Connecting external bells and switches - Overview
You can connect tower bells or 'dummy' handbells to the PC running Abel, allowing you to ring one or more bells with the simulator using a more realistic action than simply pressing keys on the keyboard. You can also ring all the bells for "silent practice", letting Abel make the bell sounds in your ringing chamber while not disturbing the neighbours. To do this, you attach sensors to the real bells or ‘dummy' handbells, and then connect these "external bells" to the PC running Abel, which responds to the signals sent by the sensors.
You can also connect external switches in a similar fashion, which you can use to make calls such as bobs and singles and to control starting and stopping the simulator remotely.
In most cases, you connect the bells and switches to the serial "COM" port(s) on your PC, either directly or using a concentrator device called the Multi-Bell Interface available from David Bagley. You can connect up to four bells or switches directly to a serial port, or up to twelve bells using the Multi-Bell Interface. Abel allows for connection of up to 16 external bells and up to 4 external switches. However, if you have only one serial port you will be limited to 4 connections (for example, 4 bells and no switches, or 2 bells and 2 switches) unless you use a Multi-Bell Interface.
Modern PCs don't have serial "COM" ports, and have USB ports instead. However, USB-to-serial converters are available that plug into a USB, and provide a serial (RS232, COM) socket, so it is still easy to connect external bells and switches.
Some bell sensors and switches may connect to the PC via their own USB "dongle": for example "Belfree" sensors. They still appear to Abel to be connected to a COM port, and you treat them in Abel just like any other sort of sensor or switch.
If you want dummy handbells, you can also use external motion controllers such as those available from ActionXL, which connect directly to a USB port, using Handbell Manager to make them work with Abel.
Note: there are a number of circuit diagrams in this section – we recommend that you print these pages if you plan to build sensors to any of these designs.
WARNING - if you connect dummy handbells or tower bell sensors to the serial ports of your PC you do so entirely at your own risk! COM port (RS-232) definition specifies voltages of +/- 3 to 15 volts for high/low signals (though 0v usually works for low input signals). Sensor hardware must be able to cope with those voltages on output signals such as RTS, and provide voltages in those ranges for input signals.
Click on one of the options below to find out more about connecting external bells to Abel: