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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
DCC has many positive aspects. It's widely adopted, there's a healthy market of products by many different vendors and so forth.

But to me it seems ancient and in need a technology refresh. One issue I have is it appears married and closely coupled to sending signals over the track. In our increasingly wireless world, this seems a little out of place.

Then commands themselves are codes and not defined in an abstract way -- there's no "bell command" -- there's just command/function-code F8. But this is not an official bell command, this is just how industry has self organized. And so as one expands out into ever more function codes, there's going to be less commonality among vendors. If the command set was abstract, the mapping to codes could be done in independent manner.

Well those are just some of the reasons I think it's antiquated. Which isn't to say I'm not a happy enough user of the thing. It's has many strengths: it's a standard, no one vendor owns it, there's lot of products and many hobby projects for it out there.

What do you think?
 

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I don’t even have DCC yet, so I am ancient vice antiquated. I am looking forward to this discussion for sure !
 

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well, in some ways yes, it's antiquated, but it does work, and work rather well for what it is ..
i did recommend an improvement, not in the DCC structure itself, but in the way power was sent to the locomotives primarily .. but it received zero support, lol ..
i do detest cleaning track which was the main reason for the change....
 

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Doesn't NMRA set standards for DCC?

I agree with what you're saying. Kind of like how MTH has their own version of digital control. So at least DCC has some standards that helps to be sure that functionality is the same within the DCC world.

Wireless would add a bit of bulk to the circuitry inside a loco, and would likely just replace the signal from the tracks to one that is sent/received over Bluetooth or WiFi. The end result is the same underlying codes and their meanings.
 

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Doesn't NMRA set standards for DCC?
Yes; although they basically adopted the original Lenz spec. But this open specification allows all DCC manufacturers to conform to an interoperable standard. That standardization is what allowed DCC to be become what it is. Otherwise, every manufacturer would have their own proprietary and incompatible system.

You do see some alternative systems to DCC, like the MTH DCS, or RailPro, etc. but each of these is totally proprietary.
 

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Then commands themselves are codes and not defined in an abstract way -- there's no "bell command" -- there's just command/function-code F8. But this is not an official bell command, this is just how industry has self organized. And so as one expands out into ever more function codes, there's going to be less commonality among vendors. If the command set was abstract, the mapping to codes could be done in independent manner.
While there's no body to enforce this, there are some widely accepted standards for the functions.

0 is the headlight, [on sound units] normally 1 is the horn, and 2 is the bell, and 8 is mute sound/shutdown/startup.

My NCE controlled has "Headlight" "Horn" and "Bell" buttons, which are basically just programmed to trigger function 0, 1, or 2 since those are the accepted functions to activate those features.

You're right there's little standardization for other functions, but also many decoders even allow users to re-map some of the functions, and custom lighting functions depend on the decoder install.

On another forum, there was a thread where a poster (after standardizing all his functions) added a stick-on overlay to his throttle's keypad indicating which feature lined up with each F#, as a visual reference to show which feature that button would be controlling.
 

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Wireless isn't impossible. MRC and XL Systems both have wireless remotes for some of their decoders. No reason that couldn't be adopted industry wide and controls become wireless instead of over the rail.

Yes, these are full DCC decoders and work with standard DCC controllers OR the remote. I have several and they are great. Basically you get an extra throttle but it's dedicated to a specific locomotive.

I think that technology in combination with full color touch displays are the future of DCC. Most controllers, while digital, seem to be stuck in the 1980s and are grossly over priced in my opinion. The technology is not complex. Programming decoders is FAR simpler with a phone or computer app than any of the overpriced boxes on the market now.

So yes, it does need a refresh. The tech is out there, just not in use widely.

Sent from my SM-G781U using Tapatalk
 

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While there can be wireless digital control or some other
'fawuncy' technology, there remains the fact that you must
have clean rails, clean wheels and all wheel power pickup
for good juice to the motor and lights. Maybe some of you
techies can look into the classic Tesla wireless power distribution system.

Don
 

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While there can be wireless digital control or some other
'fawuncy' technology, there remains the fact that you must
have clean rails, clean wheels and all wheel power pickup
for good juice to the motor and lights. Maybe some of you
techies can look into the classic Tesla wireless power distribution system.

Don
That's also possible, but I don't know how reliable it would be on a moving train. Many cell phones have wireless charging now.

