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The 807, a Vacuum Tube for the Ages

Eight decades on, this device still has a niche among ham radio enthusiasts and audiophiles

1 min read
Vintage announcement for RCA-807 radio tube
Photo: Randi Klett

In the 1930s, as the United States recovered from the Great Depression, most people couldn’t afford a new radio. Even so, the Radio Corporation of America earned a tidy profit on vacuum tubes like the 807, [pdf] introduced in 1937. The 807 proved especially popular with amateur radio operators, as evidenced by this ad from the March 1940 issue of QST, a ham-radio magazine. And in 1947, English engineer D.T.N. Williamson described the circuit for his eponymous high-fidelity audio amplifier [pdf], variations of which used the 807. Although RCA closed its electron tube operation in 1976, 807s are still made in Russia and China, and audiophiles continue to debate the technical and aesthetic qualities of 807s from different companies, eras, and countries.

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How the Graphical User Interface Was Invented

Three decades of UI research came together in the mice, windows, and icons used today

18 min read
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Stylized drawing of a desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, on the screen are windows, Icons, and menus
Getty Images/IEEE Spectrum
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Mice, windows, icons, and menus: these are the ingredients of computer interfaces designed to be easy to grasp, simplicity itself to use, and straightforward to describe. The mouse is a pointer. Windows divide up the screen. Icons symbolize application programs and data. Menus list choices of action.

But the development of today’s graphical user interface was anything but simple. It took some 30 years of effort by engineers and computer scientists in universities, government laboratories, and corporate research groups, piggybacking on each other’s work, trying new ideas, repeating each other’s mistakes.

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