Hackaday Prize Entry: Hot Logic

A few weeks ago, [Yann] was dumpster diving and found something of interest. Two vacuum tubes, an ECC83S and an EL84. This was obviously the droppings of a local guitarist, but [Yann] wanted to know if he could build something useful out of them. An amplifier is far too pedestrian, so he settled on a vacuum tube computer.

The normal pentodes and triodes you’ll find in a tube amp require a lot of support components like output transformers, tube sockets, and high voltage power supplies. This was a little too complicated for a tube computer, but after a little bit of searching, [Yann] found a better option for his MINIVAC — subminiature vacuum tubes. These require fewer support components, and can be found for very reasonable prices through the usual component suppliers. His entry for this year’s Hackaday Prize is Hot Logic. It’s a computer — or at least computer components — built out of these tubes.

The tubes in question are a few 1Ж29Б-В and 6Н21Б tubes, a vacuum pentode and dual triode, respectively. Add in a few diodes, and that meets the requirements for being sufficient to build a computer. As a neat little bonus, these tubes have requirements that are very easy to meet. The filament on the 1Ж29Б-В tube only needs 1.2 Volts.

These subminiature tubes are a little underappreciated in the world of audiophililia and DIY electronics. That’s a bit of a shame; these tubes are the most technologically advanced vacuum-based technology ever created. They were the heart and the brains of ballistic missiles, and if you look hard enough you source hundreds of them at very reasonable prices. A vacuum tube computer requires a lot of tubes, and if anyone will be able to build a vacuum tube computer it’s going to be [Yann] and his pile of Soviet surplus.

A really, really tiny tube amp

After building his first tube amp from a kit, he set to work on his next amp build. Since tube amps are a much more experimental endeavor than their solid state brethren, [Jarek] decided to make his next amp unique with military surplus subminiature tubes, and in the process created the smallest tube amp we’ve ever seen.

Instead of bulky 12AX7s and EL34s tubes usually found in tube amp build, [Jarek] stumbled upon the subminiature dual triode 6021 tube, originally designed for ballistic missiles, military avionics, and most likely some equipment still classified to this day. These tubes not only reduced the size of the circuit; compared to larger amps, this tiny amplifier sips power.

The 100+ Volts required to get the tubes working is provided by a switched mode power supply, again keeping the size of the final project down. The results are awesome, as heard in the video after the break. There’s still a little hum coming from the amp, but this really is a fabulous piece of work made even more awesome through the use of very tiny tubes.

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