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The History of Meade Telescopes

A brief summary of the long history behind Meade that has spanned over 40 years.

Meade was founded in 1972 and began business as a one-man, mail-order supplier of small refracting telescopes. In early 1973 it became apparent that there was a large need for quality telescope accessories which in turned prompted Meade to add lines of Orthoscopic and Kellner eyepieces. Soon after, lines of precision rack and pinion focusers, viewfinders, filters, camera adapters and other accessories. Meade telescopes were recognised as having custom touches not generally available on other competitor’s models. The focusers, for example, had spring-loaded gearboxes that permitted smoother action throughout the entire travel distance and the viewfinders included eyepieces with wider fields than had been commonly available.

By 1977, Meade Instruments offered a broad range of telescope accessories and parts for serious amateurs, a range of accessories and parts that, in fact, permitted the company to bring out its first in-house manufactured telescopes; Meade Models 628 and 826, 6-inch and 8-inch reflecting telescopes. With Meade reflectors American amateur astronomers found that they had, really for the first time, a telescope manufacturer that provided a quality product at a reasonable price, that continually updated its products technically and, above all, one that stood firmly behind every sale.

In 1978 Meade Instruments took on its most formidable challenge to that date: the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope market. Development of the original Meade 2080 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain required three years and all of the financial and engineering resources that the company had at its disposal, notwithstanding the significant growth that the company had experienced in the late-1970s. But Meade was determined to develop the state of the Schmidt-Cassegrain design — a design that was strongly felt to have overpowering advantages for the serious amateur, but one that was not being advanced due to an absence of competition.

With the announcement, in September 1980, of the Model 2080 — the first commercially-available 8-inch SC to include worm-gear drives — Meade telescopes began to grow rapidly, and to amass a list of firsts unrivalled in the amateur astronomy market:Meade's well known 8" model was part of the "2000" line introduced in 1980, and model 2080 became the designation for the basic fork mounted f/10 optical tube. The original 2080 drive consisted of a worm gear system with 180 tooth main gear driven by a synchronous AC motor. This was offered without wedge and tripod but included coated optics, a 6x30 finder, 1 ¼" star diagonal and 25mm eyepiece. This basic telescope was also available as the 2080B having multi-coated optics for better light transmission. In 1984 the company improved the machining on the worm gear drive and introduced the "LX" drive. Later the same year they marketed this telescope with a 8x50 finder and erfle eyepiece, along with the addition of improved coatings on the optical surfaces as the LX2. The appearance both models visually is identical to the standard 2080 except for the "LX" mark.

The LX3 – introduced in 1984, the first SC to include an integrated electronic drive system. This is also widely recognized as the first integrated astrophotography system in the mass market.

The LX6 – in 1990, featuring Smart Drive, the first permanently-programmed Periodic Error Correction software. Considered a luxury model upon its release, many of its features are still found today on the LX200 line.

The LX200 –  in 1992, the first commercially successful GoTo telescope system. With the launch of the LX200, Meade also introduced a new, heavier fork-arm mount that dampened vibration, establishing the LX200 as the new standard in amateur astrophotography platforms.

The 16-inch LX200 – in 1994, the first commercial, fully-computerized, observatory-class SC. With the 16-inch LX200, Meade opened the door for the serious amateur. It was finally possible to get observatory-class optical power at a fraction of the cost of other, similarly powered telescopes — and the only ones available to the general public.

The ETX Series with AutoStar – in 1999, the first portable, fully-computerized telescope. Combining lightweight portability and the convenience of GoTo electronics, the ETX became an instant favourite with the astronomical community — a position it still holds today.

Moving into the 21st century, Meade Instruments has continued its series of industry firsts, solidifying its place as the innovative leader in the amateur astronomy market:

Meade’s UHTC – in 2002, the first ultra-high transmission coatings for commercial telescopes. Precisely designed to improve the performance of a telescope’s optics, these advanced multi-coatings increase light transmission — on average across the visual spectrum — by about 15% (for example, Meade UHTC coatings will increase the image brightness of a 10-inch LX200-ACF by the equivalent of about 0.75 inch of aperture), providing much higher performance for observers and astrophotographers alike. Still the industry standard, these coatings are available only from Meade.

