by Chris Trace
It's a good thing the old masters didn't feel that way or everyone in this hobby would be walking outside each clear night with their hands in their pockets, looking up, and wondering what the heck all that stuff was up there. It's a good thing Russell Porter and Albert Ingalls didn't feel that way, or John Dobson, or Thomas Cave, or Roland Christen, or Peter Ceravolo, or Steve Dodson. I would hazard a guess that 90% of the people in this hobby own one or more instruments that were designed and built by someone who decided to turn professional because he thought he could produce something better than what was on the market already.
I think the reasons for telescope making have never been stronger. Telescope making is no longer about building something cheaper than can be purchased commercially. Neither is telescope making any longer about producing better optics than can be produced commercially -- that hasn't been true since the '40s when Questar came out with their exquisite little Maksutov. Outrageously expensive, yes, but great optics, commercially made. Telescope making is not only about the pursuit of optical and mechanical excellence, but more importantly, the pursuit of personal excellence. This seems to me to be one of the main driving forces of humanity today, and that is anything but "little".
When a telescope I've built performs poorly, I can't blame Meade (as much as I might enjoy that). When one of my 'scopes performs well, there is no one else in line to take the credit. The feeling of looking through that 'scope I've just finished, and knowing that the image I see is due almost solely to my efforts, is quite amazing. And all the more amazing considering that I'm just an average Joe with no special training in optics or engineering. Now, I'm not saying for one minute that everyone should throw out their Schmidt-Cassegrains and start walking around old oil barrels pushing disks of glass. Those romantic days are gone forever, I'm afraid. What I am saying is don't believe it. It's nonsense! There are dozens of new designs and variations just waiting to be thought of. Telescope making is alive and well and doing very nicely. But it needs your interest and it needs your good will.