Sent from my SM-G781U using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I think I heard that Samsung? remotes as in tv are going to recharge by wifi floating about. Which is on the one hand kinda cool but on the other a little disturbing.

Ok here's my list for what I like about dcc.

  • Broadly adopted, big market, lots of choices
  • simple enough that a hobbyist can make a functioning base station with cheap readily available electronic parts and software
  • similar for a homebrew basic decoder
  • tons of open source I guess we'll call it, projects even I can get working...

So that's the good list!
 

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Old or antiquated I will grant you, but not obsolete or even obsolescent. There are so-called dead rail systems, and trains that receive commands entirely by Bluetooth. The reason they haven't really taken off is that DCC, in more or less it's original format, still works perfectly well. I'm certainly not about to run out and buy some fancy new system, and replace all the decoders in 14 locos, when what I have serves my needs very well. I don't LIKE cleaning track, but I knock it out in about 15 minutes when I need to, so it's not something that sucks the joy out of the hobby. Installing tech just because the tech is available isn't necessarily an improvement. Touchscreens in cars are fine when you're parked, but when I'm bouncing down the road at a nice clip, I want a nice button I can push, or a knob I can turn.
 
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But you’re not bouncing down the road when you are operating your layout, so that example is not even close to being relevant to the discussion…. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
But I agree if dcc is ever going to be revamped, it would need some compatibility maintained. Or some kind of way to not require all the decoders to be replaced.

My thinking though is more to do with architecture.

To me the track signals, the packaging of a command over that and the actual commands could be seperated...

That way one might be able to more easily move to say wireless or heck whatever the latest thing is... To send the commands themselves.

To the end user it would just mean maybe even more options ... Without a huge lift in new cabs at least to say change from track to wireless. In fact you might be able to mix and match more products.

Commands would be abstract and there'd be a dictionary I guess ... Well a list. The list would grow over time perhaps and users or vendors could add their own.

That means you send "bell ring 3s, loco bigsteam7" for sake of illustration. (Note: a button, an icon, a something sends this)

This is converted to an appropriate and efficient and error correcting package or packet, then it's sent over the track or through the air as these are designed.

See everything split up, abstraction for people, common computer friendly representation of it, then different hardware transportations as is desired, etc...

But but but... Maintaining some kind of compatibility or transition or something to existing...

I hadn't thought about that at all... And that's a really good point.
 

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Yes DCC is antiquated. It was developed in the early 1990's, back when computer technology was much more ancient and less user friendly. If you want to check out something more modern, look into RailPro by Ring Engineering (Ring Engineering RailPro). I don't have any RailPro equipment myself, but I've read a lot about it and it seems really cool. Some model railroad clubs use it. One nice thing about it besides the simplicity is that locomotives in a consist communicate with each other over wireless (Bluetooth or something, can't remember), so you don't need to speed match. I'm too invested now into DCC to get into it and the sound options are more limited I think. Plus it is not an open standard, but it is a nice example of what could be if DCC was revamped.
 

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I'm not in agreement with the "abstract" comment.

Commands are sent as just that, a command for a numbered function. The decoder designer/programmer is responsible for deciding what a given command does. The framework to do whatever you want is there. Could it use some standardization? Maybe. That's where I think your argument is. Moving this to wireless is still just the same argument.

I also think the NMRA standards may have failed to keep pace with the developments and that's where your getting hung up. Manufacturers have started branching out beyond the standard which leads to incompatibilities, at least on some level, usually for advanced features.

If anything the future in dead rail is for maybe HO and anything larger, but current battery technology is not going to get you far with N scale. Lithium is just not energy dense enough to get meaningful run time from an N scale locomotive while leaving enough room for decoders, speakers, drivetrain, and the all important weights. I don't see N scale getting away from at the very least power being delivered through the tracks.

And being powered through the tracks is NOT a bad thing. It brings advantages such as unlimited run time and block detection (even modern prototype railroads use some voltage in the rails for detection).

One thing I would like to see more of is like Chris has suggested. Commands being issued wirelessly to both locos and stationary decoders. Moving to wireless commands for locos we could eliminate the need for onboard storage of a lot of data. Why keep the sound package on the loco when we have the bandwidth to just send it the sounds from the command station or computer?

