Thanks for coming back 'yall.
Another 'photo courtesy Dulcea. Tommy seemed to take forever to actually get down that damn conduit.
Zordon's Dino setup has his Rangers running M2A Armor most of the time - it has a much fatter profile on them but does the same job as the much thinner (and more common) XLPFE like my own Metalder test armor.
Arguement over which type is best has raged since the earliest of days.
Zord cockpit design is as much art as it is technology. This is because the Mutual Understanding functions of Rangers are seated mainly in the parts of their brain that deal with feelings and creativity rather than with control. It's my job to make sure that they feel absolutely comfortable in here. They need to trust this thing like they trust their own mother.. or perhaps even more.. like they trust each other. The slightest panel out of place and their confidence (and changestep rate) suffers.
Initially I built Aisha's upper position (as pictured) the same as Adam's. After spending some time with her later though (back in Angel Grove, actually) I quickly learned that for her, this arrangement would be less than useless. Aisha has this personality which seemed to demand that I give her at least one non-multiplexed control - something darn simple. Something she could use to really kick butt.
And so born was the idea of Aisha's Kick Butt switch.. which I initially placed alongside Tommy's lefthand checkblock. It was nothing more than a large "break glass" switch that I literally had lying around in the shed at home.
BANG! The blasted thing fused nearly every backfeed into the Canax processor on Aisha's side.
It turned out that I had done just about everything wrong by linking it through Tommy's fractional limiter (initially it had been the easiest thing to do). Fine. I moved it to it's new (and final) position on Aisha's left, where it takes the place of one of her repeater checkblocks which she didn't need anyway because Adam's got one.. The whole new panel associated with it is non-multiplexed, and it turned out to be just what she wanted. The photo left shows it in it's final resting place above Yellow Ranger's left hand only seconds after she had activated it to knee Ivan.
Ninjor was devastated. He had opposed changing the layout from the start, and argued with me continuously about it, almost to the point that he was going to bring in another Maker to take my place. But Dulcea wouldn't have a word of it, and they settled it together while I got back to work.
I've always been happy with a bit of good'ole Earth technology in my zords, especially when it's my own species at the helm. And it's good to know it paid off!
So I thought nothing more of it. The plan was that she, or any of the others if they so wished, could assign a preset zord instinct to the special system at a moments' notice which would be absolutely impossible for anyone to detect (even me) outside of the cockpit. No mutual understanding, nothing. Something totally human, in this world of Ka-Plan mechanoidia.
Pity it didn't work. Up until then I had taken the entire Megazord on two very successful runs. (well, successful for a NinjaMegazord being piloted by a human maker in a half finished Metalder morph, at a changestep of about two... even Dulcea laughed at my first try, and Ninjor was.. well.. laughing like a ninjor.) The first run was literal, I didn't even leave the ground and just ran the completed zord around Neola North, and knocked the top off a hill which Dulcea later identified as some sacred burial site. The second time I ventured all the way home.. well almost.. checking that all the zords could teleport themselves that far for Zordon's Rangers and also to land it on the dark side of our own moon and use Wolf's blaster to scribe "Pink Floyd Rulz" in the dirt before Zordon noticed. Everything worked fine. This third time was going to be the final.. initial.. test.
Anyway, let's get back down to business. As I said, the hardest part of rebuilding the Phaedian NinjaZords was redesign of the Monkey, which forms the centre of the Megazord. Traditionally the cockpit of any zord is always placed in the head. However the Ninja Monkey's head only has a very small cavity in which it's controller can fit, which is way too small for a human. We completely redesigned the Monkey so that the cockpit would fit in the chest. Although the forward view is limited, the Ranger pilot is given a stronger link with the zord through use of complex Mutual Understanding (m.u.) displays using some remarkedly old fashioned technology for Zords - Cathode Ray Tubes. The Monkey has no less than three, and Megazord has four. Each of the other NinjaZords were also modified to include one.
The displays can transmit data to the Ranger four times faster than the traditional Checkerboard Displays used in most Ka-Plan constructions. This is due to interlacing - the ability to overlay four different displays at the same time to the Ranger in the cockpit.
Interfacing the old CRT's to KaPlan technology and making them rugged enough for Zord operation was also a big challenge.
In this interior shot of the Monkey Cockpit (taken in the hangar at Phaedos just after testing) you can see all the basic elements of a typical Zord control station.
In the foreground are four Ka-Plan AMFD's (Analog Motor Function Displays, two per side). These communicate to the morphed Ranger the position of the Zord relative to other fixed items around it, like a radar. When morphed they appear as a Heads Up display in the helmet and any slight turn of one's head will alter the perspective depending on which display you are looking at. Position and distance are given in analog perspective. There is no digital conversion.
The hand joysticks are not always provided in Zord cockpits as hand movement does not control the zords. Usually joysticks are included for the not totally rediculous reason of giving humanoid Rangers something to grab onto. They can allocate functions to them using the output mode controls (triangular panel direftly in front of the dashboard). They are used mostly for tactile feedback in four legged zords, and for weapons control.
One of the most frustrating things about any Megazord Cockpit is.. getting into it... that is unless you teleport into it as a morphed Ranger, which is the normal way. For us Makers though, Climbing is usually the order of the day, coupled with banging heads on all manner of ceiling ornaments and dashboards.
Alot of Megazord Cockpits do away with the Teleportation and instead use a series of mechanical transformations (similar to the Megazord's own transformation) to such the Rangers out of their individual zords and deposit them in the central cockpit. These however are space - hungry and rarely used in megazords as small as the Ninja or Dino set.
