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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Triodes are Still a Hot Item in Audio Lynnette Reese

Every now and then you come across a real gem on the internet. My father was a Coast Guard electronics technician early in his career, and it’s interesting to be able to talk with my dad about electronics stuff. This morning he sent me a link to a site with old Broadcasting and Audio Engineering magazines going back to the 1920s. I look at this ad in Figure 1 from Audio Engineering of June 1949 and have to ask: “What is a Triode?” Triodes are vacuum tubes, boys and girls. Isn’t it interesting that audiophile “purists” today would buy these very tubes for a glowing, more thrilling audio experience? Admittedly, tubes are more interesting to look at than solid state.


“The New FM Rules Affect You” is one title in the Broadcast Engineering from November 1962. Things change but they never change….just a while back (2008) we were looking to the new Digital Broadcasting Rules. Has it been that long? What I love most about looking at these old engineering magazines is the “new” product ads urging us to use the best magnetic recording tape. The magazines feel like some of the smaller forums I visit, as I read letters to the editor and contributed articles with old drafting-style schematics instead of the slick schematics created so easily by free tools like MultiSIM BLUE and Fritzing today. These tools accomplish similar functions, and both are free to use. My preference, of course, is for MultiSIM BLUE because of the ability to populate with parts at Mouser and then create a BOM and cart full of those products with prices with minimal effort. Fritzing cannot do this, although the schematics it creates are darn cute. I like Fritzing as an illustration tool, it seems that a lot of people use Fritzing for creating colored schematics. MultiSIM BLUE is a parts-limited version of the National Instruments’ MultiSIM professional tool. I have not fully investigated Fritzing, and I am on training wheels with MultiSIM BLUE, but the fact that we have these tools at all, and for FREE, would blow the socks off the guys that got the print copies of these old engineering magazines.

I wish I had a time machine. If I brought MultiSIM BLUE back in time and showed them what it could do, I think we all know what the response would be. Before I state the obvious, let me tell you about a reality show I saw some time back where an American family was selected to live with another family in a tribal African village. Goats and dirt floors were the norm, but the African family seemed to have a better hold on family values and work life balance. The American family was allowed to bring only a very few items, and no electronics. One of the kids brought his wooden chess set with him and after settling in, this 10 year old went with his tribal family sponsor to teach chess to the village chief. The chief, however, was totally enamored with the zip lock bag that the chess pieces came in. We both know that the engineers from 1949 would void the warranty on my laptop. And I would trade my laptop for as many vacuum tubes as I could fit into the time machine (the ones that cost $1,000 per tube today) and hope for a gentle landing.


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Lynnette Reese holds a B.S.E.E from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Lynnette has worked at Mouser Electronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale (now NXP), and Cypress Semiconductor. Lynnette has three kids and occasionally runs benign experiments on them. She is currently saving for the kids’ college and eventual therapy once they find out that cauliflower isn’t a rare albino broccoli (and other white lies.)

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