The Meade Autostar 495 handset is usually used to drive motor control and tracking of the earlier Meade series telescopes. The Meade Autostar 497 is a later version.
If faced with the situation where the Autostar handset is clearly malfunctioning and the LED display is filled with junk characters, it is possible that the BIOS has corrupted itself.
When this happened to me, I did not have access to any directions, handbooks or solutions, but managed to accidentally find the solution that allows a reset of the BIOS to a position where new BIOS firmware can be reloaded via the interface cable. The information of what I did is therefore here for information purposes only, in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar position and also needs to attempt recovery from a damaged BIOS situation.
Is the BIOS Really Damaged?
Our advice is that before you attempt a BIOS reset, be very certain that the BIOS is in fact at fault and has similar “junk character” symptoms as described above. Check you do not have other possible problems with contrast, wiring, etc first.
When the BIOS corrupted on my Autostar, the display was filled with trash characters. The motors would not move at all. There was no possibility of effectively reading or using the display. Reseting the handset by removing and replacing the power plug to the telescope did not fix the problem.
Be absolutely CERTAIN you are ready to reformat your BIOS before carrying out the following procedure. Be aware that this procedure will delete all star databases and entered information from your Autostar. It will however, allow your Autostar to reset it’s BIOS back to a position where the handset can wait for new BIOS downloads.
Use the following only if the handset BIOS is clearly damaged!
How will I know if it is only a LED display contrast/brightness adjustment problem I have?
If contrast adjustment is at fault, the LED display will either be extremely difficult to read (without orange pixels or with very faint pixels). Or alternatively, the display will show complete (or blended with characters) blocks of orange along both lines of the display.
In this situation, the buttons to push to get to the contrast adjustment can be a little tricky, since there is no LED guidance, but the AUtostar is still usable and still responds to the normal push button commands. You will need to work through the index to adjust contrast, somehow. (ie: It is best to find someone else with a working Autostar so you can power up and press the same buttons as them side by side in order to move to the option selector that allows LED contrast/brightness adjustment.)
If contrast is at fault, the controller will still be capable of receiving commands and driving and tracking motors.
Before You Attempt This BIOS Reset Procedure
Note before you start that your will also need a working Meade Autostar interface cable (or a similar DIY version as posted here if applicable) so you can download the new BIOS version from a PC to the Autostar! Once complete, you will also have the chance to download your databases again as long as you have access to the necessary interface cable, BIOS download and proprietary software from Meade for interfacing with the Autostar.
The BIOS version required for your Autostar model can be selected and downloaded from the Meade website. Make sure you are using the correct version for your particular Meade Autostar and telescope model.
Before you do anything, this needs to be said:
HomeDIYStuff owners, contributors, and/or associates are not responsible and not liable for any direct or consequential damages to Meade Autostar handsets or other devices as a result of this information. Use this information at your own risk!
*** DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS if you are not familiar with gadgetry and computers, and with manipulating BIOS firmware. ***
*** DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS if you are uncomfortable with the thought of potentially wiping your Autostar data permanently. If you are, send your controller to a knowledgeable service professional for service instead. (While my controller’s BIOS was corrupt, I do not know whether or not entered data may have been recoverable or not. In my case, I did not try to recover lost data and I downloaded and re-entered information again myself instead.)
With those warnings, if you still want to go ahead and attempt this, good luck. I do wish to add that this fix totally saved my bricked Autostar!
The procedure is as follow:
- Ensure the Autostar is connected to the telescope’s “HBX” socket at the telescope junction box.
- Turn off the Autostar and telescope by unplugging the DC power socket (at the telescope junction box).
- Connect the interface cable between the left four pin Autostar communications socket and the RS232 communications port on the computer (or USB port if interface cable and software allows).
- Press “Enter” and “DOWN SCROLL” buttons together and hold.
(ie: down scroll is the arrow at the lower right position, not the down arrow for motor control!)
- Reconnect power to the telescope while keeping the two buttons pressed.
- The handset will restart in a default mode.
- You can then select the menu as required to connect to RS232 interface to download the new matching BIOS from PC.