Acorn tube

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The 955 is typical of the acorn designs, named for the glass cap holding the terminals with the main part of the tube extending from it. 955ACORN.jpg
The 955 is typical of the acorn designs, named for the glass cap holding the terminals with the main part of the tube extending from it.

An acorn tube, or acorn valve, refers to any member of a family of VHF/UHF vacuum tubes starting just before World War II. They were named after their resemblance to the acorn, specifically due to the glass cap at one end of the tube that looked similar to the cap on an acorn. The acorn tubes found widespread use in radios and radar systems.

High-frequency performance is limited by (1) parasitic lead inductance and capacitance and skin effect, and (2) electron transit time (the time required to travel from cathode to anode). Transit time effects are complicated, but one simple effect is the phase margin; another one is input conductance, also known as grid loading. At extremely high frequencies, electrons arriving at the grid may become out of phase with those departing towards the anode. This imbalance of charge causes the grid to exhibit a reactance that is much less than its low-frequency "open circuit" characteristic. Acorn- as well as Lighthouse tubes and Nuvistors attempt to minimize this effect by arranging cathode, grid(s) and anode as closely spaced together as possible.

The original range included about half a dozen tubes, designed to work in the VHF range. The 955 is a triode. The 954 and 956 types are sharp and remote cut-off pentodes, respectively, all with indirect 6.3 V, 150 mA heaters. Types 957, 958 and 959 are for portable equipment and have 1.25 V NiCd battery heaters. The 957 is a medium-μ signal triode, the 958 is a transmitting triode with dual, paralleled filaments for increased emission, and the 959 is a sharp cut-off pentode like the 954. The 957 and 959 draw 50 mA heater current, the 958 twice as much. In 1942, the 958A with tightened emission specifications was introduced after it turned out that 958s with excessively high emission kept working after the filament power was turned off, the filament still sufficiently heating on the anode current alone. [1] [2] After the introduction of the miniature 7-pin base, the 954, 955 and 956 were made available with this base as 9001, 9002 and 9003. Other acorn tubes include:

  • EIA: 4671, 4672, 4674, 4675, 4676, 4695, 5731
  • RETMA: 6F4, 6L4
  • British: A40, A41, AP4, AT4, HA1, ZA1, ZA2
  • Mullard-Philips: D1C, D2C, D1F, D2F, D3F, D11F, D12F, E1C, E1F, E2F

Larger, higher-power types such as the 316A, 368A, 388A, and 703A triodes [5] and the 713A and 717A pentodes were referred to as Doorknob tubes.

The introduction of the EF50 was the first serious competition for the acorn design, and replaced the acorns in many roles, especially post-war when millions of surplus EF50s were dumped on the market.

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The nuvistor is a type of vacuum tube announced by RCA in 1959. Most nuvistors are basically thimble-shaped, but somewhat smaller than a thimble, and much smaller than conventional tubes of the day, almost approaching the compactness of early discrete transistor casings. Triodes and a few tetrodes were made. The tube is made entirely of metal and ceramic. Making nuvistors requires special equipment, since there is no intubation to pump gases out of the envelope. Instead, the entire structure is assembled, inserted into its metal envelope, sealed and processed in a large vacuum chamber with simple robotic devices.

Triode single-grid amplifying vacuum tube having three active electrodes

A triode is an electronic amplifying vacuum tube consisting of three electrodes inside an evacuated glass envelope: a heated filament or cathode, a grid, and a plate (anode). Developed from Lee De Forest's 1906 Audion, a partial vacuum tube that added a grid electrode to the thermionic diode, the triode was the first practical electronic amplifier and the ancestor of other types of vacuum tubes such as the tetrode and pentode. Its invention founded the electronics age, making possible amplified radio technology and long-distance telephony. Triodes were widely used in consumer electronics devices such as radios and televisions until the 1970s, when transistors replaced them. Today, their main remaining use is in high-power RF amplifiers in radio transmitters and industrial RF heating devices. In recent years there has been a resurgence in demand for low power triodes due to renewed interest in tube-type audio systems by audiophiles who prefer the sound of tube-based electronics.

Vacuum tube Device that controls electric current between electrodes in an evacuated container

In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.

A tetrode is a vacuum tube having four active electrodes. The four electrodes in order from the centre are: a thermionic cathode, first and second grids and a plate. There are several varieties of tetrodes, the most common being the screen-grid tube and the beam tetrode. In screen-grid tubes and beam tetrodes, the first grid is the control grid and the second grid is the screen grid. In other tetrodes one of the grids is a control grid, while the other may have a variety of functions.

Pentagrid converter vacuum tube with seven electrodes – cathode, anode, and five grids

The pentagrid converter is a type of radio receiving valve with five grids used as the frequency mixer stage of a superheterodyne radio receiver.

Control grid vacuum tube electrode

The control grid is an electrode used in amplifying thermionic valves such as the triode, tetrode and pentode, used to control the flow of electrons from the cathode to the anode (plate) electrode. The control grid usually consists of a cylindrical screen or helix of fine wire surrounding the cathode, and is surrounded in turn by the anode. The control grid was invented by Lee De Forest, who in 1906 added a grid to the Fleming valve to create the first amplifying vacuum tube, the Audion (triode).

