they do have to be in visual sight of the monitors.
The obvious thought is to have all the keyboards stacked in a sort of cupboard out of the way and when needed the appropriate keyboard or mouse is fished out and operated when sitting in the pilot’s seat. This idea actually doesn’t work so well because all the keyboards and mice are identical in appearance and they get mixed up. Colour coding doesn’t help much either.
After much trial and error over the years, I have found that the ideal position seems to be when each keyboard and mouse is located out of the way above the pilot’s head, so that they can be operated when standing up, and physically positioned so that it is obvious which keyboard works with which screen.