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Last updated: 30 November 2011

Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, #497EP, cables, and AutoStar updater software. See the AutoStar Info page for information from Meade and other users on the AutoStar, cables, and software. Send your comments and tips to for posting. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message per the Site Email Etiquette. Thanks. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranty on your telescope or accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.

Subject:	Display on 497
Sent:	Monday, November 28, 2011 16:47:29
From: (
I have an autostar 497 that has a display that's not working, everything
is fine accept there 
are no characters on the display.
The display backlight works and the autostar update program sees
everything as normal.
Tried a reset, no luck, checked the ribbon from board to display, ok.
Even managed to get to "brightness" and "contrast", both seemed to
adjust ok but still no 
I have other 497 and this just a b/u. 
Any suggestions? 
Or, is there program for th PC that will show me the display text?
Or at least time and date?

Mike Amonett
Mike here: The AutoSuite program (Windows only) has a remote handbox capability. You will need a #505 serial cable and a RS-232 serial port on your computer. You might be able to replace the LCD; see the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page for some articles in screen replacements. There is also a tip about resurrecting a dead screen.

Subject:	Re: PEC in ETX-90 AT?
Sent:	Tuesday, November 22, 2011 09:14:11
From:	richard seymour (
Dang, i should'a caught Mike's comment yesterday.

Mike wrote:
"I assumed he was asking about the latest (Version 5BE2) update. I
assumed it was still there but didn't know for certain. "

Mike: Michael correctly named his Autostar as a 497.
The 497 DOES NOT USE firmware versions with leading digits higher than 4
(so 43Eg *is* the correct, newest (and best) version for a 497).

The "5" firmware series (5BE1, 5BE2) only applies to the 497EP Autostar,
which is probably no longer made.

The currently shipping Audiostar uses firmware that starts with the letter "A"
(currently A1F7 and A2S6, for the English-with-French and -with-Spanish flavors)

Also (i'm surprised Mike didn't catch this one) I wrote:
> The same firmware runs in/under all ETX-xx models.
..all, except the non-Autostarred  ETX-90M and ETX-90RA

dotting T's and crossing I's as we go...
have fun


From:	bikeguy
Thanks You guys,

My Autostar had the 31Ee firmware when I checked it so it was kind of

I downloaded the latest Autostar Updater software (5.9.3) and from
within there I let the updater automatically check for the latest
firmware and update my Autostar. The updater choosed ver. 43Eg. Wonder
why it didnt choose ver. 5BE2 if its out there?

Interesting to put an LNT viewfinder on the -AT. Do anyone of You know
where I can buy one for a cheap price?

Michael Lombar
Mike here: Try Telescope Warehouse (link on the Astronomy Links page) for an LNT module. See the "Premier Edition / LNT" section on the Helpful Information: Telescope Tech Tips page for info on adding the LNT to a non-LNT telescope. As to the AutoStar version, as Dick mentioned, 4.3Eg is the correct (and best) version for your model.

And this:

From:	Andrew Johansen (
Just saw this post.
Mike, re your secondary reference to the newer 497EP firmware.

Just for info, PEC is broken in the 497EP "and" Audiostar firmwares.
It no longer locks up your handbox, but it still won't record PEC correctly.
Also, when training or updating, the process no longer stops by itself.
Ie you have to mode out at some point manually.
I have patched the bulk of the bugs, but in its raw state,
she wont play.


And more:

On 11/22/2011 9:25 AM, bikeguy wrote:
> Alright...What is the difference between the 497 and 497EP hand controller?

Totally different internal electronics
(think: "old PowerPC Macintosh versus Intel Windows PC")

But they both run (what appears from the outside to be) the "same" firmware
(think: you can run Microsoft Word on both PC and Mac, but you can't run the *Mac* version 
of Word on a Windows PC)

> Namely I have just bought myself a Meade LXD75 mount and its hand controller is a 497EP.
> They all look identical but what is the difference and do You know if the 497EP
> handcontroller is compatible with my ETX 90 scope or vice versa?

Yes.  I use all flavors: a 43Eg 497, a 5CE1 497EP and an A1F7 Audiostar on my 1999-vintage 
ETX-90-EC (or -AT or -PE or -whatever (except for -M and -RA))
((the -M and -RA cannot accept any Autostar, they don't have DEC/Alt motors))

> Also You know where I can buy me a LNT viewfinder?

