We Didn’t Need a Meade
A Telescope Story
by Julia A. Keirns
First of all, let me make it quite clear that I knew nothing about telescopes thirty years ago. I still don’t today. Purchasing a telescope was something I never would have done.
One day as we were walking through the mall, three young kids in tow, we ventured into a camera store “just to look.” The kids were all wound up that day and would not settle down. (I must have fed them too much sugar.) The store was Ritz Camera at Glenbrook Mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We knew we couldn’t afford to buy anything but wanted to look around. The next thing I heard was a loud “crash!” When you are in a semi-expensive store with three wound up kids, the last thing you want to hear is a “crash.”
Sure enough, they had knocked over a telescope. But not just any telescope, it was an expensive telescope. My stomach almost threw up, my blood pressure shot sky high and I think I felt faint. I had visions of hundreds of dollars floating in my head. The store attendant did not even touch the telescope or look at it, she just immediately got on the telephone and called the manager. Without even checking it out, the manager said we had to purchase it. We could see that there was one tiny plastic piece broken, but hey, that could be superglued right? The manager said the lenses inside were quite fragile, and a fall like that would most definitely cause damage to a lens or break one. So, reluctantly we bought a telescope.
We forked out $288.95 that day and went home with a Jupiter Telescope by Meade. Specifically, a Meade Digital Electronic 60 mm Refracting Telescope. (My children are actually still alive by the way.)
We got this thing home, set up and put together. They had to “completely” disassemble it at the store and package it up in the original box. They would not let us take it home the way it was. We had to buy it “as it was.” I think we should have been able to take it home “as it was.”
The directions were okay. Not really all that simple. It was a little difficult and tedious I thought, but we managed it. It really was a pretty neat telescope. Much better than what some of our friends currently had. It came with several components including the optical tube, viewfinder, viewfinder bracket, yoke mount, aluminum tripod legs, an accessory shelf, three eyepieces, and a digital mirror. There were step by step instructions included for assembly, but it was still quite difficult for us. It also came with Star Locator Software for the computer in order to explore the heavens and check out all sorts of star charts. There was a database on a little floppy disk of over 10,000 celestial objects.
We completed the setup and went outside to see what we could see. Nothing. We couldn’t focus in on anything. We turned the focus ring from one end to the other very slowly. Nothing. The next day I called the Meade Company, told them the whole story of us having to purchase the telescope yesterday, and explained how it wouldn’t focus now. They told us the whole focusing unit was probably damaged in the fall and they would send us a new one immediately. Free of charge! I was impressed. Three days later it came UPS. Great customer service. They didn’t care about the circumstances of why we purchased it, they just wanted us to be satisfied with the product.
Sure enough, that solved the problem. It worked. We could focus in on the moon. That was really cool for us first time astronomers! We never did figure out how to use that telescope to the best of its abilities though. I wish we could have figured out how to zoom in on some stars. I am sure someone who knew what they were doing would have gotten a lot more out of it than we did.
That telescope was capable to have an optional electronic and computer motor drive system attached to it. Computer software was available. Then you could hook up to the computer and view what the telescope was viewing, print pictures and everything. It was actually quite advanced for thirty years ago.
To this day, the kids still remember that eventful day and the telescope we had for a while. I wish we could have spent more time with it than we did, trying to figure out how to view those far away stars. It seemed like such a waste to have it sitting in the computer room attracting dust. We never would have paid that much for a telescope. We didn’t need a Meade, but it was a great family experience all the same.
My final advice — don’t let your kids decide that you are going to buy a telescope by knocking one over in a store.