When did vacuum tubes first become common in the U.S. and what makes and models were they?

Discussion in '"Boat Anchor" & Classic Equipment' started by KC0BUS, Aug 12, 2018.

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  1. KC0BUS

    KC0BUS Ham Member QRZ Page

    What were the first few vacuum tube makes and models that were widely and commonly available here in the U.S.A. and what years did they first start to become widely and commonly available?
    Thank you
  2. N2IIE

    N2IIE XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Google is your friend...

    • In 1875, American, G.R. Carey invented the phototube.
    • In 1878, Englishman Sir William Crookes invented the 'Crookes tube', an early prototype of the cathode-ray tube.
    • In 1895, German, Wilhelm Roengten invented an early prototype Xray tube.
    • In 1897, German, Karl Ferdinand Braun invents the cathode ray tubeoscilloscope.
    • In 1904, John Ambrose Fleming invented the first practical electron tube called the 'Fleming Valve'. Leming invents the vacuum tube diode.
    • In 1906, Lee de Forest invented the Audion later called the triode, an improvement on the 'Fleming Valve' tube.
    • In 1913, William D. Coolidge invented the 'Coolidge Tube', the first practical Xray tube.
    • In 1920, RCA began the first commercial electron tube manufacturing.
    • In 1921, American Albert Hull invented the magnetron electronic vacuum tube.
    • In 1922, Philo T. Farnsworth develops the first tube scanning system for television.
    • In 1923, Vladimir K Zworykin invented the iconoscope or the cathode-ray tubeand the kinescope.
    • In 1926, Hull and Williams co-invented the tetrode electronic vacuum tube.
    • In 1938, Americans Russell and Sigurd Varian co-invented the klystron tube.
  3. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    For tube types, some of the early, mass produced, tubes used for receivers were the WD-11, WD-12, 00 and 00A series (100, 200, 300, and "A" versions), and the 01 / 01A (101, 201, 301, and "A" versions). With the 3-number versions the first number usually indicated the manufacturer and, later, the first number was dropped and most manufacturers just used the 2-number designation.

    During the 1920s, all sorts of tubes appeared especially when AC was starting to be used for filament supplies instead of DC.

    Glen, K9STH
  4. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes it's a curiosity that a question would be posed in a forum when the answer is readily available with a minimum of research using the same tools involved in posting the question.

    If you have taken the steps to do the research and still have unanswered questions by all means seek information from other sources.
    N2EY likes this.
  5. G3YRO

    G3YRO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Can't see how that is true, as several Valves were produced in Britain for use in WW1 radio equipment.

    Roger G3YRO
  6. KD2ACO

    KD2ACO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Looking up the RCA Radiola and related radios could be a good place to start with large scale consumer electronics manufacture in the US.


    Here's my Radiola 3 (about 1924). It is covered in dirt and just sitting on the 'to be fixed' shelf for the past decade. It uses WD11 valves.


    In the mid to late 20's was an explosion of radio companies and tubes. The venerable 00 and 01A could be about when tubes began to be made with commercial (general public consumer) quantities. Here's picture of my Atwater Kent model 20 being rebuilt about 20 years ago. That's a radio of the late 20's.


    01A tube pictures and curves.

    It's a remarkably linear tube!
  7. KD2ACO

    KD2ACO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

  8. KJ6ZOL

    KJ6ZOL Ham Member QRZ Page

    The vacuum tube was actually "invented" by Edison, when he was trying to invent the electric light bulb. One of his experimental light bulbs had a carbon filament and was sooting up the inside of the glass envelope, so he put a metal plate inside to collect the soot. He noticed that the filament glowed brighter, but the plate wasn't collecting the soot, so he tried something else. DeForest was the guy who figured out that such a device could amplify radio signals. Before then radio rx's were generally crystal sets, and transmitters were spark gap. When Charles Herrold created the first radio station in 1907, I think he used a form of spark gap transmitter and his listeners used homebrew crystal driven receivers. Edison had such a one track mind that he discarded inventions that made other people rich. A cleanup guy was collecting junk to toss out at Edison's lab when he noticed a device that could record speech onto a cylinder record. The guy's supervisor told him to junk it, but the guy smuggled it out anyway. The "Dictaphone" made him a very rich man.
    W9GB likes this.
  9. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Of course, you could spend a year's dog walking money on a 301 at the time. Ham radio is CHEAP today!
  10. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    RCA was, probably, first company to "mass produce" tubes. That is, in quantities of 10,000, or more, of any specific type.

    However, De Forest was manufacturing vacuum tubes by 1909 and Fleming was making vacuum tubes in 1905. Marconi started making vacuum tubes in 1907 and there were a number of other companies making receiving tubes in the 1910s. Those included Audiotron, Pacific Laboratories, Weagant, Western Electric, and others.

    Even in the early 1920s, vacuum tubes were very expensive with even a single tube costing at least a day's wages for middle class men and even 2-day's wages, or more. Then, the warranties, on the tubes, were just a few days! I have tubes, made during that time frame, with a sticker saying "warrantied for 3-days after the date of purchase"! Then, there is a handwritten date on the sticker. However, even though the warranty period was only for 3-days, those tubes still work fine today, almost 100-years after they were first sold.

    Glen, K9STH

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