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Use of electron tubes today

Discussion in 'Misc Electronics' started by Rene, Feb 17, 2008.

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  1. Rene

    Rene Guest

    Hi to all,

    I was wondering how important tube electronics are today in military
    equipment. In the 80's I often heard that many electronics still were built
    of them because they are far more tolerant than semiconductors when it comes
    to nucleair explosions. Nowadays one can buy tubes relatively cheap because
    large warehouses, mostly in Russia, that were filled with spares for
    military and other equipment are being sold out (apart from the factories
    that still build new tubes), so I was wondering whether there is no more
    importance for those parts.

    Anyone have any knowledge about this? What are Your opinions about the role
    of electron tubes in the future (apart from being a nice hobby for a
    relatively small group of people)?

    Thanks in advance for the input!
    Yours sincerely,

    P.S. I would like to emphasize I am not a weapons/war freak, on the
    contrary, I just find the fact that this old technology has such virtues
    over modern stuff very fascinating (and the glow of the tubes is so
    wonderfull ;-)).
  2. Back then, a lot of stuff simply hadn't been turned over. The tube stuff
    was there because it was still useable and the cost of replacement was too
    high. A lot of military equipment was top of the line, so there was less
    incentive to move to better equipment.

    Solid state elsewhere brought a lot of fancier technology down in cost.
    Direct frequency readout, synthesizer and such were prohibitive (due to
    size and cost) in tube equipment, but the military was willing to pay for
    it so they had it. When solid state made it cost effective, it gave the
    consumer that level of equipment at a price they could pay, so there
    was incentive for the consumer or hobbyist to abandon the tube equipment
    and move to solid state.

    Note also that the early wave of solid state equipment was pretty lousy.
    At least some of it was solid state so it could be solid state. The designers
    hadn't figured out how to make good solid state equipment. I'm thinking
    especially of receivers, some/much of the early transistorized receivers for
    more than local broadcast stations were awful at handling strong signals. It
    took time before that was figured out, which brought things to the seventies.
    Add a few years for changeover, and that accounts for why tube gear
    was still in use "that late".

    Transmitting was another matter. You could easily generate power with
    tubes, but doing it with solid state devices cost money. So even after
    a lot of transmitters had become solid state, their final stage or stages
    would be tubes, because it was cost efficient and there was little reason
    to not use them there.

    As for the issue of EMP, that's been said of the Russians. But, it can
    also be argued, it has been argued, that one reason they lagged is
    because they didn't have the resources. They'd have to retool to move
    over to solid state, and if they tried to buy they might face restrictions.
    The tubes still worked, so they stuck with it.

    If you read about the USSR's early "home computers", you'd find that they
    ended up copying the west, and in at least one case had to use a multiple
    set of ICs to duplicate a CPU that was in the west on one IC. So even by
    the eighties they were lagging, which does reinforce the notion that they
    kept with tubes because that was the state of their technology.

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