Advanced Coma-Free optical system, the first affordable optics delivering Ritchey-Chrétien-like performance, in 2005. A traditional Ritchey-Chrétien (RC) is a type of reflector that delivers a coma-free view via hyperbolic primary and secondary mirrors. Because the mirrors in these telescopes have always been very expensive to make, few amateur astronomers could enjoy them. Suspecting that there was a better way to design this optical system, Meade engineers developed a radical new Advanced Coma-Free design by combining a hyperbolic secondary mirror with a corrector-lens-and-spherical-primary-mirror combination that performs as one hyperbolic element. This ACF design produces a coma-free, flatter field of view that equals traditional RC telescopes at a fraction of the cost. The design also eliminates diffraction spikes and improves astigmatism, both of which are inherent in the traditional RC design. No other optical design delivers both the level of performance and affordability as ACF.

LightSwitch Technology, the first one-touch, fully-automatic alignment system, introduced in 2009. Meade’s revolutionary LS LightSwitch series of telescopes use advanced technologies like GPS, LNT and ECLIPS CCD imaging to do what no other consumer telescopes have done before: take all the hassle out of using a telescope. Simply flip the switch and the LS automatically aligns itself without any input from the user. Quite simply, it is the most sophisticated, easiest to use telescope ever produced.

Meade AudioStar Controller #07640. Next generation Meade AutoStar, now with audio files and an internal speaker. Compatible with all Meade ETX-90 and 125 models, LXD-75 and LX90 series telescopes, and other "497" Autostar equipped models. This amazing computerized celestial object locating system plugs into the telescope's handbox port allowing a quick telescope alignment. Astronomer Inside, the first integrated, multi-media content, introduced in 2009. As an integral part of the development of the LS line of telescopes, Meade produced audio and video content to allow users to experience the Universe like they never had before. Culminating in over five hours of fascinating facts and history, it was decided the content was too good not to include with other products. A decision that led to the: AudioStar, the first audio-enabled, computer control handbox, in 2010. With all the content and no delivery system, the next step was obvious: design a handbox with all of the features of Meade’s ground-breaking AutoStar, with the added ability to deliver audio content. First included with the StarNavigator line of introductory telescopes, AudioStars are now standard equipment with almost all Meade telescopes.

In 2012, Meade celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Few telescope manufactures can claim such longevity. And now, as Meade embarks on its fifth decade of providing advanced technology coupled with affordability, they have introduced two new platforms encompassing another list of firsts the LX850 and LX600 with StarLock.

This is the Meade LX850 with Starlock, a new standard in astrophotograhic and visual performance. The fast f/8 Advanced Coma Free optical system produces a wider, flatter field with no coma for pinpoint stars out to the edge of larger imaging sensors and extreme wide angle eyepieces.The LX850 with StarLock is the latest in a long line of advanced astronomical products. Using revolutionary new technology, every aspect of this system has been designed to deliver the new standard in astrophotographic and visual performance. StarLock — the heart of the LX850 —makes target acquisition on your imaging sensor and accurate guiding during exposures completely automatic. With Meade’s exclusive LightSwitch technology at its core, StarLock uses a 80mm f/5 optic and a super wide-angle lens in a two camera system that automatically finds your target in ultra-high precision, immediately captures a field star as dim as 11th magnitude and then guides to an incredible accuracy of one arcsecond. StarLock achieves this amazing accuracy because, unlike add-on guiders, StarLock is integrated into the telescope control system and communicates directly with the motor controllers in real time with a maximum precision of 0.01 arcseconds.

The LX600 with StarLock builds upon the venerable foundation of the LX200, integrating Meade’s’ StarLock full time Autoguiding, fast f/8 Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) optics, detachable fork arms and the all new precision CNC-machined X-Wedge. This telescope combines the visual ease-of-use of alt/az mode with the option to perform serious astro imaging with the addition of the X-Wedge. Never before has there been such a versatile astronomical instrument.

Meade Instruments has built its reputation and its products through ground-breaking and industry-leading innovation. Meade Instruments is adding technology to all of their products to make them easier and more fun to use.

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