On the 'tube

This deep and absorbing rabbit hole is literally “on the tube…”

1

As in, about the tube. I mean, not the “toob,” nor yet even the London underground. I mean The Tube. Our little bits of bottled vacuum here in oith, where electrons dance like they do in space.

But this rabbit hole branches off like wormholes to the past. And no, this isn't (primarily) a link to a ütube video - though there's a great 40-minute documentary on the manufacture of televisions by RCA in 1959 embedded somewhere on the site, which I recommend.

No, it's "just" a website for the British all-tube pedal maker Effectrode. You can start pretty much anywhere and drop an easy hour. The sidebar indexes are a bit like roundabouts in the UK - they take you places you can't get back from. They just keep branching off...

I started with the "History" section under Knowledge Base. (But unlike most "knowledge bases," which are tech companies' cynical FAQ sections intended to insulate them from having to provide actual service, there's actually great stuff here.)

The guy at the head of Effectrode is obviously deeply smitten by and deeply knowledgeable in all things thermionic, and the website is as much a labor of that love as it is a storefront for his pedals. Bit o'history, bit o'science, lots of gooey warm tube smell.

Enjoy.

https://www.effectrode.com

2

I'm literally afraid to open that.

I can read about this kind of thing for days--and since I am not technically inclined, it's just not efficient use of my time.

I don't know why, but I'm sure I would read and never stop, only...

I read that the tube may vanish altogether the other day, and it scared the bejeezus out of me.

Me being a child of the 80s and not wanting to ever believe that the all-enveloping tube bloom could one day disappear.

Like with the oceans and North Pole and everything else.

Damn. I'm frightening myself again.

K

3

Tubes were invented in 1904 by Fleming. Transistors came around in the '50s, then, IC chips. Tube manufacturers are getting rarer every day. I'm always surprised that we still have tubes around. Still, I'm going to use them as long as I can. Aside from musicians like us and audiophiles, there really isn't any other demand for them.

4

Tubes were invented in 1904 by Fleming. Transistors came around in the '50s, then, IC chips. Tube manufacturers are getting rarer every day. I'm always surprised that we still have tubes around. Still, I'm going to use them as long as I can. Aside from musicians like us and audiophiles, there really isn't any other demand for them.

– wabash slim

Russian war machines??

Actually, tubes are an amazing electronic component. The way in which the electrons interact...WOW!!

The Techie Zone page is an excellent example of what actually happens when you hit that string, and the shape of the waveform is impacted upon by the tube (and all the other components) it passes by on its way to the amplifier speaker.

5

Analog forever!

Great amount to be learned or refreshed by perusing this website.

My Mom worked in a Sylvania Tube plant in the 50's...

6

Tubes were invented in 1904 by Fleming. Transistors came around in the '50s, then, IC chips. Tube manufacturers are getting rarer every day. I'm always surprised that we still have tubes around. Still, I'm going to use them as long as I can. Aside from musicians like us and audiophiles, there really isn't any other demand for them.

– wabash slim

Radio! I was a High Frequency Radio Technician in the Army (2 - 32 Mhz). Vacuum tubes are used in high power radio transmitters. Vacuum tubes far exceed solid state components, in achieving commercial broadcasting power. My original Army radio tech school was in 1978, and was heavily vacuum oriented for this very reason. They are still heavily and exclusively used as output PA's in commercial radio transmitters (television transmitters as well). Without vacuum tubes, we could kiss commercial radio and television broadcasts goodbye.

7

Radio! I was a High Frequency Radio Technician in the Army (2 - 32 Mhz). Vacuum tubes are used in high power radio transmitters. Vacuum tubes far exceed solid state components, in achieving commercial broadcasting power. My original Army radio tech school was in 1978, and was heavily vacuum oriented for this very reason. They are still heavily and exclusively used as output PA's in commercial radio transmitters (television transmitters as well). Without vacuum tubes, we could kiss commercial radio and television broadcasts goodbye.

