The ASCOM Initiative was created by a group of astronomy software developers and astronomy device manufacturers whose goal was to provide "vendor-independent plug-and-play control" for astronomy devices to allow them to work better together. It's a free resource, and you can download the "ASCOM platform" from the ASCOM website.

When you've downloaded the ASCOM platform you have a number of programmes installed on your machine. The main utility within ASCOM that I use is POTH, which stands for "Plain Old Telescope Hub". The concept behind POTH is quite simple: it sits between any programme which wants to 'talk' to the scope (guider, planetarium, etc)

The screenshot below left shows the POTH window. When you first use it, you need to press Setup to select the actual scope mount protocol you want to use. This will open the POTH Setup window, shown below right.

In the POTH setup window simply press "Choose Scope" to reveal the Telescope Chooser. There are loads there, including various Meade and Celestron types. Once you've selected your scope type, press "Properties" to make sure the various settings are correct (COM port, baud rate, etc). Other than selecting COM2 rather than COM1 for my setup, I have not had to change any scope settings. You should also enter the site data (latitude, etc).

Press OK to return to the POTH main window, press "Connect" and wait a few seconds: you should hopefully see the figures at the top of POTH being read and updated live from the scope. You'll also be able to nudge the telescope using the N/S/E/W buttons.

Once POTH is connect it has complete control of the scope. If your guider, for example, tries to connect directly to the scope it will fail, so instead, anything which wants to communicate with the scope must select POTH as its choice of scope.


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