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Posted by STEVE M on

Well, here we are again with part two of this scintillating blog, and I thought I had better change the title as we are talking about an American sci-fi series so our teminology needs to reference tubes instead of valves - that's right innit?

Anyhow, we were discussing the 1964 pilot episode of Star Trek TOS, The Cage and the valves therein..... so... where were they then ...... well, they were in the communicator.

And as proof, here we see Mrs Roddenberry, complete with futuristic 23rd century blue nail varnish wielding her communicator whilst standing next to Captain Pike.   Lets take a closer look at that communicator shall we?

Above is the front view,,,, and below is the rear view: -

Remember, this is 23rd century technology so I am expecting contemporaneous technology but no, what's this, are my eyes deceiving me because there is a 20th century rotary switch wafer in there, could be Oak, could be Yaxley and interestingly, you cannot see any connections to it but that must be because of the 23rd century isolinear circuitry you know.

As if the Yaxley paxolin wafer isn''t enough of a surprise, then look at the what's going on above the circuit board, no, not the four drilled holes but the....  valves,.... sorry, tubes.  And WHAT tubes, these are 20th century, 5 wire pin out pencil tubes and in actuality are Raytheon CK 6088 pencil pentodes, a 1.25V filament device that first saw light of day in 1957 some 300 years prior to this episode of Star Trek TOS.

The CK6088 was quite a nice little device and saw a range of applications, although primarily designed for instrumentation applications which included a neutron counter and a pH meter designed specifically for the fruit juice industry along with other instrumentation designed by the Beckman company.   Indeed Beckman LOVED this tube and renamed it with its in house numbering system and as you can see below, it was called the 12680 as you can see from the gaudy label in the photo below.

As previously mentioned, the 12680 saw duty in a  pH meter and the rather fetching and futuristic Beckman Spectrophotometer B

Fast forward some 300 or so years and you see a similar tube being incorporated  into the communicator but with the nomenclature 12560 which isn't a recognised tube reference but near enough to 12680 but with a correspondingly muted plain white label.

It really is wonderful how the Star Trek communicator continued to use retro technology, not just with the use of rotary switch wafers and pencil tubes but to continue the theme in the form of lantern battery binding post insulators as control knobs along with a flip-flop logic board from an early computer complete with their  Fairchild complimentary germanium transistor pairs, and Allen Bradley carbon composition and high stability resistors to boot.  Interestingly the tracks and connectors are not gold plated but I suppose are gold pressed latinum plated hence the misleading dull silver colouration.

Feast your eyes on the circuit board topography along with its edge mounting connector blocks again devoid of power source or connection - cheeky Apple copying this inductively charging isolinear design for their iPhones eh!  I can only presume that some StarFleet communications engineer,  - was this before Lieutenant Reginald Endicott "Reg" Barclay III, time? - found a sufficient legacy stock of these vintage components to equip the entire United Federation of Planets expeditionary force.  Think of the advantages, thermionic technology is immune to the effects of EMP and I presume phaser fire  and photon torpedo yields up to 80 iso-tons.  I can only think that the StarFleet communications engineer used the historical example of the  Mig 25 TL-25 Smerch-A (also referred to as Product 720) valve, sorry TUBE powered radar  as his inspiration for these communicators which incidentally way exceed the capabilities of a present day Iridium or other satellite phone to boot.

It just goes to show, why change something that works, even though this stuff is approximately 300 years old (!) and still meets user needs and I think that is simply super. I wish those boneheads at EBAY would consider this maxim as they are always changing things for the sake of it and not for the benefit of customers and maximisation of usability either, however, I digress.

I can't help but wonder, did tube technology feature in other episodes of Star Trek, well, you may have to wait for a few blog entries to find out.................


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