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My Autostar 497 hand controller has blank/garbled characters display but other functions are working fine.

Meade Maksutov Mount Equipment
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#1 gauravo2

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 02:50 AM

My Meade Autostar 497 hand controller has blank display & sometimes it starts showing garbled characters & for some times it starts normally and goes blank after 30 seconds or so. Other functions like slewing with arrow keys is working fine. I tried suggestions from other threads on Cloudynights forum for same topic like cleaning the display ribbon with alcohol and stuff but no luck. Please suggest any solution if you have successfully brought back display. Thanks in Advance. I have attached photos of my Hand Controller. Telescope is meade ETX-125 5 incher Maksutov Cass.

 

 

WhatsApp Image 2021-04-11 at 1.02.47 PM.jpeg WhatsApp Image 2021-04-11 at 1.14.54 PM.jpeg



#2 DAVIDG

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 10:25 AM

 What I believe is happening is the silver material used to make the contacts at the end of the cable becomes oxidized. Cleaning it will sometime remove the oxidization so you get a good contact. If the material is fully oxidized at the point of contact that may not work. What worked for me was  I trimmed a very small amount off the bottom of the ribbon cable. Now the cable will seat slightly farther into the connector  and make contact with a fresh part of the terminals on the cable. 

 

           - Dave 


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#3 gauravo2

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Posted 13 April 2021 - 12:03 AM

 What I believe is happening is the silver material used to make the contacts at the end of the cable becomes oxidized. Cleaning it will sometime remove the oxidization so you get a good contact. If the material is fully oxidized at the point of contact that may not work. What worked for me was  I trimmed a very small amount off the bottom of the ribbon cable. Now the cable will seat slightly farther into the connector  and make contact with a fresh part of the terminals on the cable. 

 

           - Dave 

Thanks for your suggestion Sir. I will try this out. just to cofirm- you are talking about the Display Ribbon cable inside the HC right.?



#4 DAVIDG

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Posted 13 April 2021 - 08:23 AM

Thanks for your suggestion Sir. I will try this out. just to cofirm- you are talking about the Display Ribbon cable inside the HC right.?

 Correct. The ribbon cable on the display. I just trimmed off about 1/32" off the end  so when the cable was pushed back into the connector, it made contact at a new place on the fingers of the cable.

 

              - Dave 


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#5 sunrag

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Posted 13 April 2021 - 08:40 AM

I agree. This worked for me too. Other people have had success with just cleaning the contacts, but mine just smeared off when i used Isopropanol.
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#6 gauravo2

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Posted 14 April 2021 - 10:58 PM

 Correct. The ribbon cable on the display. I just trimmed off about 1/32" off the end  so when the cable was pushed back into the connector, it made contact at a new place on the fingers of the cable.

 

              - Dave 

Okay, I tried this thing and it worked. Exept the display is now showing garbled character continuously and after some time it goes blank again. And I think I have already cleaned it with Methanol Alcohol so much, that the contact fingures are smeared off and not visible. so thats the problem I guess. And I will need new display I guess.



#7 gauravo2

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Posted 14 April 2021 - 10:59 PM

I agree. This worked for me too. Other people have had success with just cleaning the contacts, but mine just smeared off when i used Isopropanol.

Yes. my contacts also smeared off after cleaning with Methanol Alcohol.



#8 DAVIDG

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 09:03 AM

 There are silver conductive paints that comes in a pen that allows you to redraw the contacts that might work  Here is video that show how they work https://www.youtube....h?v=WY3d8N21OAE

 

                - Dave 



#9 mashirts

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 09:35 AM

If it were the lcd screen and connectors were at fault you would get a completely garbled screen I would think, not character after character of clear ASCII text.



#10 Rwiethop

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Posted 28 April 2022 - 02:44 PM

I recently had this problem and was able to solve it with info from numerous places. Here's what I found:

There are 2 versions of the 497 Autostar controller used on EXT-90 telescopes: 1999's Rev C and 2001's Rev E.  I had the 1999 version which uses a 24 pin LCD display ribbon. The 2001 version uses a 1/2" wide 12 pin ribbon.  I do not know what other differences there are. I understand that both version will work with an EXT-90 telescope.

 

When I powered on the scope, it beeped and then the display was randomly any of the following: nothing, all blocks, some recognizable letters in the correct spot, random gibberish. The map light worked and with the correct combination of buttons, it would slew. The fact that it would still initialize and then slew pointed to the LCD display. Since the display lit up, the first place to look was the connection.

There were numerous suggestions for fixing the connection: 1) simply remove the ribbon on the circuit board and reinsert. 2) trim a small sliver off the end of the ribbon and reinsert. 3) Apply deoxit or CRC to the end of the ribbon and reinsert. If you know what you're doing and these didn't fix it, go onto the next step. If you don't have lots of experience with the ribbon, find a pc shop to do it for you. I thought I knew enough, but the PC repairman put me to shame. (I never made it to step 3.)

