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Over Easy: Old School

RCA Receiving tube manual – flickr creative commons

I am  as I write this, listening to some classical music over Global 24 Shortwave. Not a big deal right ?  Well except what I am using is an old shortwave receiver with a converter ahead of it. Both units are analogue vacuum tube. I like using this old stuff mainly because for me it’s much more friendly to tune and easier on my ears.  Oh I have solid state amplifier I use to drive my speakers. A digital display to tell me what frequency I am tuned to and a DDS to supply the converter it’s injection signal. But the listening part is old school with analogue tuning and such.

The tuning is uniform from one band of frequencies to another.  Unlike digital tuning where you are always tuning in some numeric step , however small. Analogue tuning is more precise and at the same time consistently smooth.  And a properly designed analogue vacuum tube receiver will not overload as easily as a comparable solid state unit.

Though I have owned and used many solid state units over the years, some quite advance, I still prefer listening to the old stuff and feel there is still a place for it. Just as those who like to drive old cars with carburettors and manual shifting.

Unlike the modern computer controlled units the old analogue vacuum tube equipment requires some skill to use to it’s maximal. As in photography and those old film large box cameras, you really have to know how to use it and what it can and cannot do.  Or those big old slow mainframe computers with all of 4meg of memory you really had to have some good programming skills to get you program to run in the small memory area provided.

There are all kinds of web sites and books available today, even kits, that will hand hold you trough building some of the latest and greats high tech toys. Like this on here on SDR [Software Designed Radio] .  A lot of which is plug and play and you really do not have to understand how the chips work or even how to program them much. The software is available on the web.

It does take some skill and knowledge and understanding of the parts and circuits involved to work on and build analogue equipment successfully.   I spent the better part of a week rebuilding an old ARC 5 unit specifically for use with another converter.  Tuning from 3 to 4 MHZ. Made some miss steps but learned a lot along the way and I have been doing this for the better part of 40 years !

Our current technology is marvellous and I would not trade it for anything. It saves so much time and effort and [potentially] resources. However I think it also has made us mentally lazy and complacent  and less competent  at our endeavours. We do not think as much as we use to.


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