Photo by L. Marie on Flickr / CC Use

"On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."


I wanted to get the community’s feedback on a problem that nearly every tube collector & Nixie clock owner must address: Do you use your tubes or do you keep them in storage?

As I see it, there are two basic risks that one encounters.  The first is physical damage - leaving your collection on display increases the odds of the glass envelope breaking. The second, and greater threat, is wearing out the tube and Cathode Poisoning.  As you use the tube, the brightness will diminish with time.  If the digits are not properly exercised, dark spots can form on the less-used digits.  (And if it is an incandescent display like a Numitron, the filaments can burn out as well.)

For common display types, like the IN-12, it seems to make sense to use them, let them fade, and then replace them. Since there does not appear to be any impending shortage of tubes and they are cheap, it seems to make sense to actually use them.

But what about increasingly rare tubes? For example, what about an IN-18 or B7971 or something that is steadily increasing in price (and presumably increasing in rarity?)  It seems wasteful to not display these tubes but at the same time, simply using them causes harm.

Chuck Palahniuk put it well when he said "On a long enough time line. The survival rate for everyone drops to zero."  The same is true for any type of vacuum tube.  They will break.  They will wear out.  They will gas out.  Do you use them and enjoy them?  Do you use them sparingly?  Do you only keep them in storage?  Please let me know in the comments!

Photo by L. Marie on Flickr / CC Use


Comments   

+3 #1 Guest 2010-06-17 10:16
My clocks usually use cheap tubes (below $2 each), and I have a bunch of backups. (There are some other clocks that are not yet released or not for sale - they use cheap tubes as well.)

Yes I do have some expensive tubes like IN-18's, but just seldom power them up... Those tubes are really "collections" to me.
+2 #2 Guest 2010-06-17 12:27
Driven by modern circuitry that limits current, the lifetime of nixies can easily reach tens of thousands of hours. While I wouldn't hesitate to run my IN18 or B7971 clocks continuously, I would have software shut them down in the middle of the night. An occupancy sensor would be a good clock feature.
+2 #3 Guest 2010-06-17 14:41
I'm of the school of thought "run those suckers"....why have them if you're not going to enjoy them in their full illuminated glory. Keeping them stuffed away in a box somewhere just to say, "look what I have" to me is a waste. Now, if you're keeping some as spares to use for a clock or other application that you actually run, I'm OK with that.

Like bcoggs stated, " Driven by modern circuitry that limits current, the lifetime of nixies can easily reach tens of thousands of hours. While I wouldn't hesitate to run my IN18 or B7971 clocks continuously."

Hell, most of us are middle aged farts, these things may out live us if no physical damage is inflicted upon them, so enjoy them, I say!
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