About this website
The Virtual Valve Museum is the online presentation of my personal collection. This collection has been assembled over a number of years, more seriously from around 1998 onwards, with the decision to share images of it with the world being taken in 1999. The first version this website, then called JMH’s Virtual Valve Museum went online during 1999 and I have maintained a web presence since then.
The collection is made up of items purchased over the years, and of valves which people have very kindly given me. In each case where a valve has been donated you will find this noted at the bottom of the web page.
The museum is entirely virtual – I do not have the space to arrange valves on shelving and anyway it’s not really a museum. It represents my physical collection. Where I can I add data and a small amount of detail. There are other sites which hold a lot of information on valves and these can be found via the Links page.
What I collect
I generally collect any CV marked valves (and semiconductors!), British military (Ax, Nx, Vx types) and any other valves I class as ‘interesting’. Of course peoples interests are as many and varied as the valves themselves – to me, ‘interesting’ is typically those odd types that find use in military equipment, including the likes of the Zahl tube. My interests also include any kind of silica valve and certain types of transmitting valve, for example CAT3. Donations are always welcomed!
I have in the past collected almost any valve I could lay my hands on. However, in 2010 I determined this would only serve to fill our house with ‘uninteresting’ (to me) valves. So in 2015 I decided to cut down the collection dramatically, focussing on CV’s and British Military types as outlined above. All of my Russian valves are being passed to others (by trades or sales) and I may yet dispose of all my German valves, so watch the News on the front page and the ebay seller ‘valvemuseum’.
I first became interested in valves, and electronics in general when I was about 8. My grandad drew a sine wave on the wall to try to explain the difference between ac and dc – I forget why but I can still picture that drawing. He had a few old radios including one he built himself, all laid out on a baseboard and looking like a well-made cupboard. He showed me the valves in an old radio he gave me and then told me off as I took each valve out and popped it on the concrete to see what was inside! This started my collection, and soon after I took a battery box out of my Lego set plus two 425PEN’s into school and showed the teacher as they lit up.
Myself and a friend often frequented the local TV repair shop, and after a number of years and many visits, the people running the shop retired. My friend phoned me, we were about 12 at the time, and told me they wanted to see us. So off we went. When we got there, all their remaining unsold stock was all on display in various boxes, and with words which have become immortalized we were told “take anything you want”. Being 12 I guess I didn’t really know what to make of this and hurriedly studied the boxes of valves for any that I might find useful, but it all became clear when I extracted a few and was told to take all the boxes of valves rather than one or two! There must have been a couple of hundred radio/TV valves there. There were a few other bits of kit we wanted and we took the first load back to our house in bags, went back with a wheelbarrow (imagine two 12 year olds carting old radios along the road in a wheelbarrow…), and finally my grandad took us for the last trip in his car.
At secondary school I discovered three things. I forget how or in what order, but they were an electronics shop in the city centre that had loads of old test kit and all sorts of goodies, a TV repair shop near the school, and a house clearance dealer, also near the school.
A number of old radios came from the house clearance shop, and were either pulled apart or sold. I also expanded my valve collection with about 20 old valves from this shop. The TV repair shop owner was a good source of generic white valve boxes, plus he had a small collection himself. The electronics shop was the source of several heavy items of test gear that left their marks on the city busses as I brought them home!
My grandad had made me a workshop in the basement and I could be seen regularly carrying heavy bits of test gear home on the bus after school. The workshop went through many phases as my interests changed between test kit, radios, radio teletype, and at one stage had a wall of test kit, plus Admiralty (Murphy) B40 and B41 receivers (and I could lift both at once back then – just!), a Creed 7E teletype, several readers and perforators, and associated kit. I went through a phase of buying scrap teleprinters, rebuilding them and selling them to local radio amateurs for some extra pocket money.
I have been involved with the web since almost the very beginning. My first website (for work, not valves) was way back in 1992 and we knew just about every other website operator in the world at that time. So it was natural that my collection would end up online, beginning in 1999 on a bit of webspace located at work. From there it moved about a few times, first to some commercial webspace provided free by a friend who owns a (now high) ISP, then to our house, then past two other ISPs to it’s current home on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) which I rent.
The site has changed a few times but I am no designer so it is pretty basic. It uses very little CSS and my design colleagues would lynch me if they realised that most layout is done by tables!
I am no photographer either. The first photographs of valves were awful (and some are still there), not necessarily the fault of the then flashless Cassio QV-200 or me taking wet film pictures and scanning them in. I later used Kodak DC280 camera with a couple of macro lenses that would attach to the front. The current camera is a Canon Powershot 480. This camera will focus down to 1cm and is my day to day snapper (if I am carrying it) along with the smartphone which is always with me.
And so here we are. The collection used to live almost entirely in the loft, out of touch. It has now completely moved into the garage and into plastic storage boxes, all indexed so I can actually find everything. There is still much to do as I am shrinking the collection, and several valves have gone missing during the move, hopefully because I forgot to write down which box they are in!
The website has changed a bit technically too. The original site was just a collection of HTML pages and hand-made indexes. This progressed via some PHP and a flat index file to the current MySQL driven site which has WordPress integrated into it. This About page is delivered via the WordPress installation into a template HTML page via an SSI call to a PHP script. The home page is now all PHP, with WordPress driving the News, Latest Additions, and the ‘New exhibits added’ text, and a database query script driving the Stats line and categories (diode, triode…) and the exhibits finder itself.