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02 Feb. 2007
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The 8002R Saga

In the beginning were the vacuum tubes.  Then came the transistors, and then the ICs, Microprocessors, and more exotic silicon lifeforms.  But the tubes were first.  The exotic 304TL.  The actinic mercury vapor rectifier and softly glowing 811A.  Not to mention the mundane triplets 12AU7,12AX7, and 12AT7.  There's a story for every number.  My epic struggles with the 6V6GT, my 4CX250B triumph, and the lowly yet essential 5U4GB.  And, yes, I will probably relate these stories in excessive detail some day, but not right now.  Today the spotlight is on the 8002R.

Behold!

The Amperex 8002R in its refulgent glory.  It's been over four decades since I've held this beauty in my manipulative appendages, but I remember the story as if it were yesterday.  Why?  There was money involved.  Cast your mind back and envision "Ground Zero."  If you see the World Trade Center, you need to cast a little harder.  Before the WTC existed, Cortlandt Street and environs was heaven to the nerds of the day.  The stores that were condemned for the WTC construction contained the finest WWII and Korean War surplus electronics. My Saturdays were occupied by trips to visit them, about a five-mile subway or bike ride from my ancestral home.  Not infrequently I would walk to conserve the subway fare, so the paltry sums I'm about to discuss were not trivial then!

First, my Vacuum Tube Joke. 

Are you aware just how dangerous vacuum tubes are?  No?  Well, consider:  They are filled with vacuum.  Now, a vacuum is nothing, empty, nada.  And we all know from Logic that a little bit of nothing is no different than a lot of nothing.  So be careful!  If you drop a vacuum tube, it will most likely break, and the vacuum will escape and fill up the whole room and you'll suffocate!

Back to the Story

One Saturday I was nosing around the back bins of a random store and found a box of 8002R tubes for a dollar each.  Even if you know nothing about tubes in general and 8002R tubes in particular, you might well speculate that it would have been useless to my teenage self, even for a dollar.  You would be right and wrong.  I had no idea what it was designed to do, but looking at its intricate anode/heat sink, I realized that it was worth its price in scrap metal alone.  (I didn't contemplate selling it for scrap, I just realized that it had to be worth more than the price.)  Impulsively, I bought one.  I had a plan.

Just a short walk from the store in question was another emporium, this one famous for its spectacular inventory of vacuum tubes.  I figured that they had to get them from somewhere, and, with nothing to lose, I galumphed over there and offered them an 8002R, which they had in their catalog for a remarkable $60 or so!  They offered me a disappointing five bucks.  On the other hand, they offered me five times what I had paid.  I was about to invent arbitrage.  I took the $5 and hightailed it back to the other store and picked up five 8002Rs and returned to the tube specialist.  Now with $25 in my pocket I realized that I could make a killing.  But there was a problem:  I couldn't carry twenty five 8002R tubes.  Remember, they were worth their weight in scrap metal, so they were not tiny!  Lesson to budding arbitrageur:  There are expenses involved.  Yes, I took a taxicab back to the tube specialist.  To me this was a bizarre act only performed by parents under exigent circumstance.  And here I was doing it on my own. 

At the end of this experiment in commerce, I had made well over $100 for an hour or so of activity.  At the time $50 per week was considered a reasonable salary.  It was still the early 60s and the Red Peril was everywhere.  But I do think my capitalist activities on that long-ago day permanently inoculated me against any collectivist tendencies.  I felt safe even when listening to Radio Moscow on my home-made shortwave radio. 


NP:  "Great Grape album" - Moby Grape

2007
Richard Factor

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