Not precisely.  I bought mine a few years ago when Meade was selling them as replacement
"DS Viewfinders" from their online factory outlet.  I "mount" mine with rubber bands and
primarily use it to verify the effects of our patch kits, not for "real" outdoor work.
(i never got the frosted plastic lens needed for the red-dot finder, i prefer magnified).
Bill Vorce at may occasionally get some in.

Before you ask: the "patch kits" are free corrections/improvements to the various
Autostar/Audiostar firmwares that Andrew Johansen and I generate.
They're available as sub-links from Mike Weasner's "Autostar Info"  page.
The easiest way to load them is to use StarPAtch (instead of ASU), which is free from

The patch kits contain a "ReadMe" file which explains what they add/change/fix, plus "how
to install" instructions (for both ASU and StarPAtch).

have fun


> What is meant by that actually? That PEC training and PEC function in my LXD75 mount with
> 497EP Autostar dont work? And that "I have patched the bulk of the bugs, but in its raw
> state"???? I really dont understand.

Andrew speaks/writes in Australian "strine", so occasionally things are lost in 
translation (especially before his morning coffee).

Specifically: when doing the PEC Training in the 497EP and Audiostar, everything works, 
*except* it won't automatically stop the Training cycle once it's filled all 150 
measurement "bins".  It'll "wrap around" and keep on Training.
So you have to manually cease the Train by tapping the MODE key after it's (at least) 
completed one cycle.  After you've done that, it's usable.

He has written a patch for most of it, but it's not yet in a form that he's willing to 
release for public usage.  He prefers to test his patches to a fare-thee-well to guarantee 
that the scope owners won't run into trouble.  (unlike me, who releases, then issues 

I hope that helps clear it up...

have fun


> Andrew speaks/writes in Australian "strine",

Not me :-)

> Specifically: when doing the PEC Training in the 497EP and Audiostar, 
> everything works,

There are still recording bugs where the 497EP/Audiostar firmware overwrites 
its internal stack
and thus corrupts the final PEC model.
The "doesnt stop recording" is an added extra.

>> My 497EP has the 5CE1 firmware. So PEC training wont work in 5CE1?

Unpatched, its useless.



My apologies for understating the level of the problems.

have fun
--dick (the eternal optimist)
Mike here: Ah, those Meade software engineers.


In this case, its an artifact of the transfer of the code
from the old processor to the new one.
They missed a signed vs unsigned "byte" variable
hence PEC bins 128 to 150 get screwed up
All good fun.

Mike here: Oops. Wonder who did the code walkthrough. (sorry, just my Software QA background showing)


> But what the heck is it with Meade? Isn't that suppose to be solved and done by them?

Yes, but we had the personal choice of "wait for Meade" or "fix it ourselves".
We chose the latter approach.

> What are they doing?

Among other things, creating new products (the Audiostar, the LightSwitch series, the 
LX800 and LX80 self-guiding mounts).

As for the 497-like Autostars, they (relatively) recently replaced the 497 with the 497EP 
and its subsequent expansion, the Audiostar.  The original 497 uses a fairly obsolete 
8/semi-16 bit computer chip (the M68HC11, originally released in 1984, 16 bit address bus, 
effective clock speed 2 MHz).  The 497EP and Audiostar use a modern 16/32 bit chip, which 
can directly address megabytes of memory and is much faster.
But the "port" of the firmware to the new platform introduced a number of bugs due to the 
shift from 16-bit addressing to 32 bit.
As people find bugs, they report them to Meade.  Meade apparently assigns a priority to 
which bugs get fixed first (time spent bug-fixing must compete with their new product 
development).  Subtle PEC errors affect very few users, and take a while to discover. 
Their reporting and repair can fall out of the period they're concentrating on the 497EP 
(now obsolete) and Audiostar.
(there's a lot of guessing and suppositions in the above answer)

> Another thing. . . if I upgrade with Your patches what happens the day Meade releases a
> new version of their firmware? Will it be impossible to upgrade with theirs ?

