TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: JFK Assassination

Re: JFK Assassination
29 Nov 2005 07:21:42 -0800

Anthony Bellanga wrote:

> Vacuum tube technology was still in use to a great extent (even
> though the three Bell Labs physicists who won the Nobel Prize has
> invented the transistor back in 1948)...

Inventing the transistor was one thing. Being able manufacture it as
a reliable and inexpensive product was a difficult long task.

According to the IBM history, at first transistors were made by hand
-- someone jiggled the cat whiskers and watched a scope until the
proper effect was created. Obviously very expensive and error prone
way to go. Even after automation yields of working transistors were
low. IBM research not only was developing new computers to use
transistors, but also new technology to manufacture transistors and
circuit cards. IBM failed to patent or license the manufacturing
technology not realizing how valuable it was and let its
subcontractors take it and re-use it. (Kind of like PC-DOS).

The end result was that until the late 1950s, transistors cost more
than tubes.

Another issue was the learning curve. Electronic engineers by that
point had long experience with vacuum tubes--they knew what they could
and could not do and their operating characteristics. After the war,
both the television and computing engineers extensively studied and
developed circuits using tubes and were hesitent to go off on
something new and different.

Not all circuits were convertable to transistors, especially back
then. I understand to this day electronic guitar amplifier still use

The president of IBM went around with the new transistor portable
radios and had to give an order that all new computers would be built
with transistors instead of tubes. One of IBM's early efforts was a
transistorized punched card calculator (IBM 608/609) which was more of
a prototype and test bed rather than a commercial product.

One popular IBM product, the 650 computer, was made with tubes and
remained in production until 1962. Obviously tubes still played a
large part in the electronics world at that time.

It is not surprising that TV equipment still contained many tubes. It
would do so for a number of years.

My impression is that these days the life cycle of broadcast equipment
is relatively short and TV stations and networks replace their gear
every few years. However, I suspect back in the 1960s the gear was
relatively much more expensive and had a longer life cycle.

I don't know how anyone on TV could stand the lights. I know it was
dangerous to look directly into them, but even ignoring them they were
awfully powerful and hard on the eyes.

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