Andy Cowley's Valves

A set of articles on the subject of electronic valves (tubes) by:
Andy J Cowley, M1EBV, 29th March 1948 - 23rd April 2012

Andy Cowley's
valve articles

See also: →

Counting tubes

Gas discharge tubes

Racal RA17

by David Knight

Andy Cowley started collecting and photographing electronic valves and documenting their history in about 2001. Early in this venture, many of the items he documented were either given or loaned to him by me; but the collection grew, and he developed a particular interest in pre-WW2 thermionic devices (see photographs below).
     When he died, in April 2012, some items from my collection on permanent loan came back to me. These were mainly gas discharge devices (including nixie tubes). I had neither interest in nor room for the thermionic valves however, except for the ones that used to belong to my grandfather, or the ones that are spares for equipment I still try to maintain (like the RA17). Eventually, the vast majority of the thermionic valves went to Colin Chidgey (G3YHV), who has an interest in vintage wireless equipment.
     Andy's numerous web domains have died off one by one, for want of anyone who can access them or who would be willing to pay the fees. Also, he took to building his websites by hand-coding HTML or XML directly on the server, and he never gave his passwords to anybody. Thus he created a situation that would eventually cause all of his personal web articles to disappear. We must presume that he did so inadvertently, and so I have collected the material and have undertaken to re-present a large amount of it here. I do so within the terms of Andy's original copyright, which stipulates that the material is free to use for non-commercial and educational purposes, and his copyright conditions still apply. I have however, also edited the material, removing the various invitations to contact him (quite difficult now), and correcting occasional errors, dead links, misattributions, etc..
     There has been some reorganisation. This was done because the integration of Andy's valve pages into this website would otherwise have created an illogical navigation scheme. Particularly, his articles contained a relatively small amount of information on counting tubes and the Racal RA17, whereas mine have a lot of it. Hence I have moved his nixie pages into my nixie section. His RA17 valves article was already duplicated in my Racal section from when he wrote it in 2001, and so there is no point in re-duplicating it in the process of porting his articles. Most of his gas discharge tubes moreover came from my collection, and I have considerable material to add to what he gave; so I have started a new gas discharge tubes section with his work in it.
     Further reorganisation was necessitated by the fact that Andy actually had three valve websites. The first (demon) seems to have been abandoned in 2002. It contained information on audio valves, miniature valves, and 2D pictures of valve boxes. The second (.com) had a copyright notice running from 2005 to 2008 and showed a mature collection of pre- and post-WW2 valves, a substantial collection of data, and 3D pictures of valve boxes. The third (.org) had a copyright notice running from 2005 to 2012, and gave a substantially re-written and expanded section on pre-WW2 valves and valve history. It was evident from the file structure, that the latter effort was going to be the new definitive site, but he had yet to transfer and update the rest of the material from the .com website at the time he died.
     To 'complete' Andy's valve project (after annexing the Racal-related and discharge-tube material, as discussed earlier), I have simply ported the content from the .com site into the data structure of the .org site (omitting re-written and duplicated pages). Also I have added the abandoned material from the demon site and linked it in in places where it would sensibly be expected to appear. The resulting navigation scheme is not perfect, but finding everything that was there before should be reasonably straightforward.
     I do not, incidentally, regard Andy's pages as sacrosanct. The creative commons license allows people to build upon existing information, and it seems to me that the best way to keep a body of work of this nature alive is to make corrections or additions as they arise from time to time.

DWK. October 5th 2013.

Below are some photographs of the items he kept on display. Most of these items are currently in the posession of Colin Chidgey (G3YHV).

High-Power valves in Andy Cowley's collection.

Andy Cowley Valve Collection 1
Andy Cowley Valve Collection 2
Andy Cowley Valve Collection 3
The Pre-WW2 British valves in Andy Cowley's collection (click on image to enlarge - the photo is in 3 pieces).

Further articles on electronic valve history:

Thermionic Vacuum Tubes, L H Bedford and W T Gibson. Electrical Communication, April 1928, Vol. 6(4). p218 - 226.

A Museum of Electronic Apparatus, R McV Weston. Electrical Communication, Oct. 1938, Vol. 17(2), p133 - 142.

Electron-tube links:

Frank's Electron Tube Pages (tube data)

iTermionici Litteratura . Valve and other electronic text and data books (some in Italian). [thanks to Mark Kennedy for sending this link].

Tubebooks.org . Out of copyright technical books, general and tube-related.

Holm Tiffe . Tube data, etc..

Lampes & Tubes - Giorgio Basile's collection.


© D W Knight Sept. 2013