Not at all impossible.
The patches are merely adjustments to the ROM files that Meade supplies.
They're loaded (and replaced) exactly like Meade's own updates.
When Meade releases a new version, you just update with ASU or StarPatch to that version.
Meade's updates totally replace the existing firmware, so there's no "left-over" effect of 
having a patched version in place before the update.
Then (if eleven years of accumulated history is any guide) a week or so later Andrew and I 
will release a patch kit for the new version, with incremental "editions" of the kit as 
time passes and new bugs/features are found and added.

have fun


Subject:	PEC in ETX-90 AT?
Sent:	Monday, November 21, 2011 17:40:13
From:	bikeguy
I own a Meade ETX-90 AT telescope with Autostar #497. I also knows that
the Meade ETX-90 Premier Edition telescope comes with PEC training
capabilities in its Autostar #497 firmware. I wonder if You know if the
latest Meade firmware upgrade for the   ETX-90 AT has PEC training in
its menues? 

Michael Lombar 
Mike here: I have not installed the latest version. I'll let our AutoStar expert, Dick Seymour, respond.


From:	richard seymour (
The same firmware runs in/under all ETX-xx models.
So if it's there for the -PE, it's there for the -AT
(example: i put an LNT viewfinder on my -AT, and it now does Auto

If you have an ETX-90 (any flavor), it will offer PEC training (etc.)
*if* you have it mounted Polar.   PEC is not offered under Alt/Az.
Meade refers to PEC as "Smart Drive".

Just remember that you always have to PARK the scope to end the session
to avoid losing the worm's PEC position.

Mike, PEC has been in there since before 40Eb (since they fixed a bug at that time)

have fun
Mike here: Thanks Dick. I assumed he was asking about the latest (Version 5BE2) update. I assumed it was still there but didn't know for certain.

Subject:	497 controller
Sent:	Sunday, November 20, 2011 21:47:15
Would it be worth investing in the 497 HC for the etx 80 or would there
be too many objects unviewable for this scope? Thanks for your honest
opinion- Steven, NH
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Mike here: Well, you aren't likely to see all of the 31,000 objects in the AutoStar #497 database with the ETX-80, or any of the ETX models. However, the #497 is still useful as you can update or restore the software in the AutoStar #497, unlike with the #494, which has no user update capability. That alone makes it worth the cost.

Subject:	Autostar locked up after abortive up-date
Sent:	Friday, November 18, 2011 19:56:14
From:	Eric Ball (
Finally decided to break the ETX 105C out and get it hooked up to the nw
laptop. All went well - until - I decided it would be a good thing to
upgrade the hand controller to the latest revision. ou'd really think
I'd know beter at my age!
Anyhow, using Windows XP Professional (SP3) I downloaded SU 5.9.3 and
after messing about trying to get to connecton com9 via my (home made)
505 cable and USB/Serial converter, after first establishing
communication via Hyper Terminal, I set it off upgrading and headed in
for a cup of coffee. Returned a while late to find a message on-screen
informing me that the handset wasn't connected, and the handset (no
longer back-lit) with (c)07 Meade[43E] A U T O S T A R displyed.
No amount of powering off, on, off, reconnecting, shutting down,
restarting, trying other USB ports, trying direct com1 RS-232C direct
connection, ENTER+Page Down+power on into FLASH LOAD 3.0 READY mode
helps one bit.
Checked out cable, all fine, built new more robust cable. Buzzed it out
and used Hyperterminal to communicate (9600, 8, none, 1, none) via com9,
repeated <Ctrl>f = DD?D?D??. Used Hyperterminal to Transfer Text File
boot.rom (off your site Mike) which then reported Y2.0a. I then hit
<shift>I which immediately resulted in the FLASH LOAD 3.0 READY message
changing to (c)07 Meade[43E] A U T O S T A R.
That's it - nothing else happens no matter how long I leave it.
It appears to me that the firmware upgrade attempt has corrupted the
Handcontrollers firmware and that's preventing me getting any further.
I've scoured each and every mention here on your site (good old Richard
Seymour, he really does a super job of documenting things - did I tell
you he and his wife came and stayed with us here in NZ a few years
back?) regarding Autostar problems to no avail.
I know Meade aren't going to take this 8 year old handcontroller back
and I'm determined to get it back up and running somehow - can anyone on
your site please help?
All the best,
Eric, Rangiora, NZ
Mike here: I'd bet your USB-serial adapter was the original culprit. Not all work reliably with the AutoStar. I recommend using Keyspan models. That said, try using StarPatch (from to do the ROM load. Be certain you are in the SAFE LOAD mode again before starting the update.