Wireless stationary decoders could be really easy to set up. If we use a Digitrax layout for example there is no reason that you couldn't have everything on Loconet be wireless rather than run Loconet cables all over. Granted its the least of the wiring demons, but its one that isn't necessary. Think of moving all your pushbuttons and panel LEDs to a wireless module that talks to your stationary decoders. In theory you could be down to just track power and an accessory bus.

A real world example. I work with heavy winter plow/sand trucks, we are constantly battling electrical problems due to salt corrosion, ice tugging on wires, etc. Lately the trend has been to move as much of the intra-module communications to wireless, this means only running power and hydraulics to each unit. Slide in sander box? No problem, two hydraulic lines, a single 12V connection, and a wireless controller in the cab suction cupped to the window and you're ready to go. No more running 20+ control lines for lights, chain speed sensors, multiple hydraulic lines. Its all one module sealed and connected wirelessly to the cab.
 

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This is 2 first 2 paragraphs copied from the NMRA web site. Quit complaining about DCC and get involved in the development of LCC. OpenLCB Needs your input.
Layout Command Control® (LCC)

Layout Command Control
Model railroaders expect a lot from the electronics on their layouts. They want to automate accessories, simplify operation of their staging yards, have fine control over layout lighting, and build realistic dispatcher panels. Home and club layouts are getting more detailed and complicated, and existing electronics for control systems are having a hard time keeping up.
Layout Command Control Development
The process of developing networks and protocols for layout control are not trivial. No small group of individuals are able to fully develop the necessary code, protocols and the like to sucessfully impliment the concept of having complete, integrated control of a layout, be it a simple 4 by 8 foot sheet of plywood to a large complex, multi-deck masterpiece. Using the current open source development process, a group named OpenLCB has stepped up to take on this task. You can find the details of their work, process, organization and even how to participate on their development process at their website located at: https://openlcb.org/. OpenLCB is developing the Standards and providing Technical Notes to support those Standards that will be used in the development of hardware to control a layout.
 

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  • dcc is old, but what offers significant new features or reduces $$$
  • the NMRA accepted the Lenz design; who has a breakthrough solution today?
  • LCC offers features that are unneeded even on large layouts
  • wireless communication makes 2-way communication easier but adds circuitry and does not address how power is supplied

  • newer technology can improve command station and user interfaces
  • the railcom dcc 2-way communication features is still not fully developed
  • 2-way communication allowing load (BEMF) feedback makes possible throttles that control acceleration (speed) based on train length and grade
 

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DCC -- as a control system -- is not so much "antiquated" as are many of the control systems still being marketed, particularly in the USA.

DCC is "a standard". Until it's replaceable with "a NEW standard", all the other "alternate" systems will remain on the outside, looking in, coming into being, and then fading away. Look at MTH's "DCS". How did that do?

Things like "dead rail", direct wifi control (not via dcc), bluetooth, etc. are all doomed to failure, because (again) there is no "standard", no "universality" or "commonality" between them.

If you look at what the Europeans have done with dcc, it's far more up-to-date.
More flexible.
More "customizable".

For an example of this, let's consider what Severn wrote:
"there's no "bell command" -- there's just command/function-code F8"

Not if one uses something like the Roco z21 or Digikeijs DR5000 systems (I reckon there might be one or two others out there that are similar).

The bell becomes whatever I wish to assign it to be -- any "number", or actually no particular "number" at all (at least that I can see on my control surface), but rather an "icon" -- and I can even choose that.

Look at the pic.
Without knowing the "f key number", can you tell which are the headlights?
The number boards?
The long horn?
The short horn?
The bell?
The mute button?
Audio equipment Font Computer Gadget Screenshot

These controls that you see above are not "fixed".
I created them myself -- choosing my own icons, f number, etc.
I can even reposition them to appear in any order I wish.

And I can do this independently for every locomotive in the fleet.

The American manufacturers need to pull their control interface designs from the 1990's into the present, as the Europeans have done. User-customizable interfaces, wifi, etc.

It's not dcc that is the problem.
It's the stultified human interfaces that are hobbling it and holding it back.
 

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But you’re not bouncing down the road when you are operating your layout, so that example is not even close to being relevant to the discussion…. ;)
It's an example of a technological advance that does not improve over the basic, older generation technology, so it's not only relevant but dead on the mark. I'm sorry if that's too complicated for you.
 
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