On the circuit

The Vacuum Tube is Back

By Maddie Stone, Gizmodo 8/18/2015 12:53 AM Eastern
WHY THIS MATTERS

Our old friend the vacuum tube is having a high-tech Renaissance, a second life, a second chapter. Pick your middle-aged metaphor. It's fun to see old technology catch a break and Gizmodo's story gives you a good overview of the comeback.  For a more techy take, here's DARPA themselves on next-gen vacuum tubes. -Cynthia Wisehart

There’s a new device in the works over at DARPA, the agency known for pushing the technological envelope with mind-controlled prosthetics and drone-launching submarines. This latest innovation? The vacuum tube. You might remember it from the first time humans invented it, way back in 1904.

Yes, the vacuum tube, hallmark of early 20th century electronics and CRT TVs, may be making a comeback. But this isn’t just DARPA engineers feeling bored or nostalgic: The vacuum tubes of the future will run at higher frequencies and powers than the dinosaur tubes of yesteryear, outperforming their solid state counterparts in certain applications.

But let’s back up a sec. For those who don’t recall, a vacuum tube is simply a device that controls electricity by channeling current between two or more electrodes inside a vacuum. Vacuum tubes were a basic component of many early electronics, including radios, television, radar, recording equipment, and computers. But in the 1950s and 60s, the invention of semiconductors made it possible to produce smaller, more efficient and more durable solid state devices, and vacuum tubes were gradually phased out. Tubes managed stick around in TV and computer displays until the early 2000s, when they were finally replaced with LCDs and plasma screens. MORE@Gizmodo

 

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