Digital slot cars have changed the face of slot car racing. Still, some enthusiasts continue to prefer analog slot cars. For better or worse, adding a digital chip to a slot car changes several things about the hobby that slot car enthusiasts should consider before deciding whether to stick with analog slot cars or switch to digital.
Slot cars first raced across living room floors in 1912. The analog version familiar to many of us was introduced in the 1960s and dominated the world of slot car racing for 40 years until the first digital slot cars were introduced in 2004. While the new digital slot cars have been well-received by many because of the added possibilities they offer, there are some notable drawbacks that have kept other longtime enthusiasts at bay.
First, let's look at the primary advantage adding that chip gives a digital slot car over the analog version. With analog slot cars, enthusiasts are limited to racing one car per lane because the cars' motors receive power directly from the track. Placing more than one analog slot car on a single track causes each car on the track to respond to the other cars' controllers. This also divides power between cars. With digital slot cars, a chip intercepts the current and regulates the power transmitted to that particular slot car's engine. This allows each digital slot car to change lanes while being individually controlled.
Individual control opens up new options to digital slot car racers. Several slot cars can race on the same slot, allowing more digital slot cars to race than possible on an analog slot track. This allows for a truer race track or road racing feel. The digital chips can also be programmed to simulate pit stops, refueling and repairs. The chips also facilitate keeping track of laps and lap times, functions that analog slot tracks cannot perform for more than one car per slot.
The benefits of digital slot car racing aren't confined to the local slot track. Recent developments allow racers to compete on similar tracks from remote locations, using the Internet to compare times, run qualifying runs or even to race in real time against other drivers, fully integrating pit stops and other racing management options. Adding these digital and Internet options makes the slot car experience more like participating in a real race.
Despite the advantages of digital slot cars, there are some drawbacks. Digital cars and tracks are more expensive than analog. Analog slot cars don't work on digital tracks, so you will have to replace all of your cars if you make the switch. Also, digital slot cars and tracks from competing companies often don't function together, forcing you to either buy slot car products from a single company or invest in several systems that aren't compatible with one another. Despite these drawbacks, many slot car racers are making the shift to digital. Whether you choose digital or stay with analog, enjoy the race.