The next step involves replacing the ribbon and LCD. Again, you have to know (or open the box to see) which version you have before you buy. The only place I could find 1999v was a website called TeamEquip. You'll need part MHS50474-24AG. A member on the Meade Usergroup FB page carries them for the 2001v. I don't have this part#, but it's probably on the side of your ribbon. At this point in time: around $30 for either version. I have not purchased from either dealer.

If that doesn't work, you're looking at replacing the entire controller. Again, I have been told either version, 1999 or 2001 will work with the ETX-90

 



#11 Harachnid1

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Posted 03 September 2023 - 02:50 PM

I just tried the ribbon trimming fix and it worked like a charm. THANKS!


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#12 scottgriz

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Posted 06 January 2024 - 04:05 AM

I wish I read this whole thread before trying the alcohol cleaning. Unfortunately I managed to remove the contact traces using isopropyl. Prior to cleaning I was having intermittent garbled text and sometimes blank screen. The controller was working fine at one point but the brightness and contrast needed adjusting. It was after I adjusted the contrast that everything went down hill. First started with just a few characters scrambled and slowly got worse until the entire display text was corrupted. Could this be a firmware issue or is it just a display issue?
Thanks for any help you can provide.
Scott
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#13 Skywatchr

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Posted 06 January 2024 - 09:28 AM

I wish I read this whole thread before trying the alcohol cleaning. Unfortunately I managed to remove the contact traces using isopropyl. Prior to cleaning I was having intermittent garbled text and sometimes blank screen. The controller was working fine at one point but the brightness and contrast needed adjusting. It was after I adjusted the contrast that everything went down hill. First started with just a few characters scrambled and slowly got worse until the entire display text was corrupted. Could this be a firmware issue or is it just a display issue?
Thanks for any help you can provide.
Scott

Display for sure.



#14 Thrifty1

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Posted 06 January 2024 - 09:38 AM

I wish I read this whole thread before trying the alcohol cleaning. Unfortunately I managed to remove the contact traces using isopropyl. Prior to cleaning I was having intermittent garbled text and sometimes blank screen. The controller was working fine at one point but the brightness and contrast needed adjusting. It was after I adjusted the contrast that everything went down hill. First started with just a few characters scrambled and slowly got worse until the entire display text was corrupted. Could this be a firmware issue or is it just a display issue?
Thanks for any help you can provide.
Scott

You need a replacement display.  Here are the ones with copper contacts instead of the carbon ink.  I have used both of these replacements and they work well.  They are a reverse color... Black letters on a red background instead of Red letters on a black background.  And you need to peel off the foil backing on the 24-pin version (I forget if the 14-pin one has a foil backing or not).  When you do that, peel up a corner and then pull slowly and at a very low angle to pull up all the sticky residue along with the backing.  If you rush it, you will leave behind a residue that you can't get off.  

 

24-pin replacement with copper contacts:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/254315529680

 

14-pin replacement display with copper contacts:
https://buttonworx.c...14-Pin-LCD.html


Edited by Thrifty1, 06 January 2024 - 09:40 AM.

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#15 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 06 January 2024 - 02:36 PM

Gday ScottGriz

If you have late version firmware, and a 505 cable, you can connect your handbox

to a PC and run a program that has a remote handset

Meades ASSuite has one as does my PEC editor.

These can display a memory image of what should be on the screen

and as such, work like a realhandset.

If the data is garbled here, then there is a problem with the Hbx itself

but 99.932% of the time its OK and the problem is the screen.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia


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#16 scottgriz

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 04:00 PM

Gday ScottGriz

If you have late version firmware, and a 505 cable, you can connect your handbox

to a PC and run a program that has a remote handset

Meades ASSuite has one as does my PEC editor.

These can display a memory image of what should be on the screen

and as such, work like a realhandset.

If the data is garbled here, then there is a problem with the Hbx itself

but 99.932% of the time its OK and the problem is the screen.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

Thank you for this tip. I will give this a try to see what I get. I don't know the firmware version as this is donated equipment that were are assessing for use at a school observatory. So we don't have a lot of history on it. 

Is the 505 cable also used for updating the firmware? I'm more well acquainted with the Celestron Nexstar Hand Controller but I'm sure I can figure out how to navigate the Autostar as well.

Thanks again,

Scott Griswold

Horizons Observatory, Vermont, USA



#17 scottgriz

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 04:04 PM

You need a replacement display.  Here are the ones with copper contacts instead of the carbon ink.  I have used both of these replacements and they work well.  They are a reverse color... Black letters on a red background instead of Red letters on a black background.  And you need to peel off the foil backing on the 24-pin version (I forget if the 14-pin one has a foil backing or not).  When you do that, peel up a corner and then pull slowly and at a very low angle to pull up all the sticky residue along with the backing.  If you rush it, you will leave behind a residue that you can't get off.  

