Tube Junkie



For as long as I can remember I have been a sucker for electronic gadgets. I was about nine when the transistor was invented. Before then, everything used tubes. The local dime store had a tube testing machine, and I found that I could collect old radio and televisions from the neighbors that no longer worked and find out which tubes were burnt out. Even though I couldn’t buy the replacement tubes, I could tell someone else how to fix the set.

We also had an X ray machine at the local shoe store that allowed you to see the bones in your feet. The salesmen would chase me away when they found me playing with it.

In the sixties, everything electronic began to change rapidly. Printed circuit boards containing semi-conductors don’t have the same panache that wires and tubes had. I began to lose interest. The more I learned about electronics, the more it seemed like math, which I had concluded wasn’t up my alley. I was in love with glowing orbs of glass, the smell of hot wax off a transformer, bakelite knobs and cases. I was an artist, not an engineer.

Tubes are making a comeback with the hi-fi crowd. There’s a factory in the Ukraine that still makes them. On my Facebook feed I see ads for them, and for audio amplifier kits that use them. Although I have no desire to try again to assemble an electronics project kit, (my Heathkit Shortwave Radio was a total bomb) I am amused and delighted to see my old friends that 12AX7 and the 6AU6.

And that nonsense idea “cut your cable bills and turn your house wiring into a giant antenna!” still lives! People are falling for it fifty years later. Maybe the price is so low people don’t bother to demand their money back.

2 thoughts on “Tube Junkie

  1. I am intreiged by the prospect of neighborhoods or whole towns liking their computers to make servers independent of any other servers. It sounds like the future to me.

    I grew up with tubes too. If you ever get to WA state. We have a guest room and running water. The hen we could go to the Spark’s Radio and Electrical Museum. Sounds as if that would amuse you.


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