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Down the Tubes: A Microhistory of Macroelectronics

In 1907, Lee de Forest patented one of his inventions—a three-element electronic amplifier. His amplifier consisted of a heated filament (the cathode), a plate (the anode), and a bent wire in between the cathode and the anode, all sealed in a vacuum in a glass tube. For the next half century, these devices were integral parts of all electronic circuits, and the only means of performing fundamental electronic functions, and were a backbone for all 20th century electronics.

Starting on June 16, join us every other Tuesday on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for Down the Tubes: A Microhistory of Macroelectronics. There, we’ll highlight a different tube every two weeks to show how the tube’s history highlights the social, political, and cultural factors that came together to initiate the age of electronics. In the meantime, please post your vacuum tube pictures, comments, and questions on social media with #TubeTuesday.

DIY Tube Boxes:

Click on the following links to download a print at home facsimile of vacuum tube boxes we have at the Sarnoff Collection