 

24-pin replacement with copper contacts:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/254315529680

 

14-pin replacement display with copper contacts:
https://buttonworx.c...14-Pin-LCD.html

Thank you Thrifty1 for the information. I have 2 controllers with the 14 pin display. I tried swapping displays from the controller that is completely dead to the one that does show a backlight and a beep but I still only get the beep and no display. So either the controller is bad or I have 2 bad displays. 2 Bad displays wouldn't surprise me since the other controller has what looks like liquid damage so it's likely the display is bad as well. I'm going to take the tip from @OzAndrewJ and see if I can test the controller itself before investing in a new display. 

Thanks again,

Scott Griswold

Horizons Observatory, Vermont, USA



#18 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 04:16 PM

Gday Scott

Is the 505 cable also used for updating the firmware?

Yes

It is a true rs232 cable ( not a TTL ), but it is wired differently to the Celestrons.

It plugs into the handset, not the Aux port

If you have a std converter already ( with DB9 connector ),

you can make a 505 cable easily from a DB9 shell and a 4p4c connector.

That said, there are now a lot of slimline / integrated cables out now for the 505

If you get one, try for one with a true FTDI chipset as several other brands

( prolific especially ) dont always work well with the later windows.

My PEC editor

old version is 4999  http://members.optus...om.au/johansea/

latest version ( you may need to join to get it )

https://groups.io/g/...opeBeta5001.zip

is standalone, so no need for ASCOM etc to do the tests

Just boot the mount and leave for a few seconds to stabilise

Then let my app try and connect

If it finds a functioning handset, it will report a lot of data.

If it isnt patched, it will ask if you want to go into download mode

so just say no at then point.

Save the log and we can see whats there

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#19 scottgriz

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 05:05 PM

If you have a std converter already ( with DB9 connector ),

you can make a 505 cable easily from a DB9 shell and a 4p4c connector.

Thanks, I just dug a cable out of a box of accessories and it is a DB9 to 4p4c. I confirmed continuity on the pins and cross referenced it to the pinout on Weasner.com and it looks to be a 505 cable. I have a USB to DB9 that I had used in the past so I should have no issue getting this going. 

I'll give your program a try with the handbox a little later. I really appreciate the help. 

 

Scott

 



#20 Thrifty1

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 05:29 PM

Thank you Thrifty1 for the information. I have 2 controllers with the 14 pin display. I tried swapping displays from the controller that is completely dead to the one that does show a backlight and a beep but I still only get the beep and no display. So either the controller is bad or I have 2 bad displays. 2 Bad displays wouldn't surprise me since the other controller has what looks like liquid damage so it's likely the display is bad as well. I'm going to take the tip from @OzAndrewJ and see if I can test the controller itself before investing in a new display.
Thanks again,
Scott Griswold
Horizons Observatory, Vermont, USA


That sounds like a good plan. I’ve seen so many AutoStar display issues the past 2-3 years. I think that carbon ink is failing fast on many now.

#21 DAVIDG

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Posted 09 January 2024 - 01:22 PM

The odds are very very high you have two bad displays since they beep. That indicates that they have booted.  I have repaired  close to 15,  497's  and Autostar II with dead displays and if  they beeps it has been the display.  I had one with bad capacitor on the MAX232 so the characters were visible very faintly because that cap control the contrast caused  the contrast to be  set at it's lowest  level  and I had one were the crystal went bad but it woouldn't  boot so no beep. 

 

                      - Dave 


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#22 khoney

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Posted 18 January 2024 - 05:42 PM

FWIW, I had ordered two of the carbon contact displays when I started having display issues with my 24-pin 497 display. One I could never get to work, and the other 'mostly' worked, until I actually took it outside in the cold and tried to use it. Then it completely went blank.  After further searching in the forum, I ordered the 24-pin replacement with the gold contacts as mentioned by Thrifty1 above, and it worked perfectly with no fiddling around. I of course had to remove the rear reflector, but had no issues doing so. I'm back in business, although with inverted black and red! 

 

 20240118_162212_resized_1.jpg


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#23 Thrifty1

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Posted 18 January 2024 - 07:41 PM

Glad you have it working again. The metal contact displays seem to be much better.
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#24 khoney

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 02:20 PM

Glad you have it working again. The metal contact displays seem to be much better.

Well, after it sat for a couple of months, I brought it out for the eclipse and the top portion of the display is blank now (top 3 or 4 rows of pixels).  I think the problem is the ZIF connector, because I've had it working with other replacement displays, but after a short while it no longer works. Time to get out the hot air gun and Kapton tape.


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#25 Skywatchr

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Posted 17 April 2024 - 07:21 AM

Well, after it sat for a couple of months, I brought it out for the eclipse and the top portion of the display is blank now (top 3 or 4 rows of pixels).  I think the problem is the ZIF connector, because I've had it working with other replacement displays, but after a short while it no longer works. Time to get out the hot air gun and Kapton tape.

There may be some oxidation on the ZIF contacts.  A little spritz of Caig DeOxit D5, or GC DE-OX-ID should take care of that.  These are both non-conductive deoxiders for electronics so no worries with a little overspray.  Either one also works for cable plugs and sockets too that can get oxidized over time from humidity giving intermittent contact issues.  Just wipe off any residual "wetness" as in runs and drips after the ribbon cable is inserted into the ZIF.




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