This is a conversion question that has me stumped. I need to convert an unsigned char to a signed float. Some examples:
0xFF becomes 1.0f
0x00 becomes -1.0f
0x80 becomes ~0.0f
The only idea that I could come up with was a massive switch statement. But a switch statement will be slow and I need this to run fast. Any ideas?

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An unsigned char is just a regular unsigned integer going from 0 to 255. Just interpret it as a regular "number" and map 0 to -1.0 and 255 to 1.0 with a simple linear mapping:

unsigned char u;
  float f;
  f = float(u) / 127.5 - 1.0;

Perhaps have a look at this?

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