I can't believe how quickly you got back to me! What time is it there?
Well this same USB/RS232C converter worked fine before, even had the LPI
working via it! Anyhow, I've just tidied all of my stuff away (visitors
arriving soon and I was getting a wagging from 'she who must be obeyed'
so I'll have to get back to you later tonight after they've gone and I
can try it stargps - I'll let you know how it goes :-)

And an update:

What can I say?
StarGPS unbricked my Autostar!
Thanks a heap, really, I am so delighted I can't stop smiling.
I must register that software - it's worth every penny - however much it
is (I must go look) and I see Richard had a hand in it :-)
Thanks again Mike, and if you're ever planning on making it over here
you'll always be welcome at our place.
All the best,
Rangiora NZ

Subject:	Re: Bypassing Handset check
Sent:	Friday, November 18, 2011 13:21:26
From:	Mike Tasker (
Thank you all. I will try the renaming the firmware and see what
happens. It will be a few hours, as this work thing gets in the way. 
I will update you all. 


Sent from my iPhone


From:	Chris Carson (
The other option follows:
>> This mode really only makes sense for the 497EP/Audiostar.  Here's how to use it:
>> 1) download and unzip to replace
>> the existing StarPatch.exe
>> 2) run StarPatch from the command line with the parameter as in:
>> StarPatch.exe ForceHandset
>> 3) select Options > Handset > Audiostar
>> 4) Update Handset
Chris Carson


From:	Andrew Johansen (
I missed this bit earlier

> After loading the new meade updater update, I was hoping it would restore
> the audiostar function.  Nope.  It just updated it from 5CE1 to 5CE2.  

The fact it loaded 5CE2 onto the 5CE1 means you have the older
version of Flash and hence should have no problems
reloading the A1F7 Audiostar code
I also see Chris just posted re the StarPatch override Method
I would use that instead of the ASU rename method ;-)


And an update:

You guys all rock.  It works.  :)  Thank you so much.



From:	richard seymour (

But, Clarify, please?

Which "it" did you use?

Renaming the rom file for ASU?
The "force" version of StarPatch?
Something else?



I did the force version of StarPatch.  It took a while to remember my
command line commands to execute the force function.  

It is again an Audiostar.  I believe the new ASU will prevent the error
caused this, but it may happen again.  

What a great community.. Thank you.  Now if the sky would clear in the
Pacific North West, I will enjoy playing more.  

Mike here: Glad the AutoStar experts could help out.

Subject:	Bypassing Handset check
Sent:	Thursday, November 17, 2011 20:18:25
From:	Mike Tasker (
I was wondering if there is a way to bypass the handset check with
starpatch?  I had the same thing happen to my audiostar handset as the
individual in Australia.  I updated interesting items, then after that
update, the handset found a update for the firmware.  It updated it to
the older version 497EP, with firmware 5CE1.  I finally found there was
a new updater to check it that would work, but no.  Then I found your
site, and the original firmware, yet your prevention of improper updates
keeps me from taking back to original. 
Thank you for any help you can provide.
Mike Tasker


From:	richard seymour (
I know that Chris Carson modified StarPatch to allow overriding (or to
block it, i forget which (i'm under a high time-pressure crunch, and
don't have the time to dig through the email traffic))...
So i'm CC'ing both Chris and Andrew Johansen...
hopefully one of them will provide a quick answer
(i'll return to "being able to think Autostar" mid-Monday...)

But it *is* possible to force StarPAtch to put the Audiostar's firmware back in...
(was yours French (A1F7) or Spanish (A2S6) before the problem?)

good luck


Thank you all for the assistance.

It is was an English audiostar.

This happened a few months ago, with the previous Meade updater.  It
initially didn't see an update until I loaded the latest objects list.  Then
it found an update.  I assumed it was newer, yet it updated the firmware to
Now the updater from Meade and Starpatch see it as a Autostar.

I am assuming if I can get something to recognize the handset as the
previous audiostar and reload original firmware it would be back to normal.
I believe the safety checks in starpatch prevent you from loading a firmware
different than it detects.. Protect us from ourselves.  :)  

After loading the new meade updater update, I was hoping it would restore
the audiostar function.  Nope.  It just updated it from 5CE1 to 5CE2.  

I have attached an photo where you can see audiostar, and autostar firmware.


Thanks again for all the help.



Yes, but it had French or Spanish as a second language (trust us on this).
If you load the "wrong language" firmware, all that happens is that (if
you choose the second language under Setup) you'll have (perhaps) French
on the screen, but Spanish being spoken (why pay for a Rosetta
package?).  Or vice-versa. (i've tested this).
You can correct that situation by using StarPatch again.

