Does any one know if the PFD or ND or any other screen on an commercial aircraft work like a computer or something else? Like does the screen work like a computer and read 0s and 1s like maybe for sensors for smoke it sends a particular amount of 0s and 1s to show on the screen there is a fire and have hard drives and graphic cards and all that stuff or do they work completely different?

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    $\begingroup$ They are essentially standard computers. They frequently run a custom OS, but run on fairly mainstream processors, and are programmed with typical low-level programming languages. $\endgroup$ – abelenky Feb 15 '18 at 1:09

All multi-functional displays in modern avionics are just computers. Typically, they are only responsible for presentation of the supplied information, but may do some processing: for example, display certain alerts in the right conditions. Also, they manage some of the user pilot input and mode switching.

G1000 PFD diagnostics page G1000 PFD diagnostics page

Nearly all the data comes in on digital bus(es), in aviation most commonly ARINC 429 or even Ethernet with a custom protocol.

Bare sensors either have a dedicated microcontroller that converts the readings to a digital format, or are connected to a dedicated processing unit (also a specialised computer), such as ADC (Air Data Computer) which collects and processes all the air-related data (airspeed, altitude, temperature, etc.)

Even then, typically, this semi-processed data don't go to displays directly. All the sensor data are collected by a sort of integration unit (e.g. GIA for Garmin systems), which does most of the processing and decision making. Then, the necessary information is relayed to the displays.

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  • $\begingroup$ Zeus so the Airbus ECAM system would be equivalent to what you said? $\endgroup$ – Gary Zenger Feb 15 '18 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ @GaryZenger, I'm not intimately familiar with it, but basically yes; my understanding is that ECAM is conceptually equivalent to GIA that I mentioned. $\endgroup$ – Zeus Feb 15 '18 at 4:23

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