Re: Software Update to V5.XXX for Existing Keypads

Christopher Erickson

In my experience, even with a hood, the display brightness on the AP hand controller is so low that non-dark-adapted eyes still can't see it easily during the day. Removing the red lens is the best way to see the hand controller during the day.

Another alternative is using Sky Safari Plus/Pro (or a PC) to control the mount during the day.

The AP display module is a vacuum fluorescent display with a bluish emission. It is a beautiful, expensive display module that I suspect that AP chose over a common, cheap LCD because it is usable to about -40F/C and is amazingly tough. It is an industrial component. Vacuum fluorescent display modules can be had with the HD44780 interface and be swapped into many electronic devices originally designed for cheap LCD displays.

The Hitachi HD44780 interface is a defacto standard electrical interface to LCD (and other) display modules and is used by many manufacturers for many display types and configurations. As an electrical specification and not a mechanical one, the connector used is not standardized and neither is the total number of pins/conductors used. Hence swapping out displays isn't always a drop-in situation. There are pin headers and ribbon headers and a lot of variations of each. Often times a bit of soldering is required to swap out various displays.

OLED modules have the advantage over LCD's and VFD's when it comes to being viewed in direct sunlight. They effectively become more reflective than emissive and are still readable.

It is possible to swap out the AP vacuum fluorescent display module with an OLED module with an HD44780 interface. The only real challenge will be fiddling with the connection of the module to the hand controller. Some soldering will probably be required. The pin spacing of the connector plug used in the hand controller is less common than most connector choices currently available. 

I have provided sufficient information for anyone who wishes to experiment with OLED displays and their AP hand controller and has the minimal required electronic skills to make it happen.

Have fun!

-Christopher Erickson

On Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 1:36 PM Don Anderson via <> wrote:
Hi Joe
Hopefully all keypad versions should have the same internals display wise. You go ahead and be the ginny pig for the rest of us😗. If it works then I would consider it too. The new solar cycle is getting kicked off and I would like to get back into solar Astro photography.

Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

On Friday, July 9, 2021, 10:47 AM, Joe Zeglinski <J.Zeglinski@...> wrote:

Thanks Greg,
    That second link for the HOODMAN Loupe is what I had been considering for some years. However, reaching for any Keypad button, while being that close with the eyes locked onto the hooded screen, might end up with serious “nasal interference”  ;-)
    Also, at $90 for the Loupe, the price of (something like)  a $40 OLED replacement module for the present Keypad’s VFU,  looks good.
Something like:
    Back on the thread  (14/01/2017), Chris provided a link for the original VFU.
    But I can’t find the link for the actual OLED he successfully replaced,  in three of his Keypads.
Great description, however,  back then.
    Hopefully those OLED modules were “Pin & Plug Compatible”, not requiring any soldered mods to the Keypad  itself (unfortunately, Keypad model numbers were unspecified – but maybe they would all be fine).
    It may even be that the OLED isn’t as easily visible in daylight,  as the existing VFU module’s display, but with its red filter removed.
    I was thinking that since I have to take the Keypad apart anyway, to get at removing the filter, then that OLED modules lower cost, it might be worth plugging one in, just on speculation as a comparison, and choose between either of Chris two suggested methods. Probably a good time to change the Keypad Battery anyway, while I am in the rat’s nest of delicate plastic optic-fibres.
    Another COVID idle-item home project ?
Joe Z.
From: Greg Vaughn
Sent: Thursday, July 8, 2021 11:22 PM
Subject: Re: [ap-gto] Software Update to V5.XXX for Existing Keypads

Hi Joe,


I generally use my AP mounts without computer and only with the keypad when I do solar imaging.    I can do that because I use a DSLR to take photos – generally with either an external or built in interval timer (depending on the camera).


What I find works well for both examination of, and focusing with, the magnified Live View image on the camera LCD AND viewing the menus/text on the keypad is a magnified HOODMAN HoodLoupe that I purchased for the 2017 Great American Eclipse.   George had suggested putting a towel over my head to read the keypad, but I found this pretty cumbersome and never got proficient at it.


On Amazon, a quick Google search turned up the following:


The above link is for a 3.2 in LCD screen.


There are also a number of accessories that you can purchase, some bundled in kits, that I found at B&H:


Some accessories allow you to leave the loupe on the back of a DSLR, but that doesn’t give me the freedom I desire.   If you use an articulated screen (very common now), like on the Canon Ra (so you’re not on your hands and knees to look out the scope), you have to use two hands to view with the loupe, just as you would need to do with the keypad if you are holding it.   (One hand holds the articulating screen still and the other holds the loupe over it.  Once settled and the loupe focused, I can hold the loupe still on the LCD screen with pressure from my face and eye socket while I manually focus the scope.)


When I’m solar observing, I have the loupe lanyard (comes with it) around my neck and it allows ready access to the loupe so I can use it for either the camera/focusing or the keypad.    The loupe is also useful before dark as well on the keypad - when checking altitude adjustment from Park 5 for example – although I have the necessary keystrokes memorized at this point.


Hope this helps.





p.s.  It’s important to first focus the loupe itself with the its own diopter adjustment.   I focus on the lettering projected on the screen and I found it quite easy and quite quick to get the loupe in good focus.  That focus generally holds for then moving it to the keypad.


Greg Vaughn

Alexandria, VA




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