The English menus and speech will work properly in either case.

StarPatch *will* be able to fix it.

The electronics (except for the speech board) in the Audiostar and 497EP
Autostar are the same, which is why it's possible to load 5CE1 without
"bricking" the handbox.

good luck

And more:

I believe it was French.  This looks like French on the handset as well.
Google translate is a great thing.


Again thank you all for the support.  



From:	Andrew Johansen (
First things first, can you reduce the picture sizes.( or zip em )
I live on dialup and 500k for a piccy like that just kills me.

>> The electronics (except for the speech board) in the Audiostar and 497EP
>> Autostar are the same, which is why it's possible to load 5CE1 without
>> "bricking" the handbox.

Not necessarily ;-)
The very latest Audiostars appear to use a different memory chip.
Putting anything other than A1F7 or A2S6 on em will make them zombies.
Neither Starpatch nor ASU will work with a handbox in this condition,
but we have a two part back door mechanism to get round that now.
Leave that be at present.

I'm not sure if the released Starpatch has the "override" ability in it,
but you can "Trick" ASU .
The ASU determines the rom type based on its name, NOT its contents.
If you have the Audiostar   BuildA1F7.rom in your Updater\Ephemerides folder
just rename it as BuildEPA1F7.rom and the updater will see it
and allow you to load it.


Subject:	Entering coordinates
Sent:	Tuesday, November 15, 2011 23:48:59
Is the a way to enter coordinates for comets not listed in the database
for the etx-80 with 494 HC? Thanks Steven
Mike here: See the item "Q. How do I enter Right Ascension and Declination and have the AutoStar GOTO it?" on the ETX FAQ page.

Subject:	Android and 497 HBX over Bluetooth
Sent:	Sunday, November 13, 2011 05:20:21
From:	Gene Nolan (
Might find this interesting:

Android app that gives handbox functionality to your smartphone/tablet
over a bluetooth link.

Still in prototype phase and of course needs a bluetooth to rs232 serial
adapter at the scope side.

Started out doing it in a PIC chip and using buttons, RCA TV remote and
touch screen for old palm pilot but came to conclusion $10k+ too much to
kick in for custom keypads and cases to make it worthwhile.

See my other 497 HBX over bluetooth videos if interested:

Mike here: Cool! I've been hoping for iOS app that is just an AutoStar handcontroller, but to date, all the iOS apps that can control the AutoStar (via Wi-Fi or serial) are full-blown astronomy apps.

Subject:	ETX90 Won't track moon
Sent:	Saturday, November 5, 2011 19:25:03
From:	Steve (
I have an ETX 90 and it won't track the Moon, it moves out of the FOV
pretty quickly at high magnifaction. I have upgraded the 497, trained
and calibrated drives, tried alt/az and polar, no luck.
Any help would be great.
Mike here: You can set the tracking rate to lunar instead of sidereal.


I thought if you used the goto it automatically switched.
I will give it a shot and let you know.
Thanks Mike.

And an update:

Do you ever get tired of being right?  ;-)
Mike here: Always happy when my free advice works out!


You should charge a yearly membership fee. (Can't believe I just said that)
Mike here: Won't do that. Although I do gratefully accept "pledges".


How would I do that?
Mike here: See the "Making a Contribution" in the "Supporting the ETX Site" on the ETX Site home page. Thanks!

Subject:	Meade 497 Handcontroller Showing "Press Press"
Sent:	Monday, October 31, 2011 19:24:23
From:	Andrew Johansen (
The "Press  Press" screen is the result of a factory handbox test script.
The bug Dick mentioned is that the second "Press"
is supposed to list the key to be pressed in the order required,
not the actual process itself.
The only way to get into this procedure ( in the latest firmwares )
is to short the Tx and Rx pins in the serial port in the handbox
when booting.
As such, before reflashing the firmware, ensure nothing is plugged
into the handbox serial port, and look into the hole and make sure
the Tx/Rx pins arent displaced and touching each other.
If not and it still occurs, you will need to open the Hbx and look
for something shorting out the tracks inside the Hbx.
( Dead bugs etc )



From:	Robert Amdahl (
Am I understanding this correctly that the cause of my problem with the
497 is that there may be a short with the pins in the serial port of the
handbox?  I am assuming that this is the other port on the 497 and not
the one that the coiled cable that goes to the telescope attaches.  