– Wade H

I'm well aware. Seeing a transmitter power tube with cooling water hookups was a surprise. I worked in broadcast AM/FM and PBS TV for awhile. I grew up with tubes---Dad fixed TVs and radios in the early '50s.

Miniature tubes were even used in artillery proximity fuses in aerial combat. If tubes can survive being shot out of a cannon---

Of course, they only needed to work once.

When in the USAF in '69, our mainframe supply computer, a Univac 3600, was a tube driven device. It was outdated even then, a device the size of a warehouse that needed to be at 70-72F, and 50% humidity or it'd shut down.

My point was, tho, that the vast majority of electronic uses have been replaced by solid state devices. Tubes are still in use, I have them in guitar and stereo amps myself, but their uses are becoming rarer all of the time. Still, there's something magical about 117 year old tech that still has the magic in it.

8

What a great background wabash slim! I love those big water cooled PA tubes, I actually had a defective one for a long time, until I gave it to one of my post military college professor who had a extensive vacuum tube collection. A decision that I now regret! I saved it from being trashed by the Army. They were worth a couple of hundred dollars in scrap gold content, even back in the 80's (when I snagged it out of the dumpster). It was worth a small fortune with today's gold prices.

I've never had the pleasure of seeing an artillery Proximity Fuze tube, I've read about them though. They were super heavy duty (obviously), and like you mentioned, they only had to work one time.

There really is a mystique surrounding vacuum tubes, the whole concept was ingenious. I never tire of rehabbing old radio sets and guitar amplifiers. They used basic electronics, with everything highly visible and tactile. Just be careful not to touch anything with the power turned on, 650 VDC is not uncommon in these old sets.

9

I'm an Aussie, we always used valves instead of tubes. The Tubes were one of my favorite bands.

10

What a great background wabash slim! I love those big water cooled PA tubes, I actually had a defective one for a long time, until I gave it to one of my post military college professor who had a extensive vacuum tube collection. A decision that I now regret! I saved it from being trashed by the Army. They were worth a couple of hundred dollars in scrap gold content, even back in the 80's (when I snagged it out of the dumpster). It was worth a small fortune with today's gold prices.

I've never had the pleasure of seeing an artillery Proximity Fuze tube, I've read about them though. They were super heavy duty (obviously), and like you mentioned, they only had to work one time.

There really is a mystique surrounding vacuum tubes, the whole concept was ingenious. I never tire of rehabbing old radio sets and guitar amplifiers. They used basic electronics, with everything highly visible and tactile. Just be careful not to touch anything with the power turned on, 650 VDC is not uncommon in these old sets.

– Wade H

The 11th Commandment states, "Thou shalt not work on high voltage alone."

I have a rectifier tube that's about a foot tall and 8" in diameter. It powered a DC spotlight (our theater had 6 of them, along with 8 Super Troopers). Early TV camera tunes were pretty unusual as well. Even your basic CRT is a monster. The tubes that had me scratching my head were the old metal jacketed types. I could never see how they could hold a vacuum well.

The TV show "How It's Made", had a segment on the construction of vacuum tubes. Some are made with hand blown quartz glass---impressive, and expensive. Not many places are making mass produced tubes anymore outside of the old Iron Curtain countries.

I've heard that the subtle beauty of tubes is because that they distort on the odd numbered harmonics, and solid state distorts on the even numbers.

11

Miniature tubes were even used in artillery proximity fuses

And those are exactly the tubes Effectrode uses in some of their pedals. As is part of the lore contained in the linked site...

12

I've heard that the subtle beauty of tubes is because that they distort on the odd numbered harmonics, and solid state distorts on the even numbers. wabash slim

I believe that it is the other way around, tubes emphasize the even harmonics (or second order harmonics, which are pleasing to the ears), and transistors emphasis the odd harmonics (which sound dry and harsh to the ears). Tubes also give a bloom swell, as the current draw plays catch-up with the voltage (volume) increase. The newer solid state amplifiers can emulate second order harmonics and bloom quite nicely IMO.


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