Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tube Radios

Welcome to Old Radio Week here at OPOD. We will be looking back at the early days of radio communication. We start with this picture, of a man working on debugging a radio. As you probably know, the early radios were made with Vacuum tubes. The tubes were expensive, ran hot, used lots of power and were prone to failure. So, back in the day keeping a radio working was a big deal. This picture was taken in 1929.

I will admit that I recently got my HAM radio license and have really gotten into the hobby. Interestingly, some of the best equipment in the HAM world still uses Vacuum tubes. In the end, there are some things that still work best with the old tubes. 

What I really like about HAM radio is that is is both and art and a science. The guy that talks the best and farthest is not necessarily the guy who spends the most on the radio. It is all about designing, building and testing an antenna system. So, it is not like a cell phone that you just take out of the box and turn on, it is about designing an optimum overall system for your location. I am very new to the hobby, but have really been enjoying it. I have six students that have also passed their HAM license test, and they are really getting into the hobby as well.


  1. We need more hams out there. My dad was licenced (when they first started issuing them) in 1929. He and his twin were electrical engineers in the Navy and had skeds that they kept until their 80s on 20 meters. My uncle and dad designed radar & antenna systems during WWII. Glad you are inspiring the youngsters with the only hobby that can save lives during a disaster (cell phones won't work then!). 73s de KK6XL

  2. Yay! A radio theme. Looking forward to the pictures this week.

    As you know PJM, I am a ham. My father got me started in it and I was licensed when I turned 15 in 1971 (yes, I remember tubes. I still have a scar on my hand from grabbing a hot tube). Both of my children have their licence... my son was 10 years old when he got his, and my daughter 15 or 16. Great hobby. I am fortunate to be living in St. John's Newfoundland, where Mr. Marconi received the first transatlantic message in 1901, using an antenna supported by a kite, and a very simple receiver.

    My hat's off to you for getting your license, and bringing several young people into the hobby. I hope the hobby holds their interest as long as it has held mine.

    Graham, Ahmadi Kuwait

  3. One of the great excitements of my childhood was going with my dad to test tubes, to see which one had given up the ghost.

    I got my ham license when I began sailing. I haven't kept up with it, but it's wonderful to know that people are continuing to get involved, and enjoy it.

  4. I'm not a ham (well, not that kind, anyway) but the whole idea fascinates me. I hadn't thought about the fact that a ham radio will work in cases where a cell phone won't. Clever! I know that many famous people have been ham operators and loved the hobby. I know that one of my uncles put together a ham radio in the late 1920s, probably with the help of his younger brother. According to my mother, they were able to do a lot with very little money. It was a good thing, as the crash came quickly after their discovery of what they could do. I also suspect that the ability to build radios at home from not very much was one reason that the 1930 census included the question of whether the household had one or more radios.


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