Books by Philip S. Harrington

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Astronomy For All Ages

Cosmic Challenge

The Deep Sky: An Introduction


The Illustrated Timeline of the Universe

The Space Shuttle

Star Ware, 4th edition

Star Watch

Touring the Universe Through Binoculars


Nights of Future Passed

Here's a fun look back at some amateur telescopes from days gone by.  Some were great, some not so good.  I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which!

Choose your decade:
1920's 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's
1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's

Click on the thumbnails to see the fine print. 


highlite.jpg (22661 bytes)

Celestial Innovations

Not exactly a name we remember today, but those who saw the ads for this company's "High-Lite" binocular mount (excuse me, binocular system) certainly remember the product.  Apparently, I'm not anatomically equipped to use it, however.

c-spock.jpg (117388 bytes) Celestron

"I grok Spock."  Remember that catch phrase uttered by Trekkies?  The word "grok" was introduced as a term from the "Martian" language by author Robert Heinlein in one of his books, with an implied meaning of understanding or perceiving something thoroughly.  Apparently, Celestron grokked Spock, and Spock grokked Celestron.  Ahh, the harmony of the spheres.

od1.jpg (69797 bytes) Coulter Optical

John Dobson may have created the Dobsonian revolution, but if it weren't for Coulter Optical showing its commercial possibilities, I doubt we'd have as many Dobsonian-mounted telescopes around today as we do.  Coulter was the first company to introduce a large-aperture, Dob-mounted when it unveiled the Odyssey 1 in 1980.   For $395, less than you'd pay for an equatorially mounted 8-inch reflector, you could get a *huge* 13.1-inch telescope on a very basic mount made from pressboard.  It was an instant success!  The optics were often mediocre at best, but the light gathering was impressive!  The "light bucket" movement was born this year.


meade82.jpg (272866 bytes) Meade Instruments

"Crown Optics" was Meade Instrument's retail moniker when they first began selling telescopes of their own making and imported accessories directly to consumers back in the 1980s.  These early Meade reflectors bore more than a passing resemblance to those sold by Cave Optical in large part because Meade had hired many former Cave employees when that company closed.  Meade's "Research Series" of reflectors were very well made, with many still in regular operation nearly a quarter of a century later.

meade82b.jpg (312318 bytes) Meade's DS line of large-aperture Newtonians, which were intended in complete with Coulter's Odyssey, left something to be desired, however.  While the optics were quite good for the most part, the stubby equatorial mounts were underdesigned.

ori82.jpg (386726 bytes) Orion Telescopes

One of the giants in the hobby today, Orion Telescopes started to sell telescopes of their own design more than 20 years ago.  This ad for a unique Dobsonian-mounted Newtonian reflector bears little resemblance to Orion's Skyquest models today, especially with its unusual cylindrical rocker box and "tri-axial tripod."

tv81.jpg (92676 bytes) Tele Vue

The ad that started it all.  When they were introduced in 1981, Tele Vue Plössl eyepieces came in just four focal lengths.  But they were to change the face of the hobby as well as the industry, since they far outperformed most commonly available eyepieces of the day.

tut81.jpg (224998 bytes) Tuthill, Roger W., Inc.

The late Roger Tuthill, the amateur's friend, opened his business in the 1970s by selling sheets of aluminized Mylar as "Solar Skreen" solar filters.  It was, and remains, a popular item.  As his success spread, so did his variety.  Not all of his accessories were the best, but he earned a point in amateur history with the Celestial Navigator, shown at the bottom of this ad from 1981.  The Mark I model was a set of digital setting circles that could be attached to a wide variety of Telescopes, but it was his Mark II system that marked a true turning point.  The Mark II was the first commercially sold GoTo computerized aiming system, available years before Celestron's Compustar and Meade's LX200.

1920's 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's
1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's