I got my first scope in 1967, a Tasco 66TE-5 (50mm f/12) when I was 10. I lived 15 miles from downtown
Chicago, and even then light pollution was serious although I didn't fully realize it at the time. As stated
in another post, it is difficult to overstate the effect the Space program had. Although my memories
of Mercury are vague, I was riveted by the Gemini and then Apollo flights.
I too drooled over the Cave & Unitron ads in S&T. I was fortunate that there was a store in
northwest Chicago, American Science Center (now American Science & Surplus) which stocked
just about everything carried by Edmund. I picked up the Edmund books there; Homebuilt Telescopes
was a revelation. I built a pipe equatorial mount for the Tasco refractor, since "real" telescopes
had equatorial mounts.
I had a subscription to S&T for a birthday present, and the first columns I would turn to
were Gleanings for ATMs and Deep Sky Wonders.
In 1970 I made a 6" f/8 mirror at the Adler Planetarium optical shop (closed since the early 90's).
I still remember prices back then, $10 for the registration fee, $15 for the mirror grinding kit,
$10 for coating. I used Edmund parts, $9 for an aluminum tube, $9 for the finderscope, $12
for the focuser, and $50 (gasp) for the 1" shaft EQ mount. I later got the drive for the mount
for another $50.
I remember around 1971 when I got a barlow, and tried it on Saturn. The rings were close to wide
open, and I saw Cassini's division and the Crepe ring for the first time. I was blown away.
Being close to the city, I was still hampered by light pollution. What really was the breakthrough
for me was when I finally got the Skalnate Pleso Atlas Coeli and Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
I didn't own a car until 1978, and didn't find out about the local astronomy club until 1984, which
is also when I went to my first star party, Astrofest (Astrofest and it successor, Prairie Skies,
are now both defunct, a sign of the times).
I didn’t start till the 70’s but there was no internet, no forums, no 500 different brands of scopes and face to face conversation were more interesting than forums. Now every topic in refractors, reflectors and SCT’s and up in the same arguments and discussions about what scope is better. APO vs Achros, this vs that and it gets old. Same folks posting the same thing for years on end. A few times I’ve thought of quitting the forums altogether.
This really hits the nail on the head, and I feel strongly the same way. The huge amount of gear leads
to "analysis paralysis" for many, I keep seeing the same variations on topics over and over. Recently
there was another premium mirror vs. mass produced mirror thread started. Do we really need another?
There are like 500 already.
I never gave in to the ultrawide eyepieces fad, all my eyepieces are older Plossls, an Orthoscopic,
and even a couple of (gasp) Kellners. For me they are good enough. Call me a heretic.
The eyepiece forum reminds me of electric guitar players who are constantly swapping out pickups
in search of the elusive "perfect" tone.
The other thing which bothers me with "premium" gear is an element of snobbery, one-upmanship,
and the collectors mentality have crept into the hobby. I think some people buy premium scopes,
especially apos, just to look at them in their living room and tell themselves they are great amateur
astronomers because they own the best money can buy. Or to flip them. There is the example
of someone selling an AP Stowaway for $11K. Really? It's a nice scope but still only 92mm.
I really believe the 60's and 70's were much more about what you observed rather than the gear you had,
and as far as gear itself, there much more DIY, tinkering, and out-of-the box thinking. Often out of
necessity, but also because it was fun.
The other thing I remember is there were more clear nights (weather patterns in the midwest
really have changed). There was no eterna-cloud cover from November through March. Also,
summers weren't ruined by smoke and haze from all the forests out west going up in flames.
Edited by EJN, 22 October 2018 - 01:23 PM.