Tubes are not so unreliable

While getting my hair cut, I remarked to my barber about his Zenith table radio. It featured FM, but seemed to be of mid-60's vintage. He confirmed that he probably bought it in 1965 or 1966. When I told him it must be tubed, he said it was. He has played it every day the barbershop has been open since the radio was purchased. I asked him how often he has had to replace a tube. The answer was, "Never, I have never touched anything inside of it." He didn't know how many or what types of tubes the radio used. His sentiment was that if a tube ever goes, he will have to retire it(but not get rid of it). That's when I told him to tell me if that ever happens. I will hook him up with the tubes. That was when Zenith was Zenith. Before the dark days; how they went from being the best to the worst. The radio was bought for the princely sum of $85. I wonder how much that would be in today's money. Enough to buy the WaveRadio I am sure. Now, who would ever suggest that someone buying the Bose would ever get 35 years of use out of it? I guess tubes are not so unreliable after all. So, for anyone who worries about buying tube equipment, you might want to think about this story
If it has a decent phono section, I'll give him $100 *g*
Great story. I think this also speaks to the quality and staying power of tubes that were made when they were the mainstay of electronics. I have always felt that my NOS tubes have been more durable and longer lived that the new stuff. It would seem that some of those higher priced NOS pieces are actually a bargain in the long run.
That's why the Russians use them in the guidance systems of the MIG fighters.
Power output tubes in RF gear take a beating. As such, one of my fellow "techs" uses a tube radio on his bench to test all of his repairs. The original tubes in the output section have been used on a daily basis since 1968 up until appr 2 years ago. He finally decided to change the output tubes. After all of those years of use and running at full output on a daily basis ( 7 days a week ) and having the tube run into amplifiers that had damaged input circuitry, the power output level was down only 22% as compared to a brand new tube of the same vintage. I don't know of ANY type of SS component that could lay claim to ANYTHING like that. Sean
Viridian, The real reason the Russions use tubes is to protect against EMP, electromagnetic pulse from the radiation of an atomic blast. They first noticed the effect on electrical transmission lines during an atmospheric test. The power grid shut down from overload. The same thing happens to solid state devices. The military knows this and shields their solid state against such a pulse. Tubes are resistant to the effect, but are not necessarily better than well shielded SS
Interestingly enough I have a pair of MC-60's. One is from 1956 vintage the other later. I am the 3rd owner. I had the ORIGINAL 6550 output tubes in that amp until 1995. I don't know what that says about today's tubes but it sure tells me a bit about yesterdays as well as the engineering.

So far as the Zenith name brand that is all it is, a name brand that today has nothing to do with the quality that was once associated with it.
The problem in most tube equipment is not the tubes but the way designers abuse them. Tubes can last nearly a life time unless they are pushed so hard to do things they weren't designed to do. Most new (the last ten or fifteen years) tube designs are very hard on the tubes. I have an old zenith tube radio older than that which still works although the power cord is worn. Maybe I'll replace it with a whale!!!
Tubegoover: I had an old Eico HF-81 integrated amp with the same thing. I sold it in 1985 and it was still running the original EL84's which sounded fine.

Nrchy: I own an Audion Silver Night 300B stereo amp which does not run the output, input and driver tubes hard at all. This is a blessing, I agree, considering the cost of good 6922 and 300B tubes. The US rep has been getting around 5000 hours on stock Chinese 300B tubes in his personal unit, which means that my Svetlana's may be good for twice that (four times their regular life).
Thanks for the responses. In addition to that story, I have two others. Just that my barber really got me thinking this weekend. As for the other stories, my father has a tuner which still is running the original tubes. That tuner is about 30 years old. And, it is in the harsh, humid, salty environment of the New Jersey shore. The other story is about a woman I work with. She has her grandmother's console something or other. It is her link to her grandmother. The component was manufactured in the late 1950's, and is still running the original tubes. She knows nothing about tubes, but says she uses that piece of equipment frequently. Her only comment is that the thing seems to have a "nice tone". Tubegroover, I am glad that we have people like you to remember that brands like Zenith, RCA, GE, and Fisher once were not just products that were destined for stores like K-Mart.
I certainly do remember Trejla. My parents bought a Zenith maple console in 1959. I grew up listening to music on that unit and it had VERY good sound. Until a lightning strike "done it in" at which time it could'nt be repaired after repeated tries. My sister still has the console which she uses as a storage cabinet and it looks as new today as the day my parents bought it 42 years ago.
My mother was the utility operator on the Sylvania tube assembly line starting during WW2 until about 1957. She could do all the jobs, so would train the new people and fill in for people out. She still has a 1950s Sylvania table radio that works fine (AM only). The reception on this thing is beyond excellent. It demonstates to me how terrible AM radios are today. I doubt she has replaced the tubes for a very long time if ever. It does take longer than normal for it to warm up, so probably could use some. (I should make sure she puts it in her will for me!!!)