I have just arrived back from Ikea with a couple of boxes which will, when suitably hacked together, form the basis of a new "cockpit". It's not going to be anything spectacular, nor do I expect it to be long term, it's just going to be a cheap way to get me back to something comparable to the setup I had last year.
Basically, last year I had a standard 19" widescreen monitor and a computer desk with one custom keyboard mounted below the monitor and another above it.
At the start of the year, my main monitor started playing up, so I replaced it with a "spare" 38" TV. Using such a large screen for a desktop PC may be unusual, but it's bloody fantastic in practice. But unfortunately to facilitate this, I had to remove the upper shelving section of the desk (which was a little worn and rickety anyway). That means nowhere to attach the custom keyboards.
Now I'm not a great handyman, nor do I have a great selection of power tools available (Hot Glue Gun and a sander are about it) so doing it "properly" would represent a major investment. Plus at the moment I have no money coming in (zero, zilch, nought) so I can't afford to spend much if anything. But on the other hand, I did invest quite a bit in flightsimming last year which unless I start using it again would just be wasted money.
I was brainstorming this dilemma with a good friend the other day, and after looking at the options from RogerDodger Aviation and Sim Samurai (both do DIY cockpit plans) we started looking at the possibility of repurposing other furniture. We came up with this...
This is the Laiva desk from IKEA, their bargain basement desk product, selling for the sum of £10 each.
Now visualise this if you can - mount one Laiva on top of the other. The main screen (probably the 38" TV) will fit on the little shelf at the back of the upper desk. The lower custom keyboard mounted just below it, the overhead will be fitted to the horizontal bar across the top. If you're seeing what I'm seeing, then you'll understand why I use the name "Ghetto Flightsim Cockpit". It's not going to be terribly pretty, but it should be relatively simple to do and be functional, and at the same time if it doesn't work out or I replace it with something better sooner, it's only £20 wasted on firewood.
There are plenty of people who enjoy flightsimming on an entirely regular PC at a desk - some even play on a laptop and fly by keyboard controls. Others insist that the only way to do it is with a flight yoke and custom cockpit complete with real instrumentation. The truth is that we each find our own level of "realism" that we absolutely must have in order to enjoy the experience. For me, I'd gotten so used to the custom keyboards being placed where they were... reaching up for lights, fuel controls and anti-ice, reaching down for avionics and autopilot stuff... I honestly feel that going back to a single standard keyboard and worrying about what combination of Ctrl-Al-Shift keys I need to do something would spoil the experience for me. That's where I'm at now, and so that's what I need to reproduce to restart the flightsim hobby.
Maybe at some point in the future I'll wonder how I could ever go back to "playing" without the full array of physical switches and a rack of Saitek modules in my custom built enclosed cockpit.
But for now, the Ghetto Flightsim Cockpit Project is under way and will hopefully bear fruit in the next month or so. Watch this space.