Tuesday Feb 10, 2009

Hacking 21st century technology with greatest generation craftsmanship

The times I spend diagnosing, testing, analyzing and documenting system problems are interesting from a scientific discovery/mystery viewpoint, but there is something especially enjoyable about creating new code (of course without any mysteries or bugs for someone else to analyze ;-) During these long winter nights, my wife knits or sews childrens things and patchwork quilts while I take apart a broken toy or patch together some gizmo which could easily replaced for a pittance. Not long ago, my wife bought a toy telescope for 1 euro at a car boot sale. Some toy telescopes have surprisingly good optics in the objective (front) lens and terribly bad eyepieces designed as marketing gimmicks to pretend that they can pull 625 power out of a 60mm objective (defying the laws of physics in this universe) This along with the flimsy mounts on toy telescopes makes them all but useless for learning to appreciate astronomy. I was about 12 when my parents gave me a Skillcraft 2" Newtonian telescope. 2" reflectors with 1" secondary mirrors are diffraction limited even if you use a shaving mirror for the primary! But shortly after Christmas 1976, the mount broke and I had a useless tube. My grandpa was a carpenter, toolmaker and metal worker so he fixed it and with rivets and brass he made the mount look like new. (as though repaired by the robots in Metropolis.) The optics of that telescope weren't great but I did manage to see the rings of saturn by using a paper Dixie[tm] cup as an adapter between this scope's eyepiece and one of my dad's good camera lenses. Because memory of a great depression lasted several generations, my grandpa spent time fixing this $20 toy and my parents hung onto that toy until 2008. I told them that the optics were never good and 20 years of corrosion of the tiny aluminized mirror wouldn't have improved anything so I recommended that they throw out the scope. But I asked if they could send me grandpa's mount. So 9 years after he died, grandpa gave his great grandkids a Christmas gift. I attached grandpa's sturdy mount to the telescope from the car boot sale. Added a 0.965 to T-Ring and T-Ring to Pentax K adapter to my Pentax \*ist DL Digital SLR and, it's almost a respectable 700mm lens: Kids telescope Moon with Kids telescope

Now I only need to wait a couple of years for Saturn to tilt at a nicer angle and my kids will have no problem seeing Saturn through this telescope.

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bnitz

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