Teleportation within a Zord is frowned upon by some Mentors because it can be intercepted by the enemy easily (well.. that's what they think..). However in practice it's almost impossible to do in the middle of a battle if the zord's security functions have been matched to the Ranger's physical DNA patterns properly.. as they should always be.
Left is a better image of the completed Black Ranger position on the Ninja Megazord. You can clearly see the two power flow readouts below the checkerboard, and below them the triangular joystick function controls. However below these is something unique to a Megazord setup - an Analog Foot Position Coupler. These do not provide any information to the Rangers themselves but only to the Morphed Armor they wear, translating to nervous system instinct only. In short, it makes the Ranger feel like they themselves are the Megazord, instead of just sitting in a cockpit controlling it. They are the most advanced Ka-Plan display in the cockpit, and are an absolute bastard to calibrate. I spent what must have been weeks in Morphed Mode trying to come to grips with these damn things.
At the top (above the checkerboard) are two panels controlling communications and the teleporters and next to them, the analog input controls. These are used when the other motional feedback systems in operation between Ranger and Zord fail (such as if a major explosion was to occur inside the cockpit). It allows the ranger to retain some control over the zord while the teleporters repair the damage done to the primary controls.
Below these are the (new) CRT displays which essentially do the same job as the Checkerboards but using serial multiplex (interlace) technology - useful because it's almost impossible that both systems would fail simultaneously. Below this again is one of the Weapons control panels and finally, the
Joystick panel which sports the high speed Read Write controls aswell.
The remaining controls are multiplexed read write (i.e. they can be reading data to the Ranger at the same time as he / she is using them to write completely different data). These are commonly used for controlling functions specific to the zord concerned, and they vary from zord to zord. Other important readouts include the Power Flow displays, which are circular colour wheels with triangular "pie" segments. They are multiplexed displays giving condition of powerflow around the Zord and the Weapons systems and in the case of the NinjaZords, the power supplies themselves which can be the Morphing Grid (known as MKA), Solar (Posanten), Matter Energiser (Electrical) and reverse flow TIAR. The displays appear five dimensional to the morphed Ranger and give an exact representation of what supply is providing what, where it is going and how much is left, aswell as any matter / energy conversion going on or bypasses that have been initiatted either by the Ranger or as part of the formation of Megazord.
In the Megazord there are two such displays for four of the Rangers. The long boxlike panels that appear in all zords (square segments, round buttons) are used almost exclusively for control of the weapons systems but can just as easily be used for control of the zord itself although the spped is lower. In the photo to the left you can see the White Ranger's panel in initialise mode. He has three at his disposal and uses them to communicate only strategy to the Zord. They are all classic Ka-Plan multiplexed displays.
Another thing which needs constant consideration in especially the Megazord Cockpit is artificial gravity. In the photo to the left you may notice the absence of the EGG nodes (Electronic Gravatron) which usually sit up high above the monitors, which were not yet fitted when I carried out the first test. This resulted in me being flung about the cockpit very easily - it is truly amazing how you don't notice something so basic missing until you try and test without it in place!
In the photo to the right you can see a shot of the classic Ka-Plan Checkerboard m.u. display, a Ranger's lifeline between them and Megazord's every movement. These can communicate 5 dimensional analog images (earthlings would probably call it virtual reality) which appear in front of the morphed Ranger's helmet visor. Unlike the AMFD, these are digital in nature and rely heavily on the Ranger's own armor m.u. to decypher the data and turn it into something the Ranger can understand. This is different for every Ranger (not unlike a fingerprint) and is very hard to test. You can imagine why I was so worried when Zordon's Rangers took this out against Ivan without even one test first.
To the Right is a photo of the Pink Rangers' small display panel. As center front, it is Pink Ranger's job to follow strategy in very close concert wth Centre Back (White) Ranger. Pink has an almost uninterrupted view of the main battle concentration, and she communicates her feelings and reactions using m.u. to the Zord (and thus the other Rangers). Pink is the Megazord's eyes. Her panel is a highspeed Ka-Plan repeater of White Ranger's with an important extra - the digital feedback display, also multiplexed. The other Rangers can use this to communicate back to her what they want to see (and what the Megazord wants to see), filtering out extraenuous information just like we filter out unwanted conversation in a crowded room. You will notice that the Joysticks are not installed yet - such is their unimportance at this position. They are rarely used unless all the other Rangers are busy (or incapacitated, or otherwise missing..) and movement of the zord is urgently required.
Megazords are usually built for three, five or six pilots. In some rare cases the pilots aren't even in the zord - they're kept out of harms way in a remote control centre. In the NinjaZord formation, the White (Centre Back) Ranger forms strategy and effectively "leads" the group. The Pink (Centre Front) Ranger is in constant (I could almost say intimate because psychologically that's what it feels like.. but I'm sure I would get into trouble foir using such a controversial; description for humans in a megazord) contact with White, and carries out the instructions with the assistance of the other four Rangers who monitor all remaining aspects of the Zord and actually move it.
One problem I had with the NinjaZord was that Ninjor wanted it to be operable in battle without the White Ranger present. This meant severing the traditional "Monogamous Head" scheme which the NinjaZord was intended to use. With White absent, Pink Ranger in this new arrangement is coupled to Blue and Yellow Rangers who jointly handle strategy, in turn pushing more work onto Red and Black Rangers.
So there you have it. The NinjaZords - from concept to completion - well that is we shouldn't remember they originally were made my the Nathadians for Phaedos. It's not uncommon for Ranger teams to "turn over" (i.e. replace their powers and zords) especially when a different enemy is encountered. The Order of the Meledan have always been good at sharing and sharing alike.