"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