Pentode electronic device having five active electrodes; the term most commonly applies to a three-grid amplifying vacuum tube

A pentode is an electronic device having five active electrodes. The term most commonly applies to a three-grid amplifying vacuum tube, which was invented by Gilles Holst and Bernhard D.H. Tellegen in 1926. The pentode consists of an evacuated glass envelope containing five electrodes in this order: a cathode heated by a filament, a control grid, a screen grid, a suppressor grid, and a plate (anode). The pentode was developed from the tetrode tube by the addition of a third grid, the suppressor grid. This served to prevent secondary emission electrons emitted by the plate from reaching the screen grid, which caused instability and parasitic oscillations in the tetrode. The pentode is closely related to the beam tetrode. Pentodes were widely used in industrial and consumer electronic equipment such as radios and televisions until the 1960s, when they were replaced by transistors. Their main use now is in high power industrial applications such as radio transmitters. The obsolete consumer tubes are still used in a few legacy and specialty vacuum tube audio devices.

In Europe, the principal method of numbering vacuum tubes was the nomenclature used by the Philips company and its subsidiaries Mullard in the UK, Valvo(de, it) in Germany, Radiotechnique (Miniwatt-Dario brand) in France, and Amperex in the United States, from 1934 on. Adhering manufacturers include AEG (de), CdL (1921, French Mazda brand), CIFTE (fr, Mazda-Belvu brand), EdiSwan (British Mazda brand), Lorenz (de), MBLE(fr, nl), RCA (us), RFT(de, sv) (de), Siemens (de), Telefunken (de), Tesla (cz), Toshiba (ja), Tungsram (hu), and Unitra. This system allocated meaningful codes to tubes based on their function and became the starting point for the Pro Electron naming scheme for active devices.

Vacuum tubes produced in the former Soviet Union and in present-day Russia carry their own unique designations. Some confusion has been created in "translating" these designations, as they use Cyrillic rather than Latin characters.

Valve transmitters

Most high power transmitter amplifiers are of valve construction because of the high power required.

Valve RF amplifier

A valve RF amplifier or tube amplifier (U.S.), is a device for electrically amplifying the power of an electrical radio frequency signal.

Technical specifications and detailed information on the valve audio amplifier, including its development history.

The inductive output tube (IOT) or klystrode is a variety of linear-beam vacuum tube, similar to a klystron, used as a power amplifier for high frequency radio waves. It evolved in the 1980s to meet increasing efficiency requirements for high-power RF amplifiers in radio transmitters. The primary commercial use of IOTs is in UHF television transmitters, where they have mostly replaced klystrons because of their higher efficiencies and smaller size. IOTs are also used in particle accelerators. They are capable of producing power output up to about 30 kW continuous and 7 MW pulsed and gains of 20–23 dB at frequencies up to about a gigahertz.

In the years 1942-1944, the Radio Manufacturers Association used a descriptive nomenclature system for industrial, transmitting, and special-purpose vacuum tubes. The numbering scheme was distinct from both the numbering schemes used for standard receiving tubes, and the existing transmitting tube numbering systems used previously, such as the "800 series" numbers originated by RCA and adopted by many others.


The 6AK5 vacuum tube is a miniature 7-pin sharp-cutoff pentode used as RF or IF amplifier especially in high-frequency wide-band applications at frequencies up to 400 MHz.

955 acorn triode

The type 955 triode "acorn tube" is a small triode thermionic valve designed primarily to operate at high frequency. Although data books specify an upper limit of 400–600 MHz, some circuits may obtain gain up to about 900 MHz. Interelectrode capacitances and Miller capacitances are minimized by the small dimensions of the device and the widely separated pins. The connecting pins are placed around the periphery of the bulb and project radially outward: this maintains short internal leads with low inductance, an important property allowing operation at high frequency. The pins fit a special socket fabricated as a ceramic ring in which the valve itself occupies the central space. The 955 was developed by RCA and was commercially available in 1935.

Barkhausen–Kurz tube high frequency vacuum tube electronic oscillator

The Barkhausen–Kurz tube, also called the retarding-field tube, reflex triode, B–K oscillator, and Barkhausen oscillator was a high frequency vacuum tube electronic oscillator invented in 1920 by German physicists Heinrich Georg Barkhausen and Karl Kurz. It was the first oscillator that could produce radio power in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) portion of the radio spectrum, above 300 MHz. It was also the first oscillator to exploit electron transit time effects. It was used as a source of high frequency radio waves in research laboratories, and in a few UHF radio transmitters through World War 2. Its output power was low which limited its applications. However it inspired research that led to other more successful transit time tubes such as the klystron, which made the low power Barkhausen-Kurz tube obsolete.

Noise generator circuit that produces electrical noise

A noise generator is a circuit that produces electrical noise. Noise generators are used to test signals for measuring noise figure, frequency response, and other parameters. Noise generators are also used for generating random numbers.


  1. "957  958  959 (Acorn Types)" (PDF). R.C.A. Manufacturing Company, Harrison, New Jersey, USA. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  2. Ludwell A. Sibley. "The Acorn Tube" (PDF). Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  3. Klausmobile Russian tube directory
  4. 日本のレーダー用受信管 -エーコン管と高周波増幅5極管
  5. A. L. Samuel. "Bell system technical journal: A Negative-Grid Triode Oscillator and Amplifier for UHF" (PDF). Retrieved 19 January 2016.

See also