If I don't see anything askew in the plug then I should take off the
cover of the 497 and look inside to see if there is something foreign
that is shorting the tracks?

I guess it won't hurt to take a look and if it fixes the problem so much
the better.



> Am I understanding this correctly that the cause of my problem
> with the 497 is that there may be a short with the pins
> in the serial port of the handbox?
Yep ( or the rs232 traces inside the Hbx )
> I am assuming that this is the other port on the 497
> and not the one that the coiled cable that goes to the telescope attaches.  
Correct, its the 4 pin connector
The Tx and Rx pins are the two closest to the left hand side of the Hbx.
( ie furthest from the 8pin connector )
> If I don't see anything askew in the plug then I should take off the cover
> of the 497 and look inside to see if there is something foreign that is shorting the tracks?
On booting, the Hbx sends an "X" out on the rs232 line.
If it then receives an "X" back on the input, it sends a "Z".
If it gets a "Z" back, it goes into the "Press Press" routine
Thus, its not something an intermittent glitch would trigger,
only having the Tx echoed on the Rx will trigger it.
Sooooo, look for a short on those lines.

And an update:

You guys are such a blessing and the ETX site is a Godsend.

This morning, I figured that I would take the plunge and try the things
that you suggested to fix the problem on the 497.  I did the easiest
thing first which is to look into the socket for the rs232 line to see
if there was anything obvious.  I didn't see anything but I got a qtip
to try and clean off the connectors just in case.  That might not have
been such a good idea since I then saw little strings of cotton inside
the socket.  I had a can of compressed air that I used to blow these out
and whatever else was in there.  I then hooked the handbox up to the
scope and tested it.   The "Press Press" problem was still there.  Then
it was onto the next stage; opening the case and getting inside.

Now you have to understand that I don't have an electronics background
and that it's a good thing that I don't rely on my mechanical abilities
to pay the bills, so needless to say that this part had me nervous.  But
being careful, I did open the case and nothing fell out onto the floor. 
 I didn't see anything obvious here either but the 497 that I have is a
"newer" model and there are black housing boxes over both the rs232 port
and the scope port.  So I couldn't follow the leads while inside the
case.  I did see that there were some kinds of tabs that were holding
these housing boxes in place but I didn't feel confident enough to
remove the tabs to get inside to check.  But I did use the compressed
air again over the circuits to blow away any debris that may be there. 
I then was able to get the cover back together and the handbox back into
one piece.  I then tried it with the scope and the results were the

I then got a toothpick and very carefully rubbed the tracks in the rs232
socket to, hopefully, remove anything that may have been there.  Tried
it once more with the scope and, again, no luck.  Finally, I got the
rs232 4-pin cable that came with my LPI and inserted that a few times
into the rs232 port of the handbox.  I can't answer why I did this but
at the time, it seemed like a good idea.  I again hooked it up to the
scope and turned it on and this time it worked!  I actually got to the
main menu for the autostar.  I only tried it that once but at least it
did work.  I will try it again, hopefully before the weekend, and let
you know.

I just want to thank you both because without your advice and
suggestions, I would not have been able to fix this thing nor would I
have probably even tried.  So as I said before, you guys are a blessing
and thank you, thank you, thank you again!

Mike here: Sounds like one of the pins might have been touching another or perhaps the metal was broken. Pushing in the connector moved something.

And more:

Good to hear its all working again,
however some clarifications for others who may read this thread.
> the 497 that I have is a "newer" model and there are black housing boxes
> over both the rs232 port and the scope port.  
> So I couldn't follow the leads while inside the case.
That's the standard construction for those type of connectors.
You cannot remove the "covers" as such, as they are a
single piece construction.
The standard way to trace the lines is to look at the solder pins
on the other side of the board, and work from there.
> Finally, I got the rs232 4-pin cable that came with my LPI
> and inserted that a few times into the rs232 port of the handbox.  
> I can't answer why I did this but at the time, it seemed like a good idea.
It is a good idea and i should have suggested it as the second
thing to do "after" looking into the port to ensure the pins weren't displaced.
Doing what you did has probably freed up something that was trapped
inside the socket housing and was shorting the two pins.


Thank you again!  Also, thanks for the clarification. Hopefully, that
may help someone else in the future who has the same problem

BTW, I tried it again this morning and it still worked!


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