Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Bomber Stock" 4D32 tube found in Collins 32V2 Transmitter

Peter Costa holds mysterious "tube" from Bomber
February 11, 2012:  Cold War relic discovered in Massachusetts basement.

A mysterious 4D32 transmitting "tube" produced by Raytheon was found this week with the curious label "bomber stock" in a cold-war era Collins transmitter owned by ham radio operator Peter Costa, W1ZZZ, of Massachusetts.

The rare glass tube had been hidden from view under the cover for decades, and not recognized as possibly part of the Strategic Air Command equipment list, presumably led by the famous "We'll bomb them back to the stone age" General Curtis Lemay, who ran "SAC" and also for Vice President of the United States with George C Wallace.

"Tubes" were produced in the early days of electronics by a few manufacturers using primitive equipment. Prior to the 1950s, people gathered together and listened to "radio" - the old term for what many refer to as "wireless" today.

Raytheon was a prolific manufacturer of communications equipment for the military in the 1950 through 1980 time frame, and still produces guidance systems, communications systems, missiles, and various aerospace items, such as surveillance satellites.

The RK-4D32 is a robust and once rare transmitting tube having characteristics similar to a pair of 6146 tubes. The 4D32 was used in a couple of civilian transmitters such as the Collins 32V1, 32V2 and 32V3 AM transmitters, and some others, but was always a scarce tube and hard to find. This was not much of a problem since they tend to last about 50 years in intermittent service, perhaps longer. In the late 70s, Raytheon produced the last run of these and other tubes and they sat in warehouses until about 1997 when they were sold to surplus dealers, and for that reason they are now cheap and abundant.

Cellular - Free of Charge?

Peter Costa, who holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, and call sign "W1ZZZ" is one of the growing number of civilian spectrum users who directly access the airwaves to chat, send messages and keep in touch with friends, free of charge.  Peter and his fellow users do not pay Verizon, AT&T or any other carrier, and enjoys free anytime access to large portions of spectrum which he shares with other users.

As public access to the spectrum grows as a way to communicate, experts expect resistance from cellular carriers such as Verizon. "Eventually consumers will have the last laugh." Says Robert J Crowley who invents antenna systems to improve spectrum efficiency and also accesses the airwaves for free, "The spectrum is a natural resource. It  is not like land and should not be sold, and Congress is charged with the duty of holding it in trust for the public use. It can never be controlled by man completely, and some day, perhaps in the next decade, we will see the emergence of public access systems that replace cellular as we know it."

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