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Television tube testers - when did they disappear from grocery stores?
May 25, 2007 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Television tube testers in grocery stores - when did they start becoming uncommon?

I have memories of helping my dad fix our old black and white Zenith TV. We'd bring a bag of suspect vacuum tubes from our tv to a local grocery or merchandise store and test each, one at a time, on a tube tester. The tester was the size of a small jukebox, with many different socket types. I remember you'd plug a tube in the proper socket, hit a button, and read a needle that said something like good-weak-bad. Replacement tubes were avaialble at the bottom compartment of the tester. Looking back, I'm amazed there was this widely available infrastructure that allowed a consumer to diagnose and replace electronics parts from their TVs.

When did these testers stop being commonplace in stores? I'm guessing very early 70s and most definitely later than 1968 (that's when we immigrated to the US) but my memory is very fuzzy.
posted by jaimev to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I remember these in Radio Shack when I was really young, maybe 4-6 years old which would have put it in the early half of the 70's.
posted by jessamyn at 9:10 PM on May 25, 2007


Ya, I'd say 70s. I was, uh, younger as well. Ok maybe not 4 or 5, but still. I agree, really cool concept when you think about it. Imagine... being encouraged to remove parts from your TV to replace them. Even if TVs still used tubes, liability issues would surely require a bigass sticker over every screw, warning of death if the screw is removed.
posted by The Deej at 9:23 PM on May 25, 2007


The Safeway down the street from my grandmother had one, so, yeah, mid-70's in small town Missouri at least.
posted by sevenless at 9:24 PM on May 25, 2007


Yes, I remember these! I was really hot to try it, but the tubes in the record player, as my dad pointed out, were working fine -- when they are not glowing blue like that, then we'll take them out and you can put them in the tube tester. So I'm crawling behind the record player all the time, trying to decide if the tubes are less blue than they were. I must have been three or four (1973 or 1974).
posted by Methylviolet at 10:03 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tube testers went away as tubes went away. They didn't test television display tubes, they tested the tubes/valves in the rest of the set, as they did with anything else tube-based -- radios, amplifiers, etc.

As tubes were replaced with transistors, the demand for tubes dropped, until you could only find them in specialty stores.
posted by mendel at 10:14 PM on May 25, 2007


Eckerds in Fort Worth had one as late as 1979.
posted by hodyoaten at 11:22 PM on May 25, 2007


There were still TVs with valve tubes in the 1970s?
posted by A189Nut at 1:19 AM on May 26, 2007


^ ones that had tubes burning out
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:34 AM on May 26, 2007


According to this page, the first solid-state color TV went on sale in 1968, and by 1975 virtually all new units were solid-state. So that would mark the approximate point at which tube testers would have officially started their journey to obsolescence. Thus mid/late-70s seems to be the appropriate time that they would have disappeared from most stores.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:48 AM on May 26, 2007


(with the disappearing "they" being tube testers, not tube TV sets.)
posted by Rhomboid at 2:50 AM on May 26, 2007


Replacing a bad tube is not much more difficult than replacing a burned out light bulb. The tube testers just allowed you to find the one bad tube when the set was on the fritz. They died out in the 1970's, although most TV repair shops probably still have one, in the back, under some dust. You are probably better off with a guitar amp repair shop if you need your tubes tested these days though.
posted by caddis at 5:06 AM on May 26, 2007


I recall seeing one in the local Radio Shack. So this was in the early '70s. I have three tube radios in working condition. Nowadays Tubes is Art.
posted by Gungho at 5:57 AM on May 26, 2007


They still make audio tubes in Czechoslovakia, Russia, and China for the die hards of the world.

Testers- maybe not so much.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:42 AM on May 26, 2007


They still make testers and tube audio gear has become quite popular. Tube guitar amps never really went away. They just sound better.
posted by caddis at 1:31 PM on May 26, 2007


Oooh look!
posted by Methylviolet at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2007


I remember seeing them in hardware stores as late as, ummm, the very early 80s. But they were not much used. I don't think you could still buy the tubes at those stores, they just hadn't gotten around to hauling away the tester.
posted by hattifattener at 3:26 PM on May 26, 2007


There was a tube tester at a Radio Shack in West Philly as recently as 1991! I found an old tube TV in the trash, took its tubes in for testing, and bought a replacement for the one that tested bad. The TV still didn't work.
posted by moonmilk at 11:36 PM on May 26, 2007


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