Retrotechtacular: The miracle of vacuum tubes

We take our digital life for granted these days, but back in 1943 it was vacuum tubes, not transistors, which made it all possible. This video on the types and industrial uses of vacuum tubes was sent into the tips line by [Polar Bear]. The nearly 70-year-old video is part of a collection preserved by the New Jersey Amateur Radio Club.

The video was underwritten by Westinghouse, and as you can expect it has a bit of propaganda spin for the company. The time period in which the reel was produced is also telling. Coming about two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the applications for technology of the time are almost all military in focus. But we’re sure you’ll be entertained by both the film style and the tech explanation. It’s something of a How It’s Made of yesteryear. All twenty-one minutes of it are found embedded after the break.

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Hackaday Links: April 18, 2012

Sandcasting at the beach

[mkb] sent in a video he found of [Max Lamb] sandcasting a stool at a beach in England. The material is pewter, or >90% tin with a little bit copper and antimony thrown in for good measure. While we’re sure there will be a few complaints from environmentalists, it’s still a cool video to see.

Your project needs an OLED display

Here’s a Kickstarter for a tiny 96×16 OLED display. Connect this thing to any I2C bus and you get a 15×2 character display (or a graphic display if that’s your inclination) very easily. Thanks to [Chris] for sending this one in.

Here’s one for a larf

[Ryan Inman] is suing 20 companies because he got mercury poisoning from vacuum tubes. Read that last line again. Most of the companies that sell antique/repro/hard-to-find components like Angela Instruments, Antique Electronic Supply, and even eBay are listed as defendants in the case. This might put at least one company out of business even though they never sold [Ryan] a vacuum tube edit: they did sell him a neon bulb, and courts are generally idiotic when it comes to technological issues. It’s hilarious and sad, so we’ll keep you updated if we get more info.

Nostalgia, the pain from an old wound

The Adafruit blog posted an excellent piece on the Apple ][ game Rocky's Boots, an educational game from 1982 that teaches kids how to connect logic gates. You can play this game in your browser, but we'd like to hear our stories of ancient video games that teach you engineering concepts like The Incredible Machine or Widget Workshop. Leave a note in the comments if we're leaving any out.

A question posed to the community

A company is giving away credit card readers that plug into the headphone jack of an iDevice. [J Smith] writes in to ask us if anyone has gotten one of these and opened them up. Like [J Smith] we’re expecting something a repeat of the CueCat where free hardware is opened up to everybody. If you’ve done a teardown of one of these card readers, send it in.

3DS homebrew

[Mike] sent us a link to [neimod]‘s Flickr photostream. It looks like we’re on the cusp of tearing open the Nintendo 3DS for homebrew apps. Someone who uses this much hot glue must know what they’re doing, right?

Decorate your house in vacuum tubes

vacuum_tube_creations

[Autuin] wrote in to share a few things he’s put together using spare vacuum tubes he had sitting around. With no other practical use for the tubes in mind, he fiddled around and came up with a couple of items that could be neat to have around the house, depending on your style of decor.

The first item is a vacuum tube night light. While the tubes were not originally built with the express purpose of putting out light in mind, they do happen to throw out a nice warm glow when plugged into a suitable power supply. [Autuin] mounted one in a wall wart, driving it at double the rated voltage, which provides a decent amount of light.

His second creation is similar to the first, but meant for your tabletop rather than your wall. He stuffed a vacuum tube into a candle holder, added a power source, and called it a day. The vacuum tube candle actually looks pretty nice, and with a bit of tweaking could easily be made to behave like a candle as well.

The final item he shows off is a vacuum tube flash drive. Little more than a carefully hollowed out tube with flash drive guts inside, it is more suited as a permanent fixture than as a portable storage device. Even so, we think it looks pretty cool.

Have you done anything neat with old vacuum tubes? Let us know in the comments!