[AMRadio] I wonder what happened to them

Mike Durff K4TQF at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 11 00:58:28 EDT 2017

Charlie in NC said:"... Another 'wonder what happened to them' is the automatic equipment that made tubes..." 

Charlie & others:
Around 1993, I found myself driving back to Memphis from Chicago. I had driven to Chicago to pick up a couple of AMPEX AG-440 two track tape machines. I called MPD in Owensboro, Kentucky and asked if I could stop by for a tour of their tube production facilities. They put me through to the former supervisor of that department. He said " ... oh that production line closed earlier in the year..." . My response was that this news made my visit more urgent as this was the last operating large scale tube production facility in the US. He agreed, and I stopped by on the way back to Memphis. MPD was the Microwave Products Division of GE who had taken over the facility from the old Ken-Rad tube manufacturing company ( Kentucky Radio ). When I arrived, I saw that it was a "secure" facility. They were making classified microwave products for the US DOD. The visit was very secretive at the time. I had to produce an ID and get a visitors badge.  I was told not to look from side to side as we walked thru the facility up to the 2nd floor where the tube department was located.    The tube manufacturing department had been closed only a few months and everything was still in place. There were 22 "Sealex" machines on the line. He showed me the assembly room where steel dies were used to form the plates and other internal parts. Most of this work was done by hand & by women. There were rows on rows of shelves with different tube numbers on the front of the cubby-holes that held the dies for the particular tube number. There were partially assembled tubes still on the workbenches, as if they were in production until the last workday. 
I asked what was to become of all the dies and Sealex machines. He said that Richardson Electronics had paid GE something like $2.5 million for everything. He also said that they had plans for removing only 2 of the Sealex machines. One to use and one for spare parts.  Everything else was to be destroyed. Very sad indeed. 
As we were leaving, we stopped by his office. He presented me with one of the last tubes, a 6550, in a commemorative box. The last production had been a big run of 6550's for the military. On the MPD box there was a gold sticker on the side that reads:
          Ken-Rad, General Electric, MPD inc. COMMERATING FINAL RECEIVING TUBE PRODUCTION                                   in                     Owensboro, Kentucky                            1922-1993
I'm glad I made that phone call. 
Durff, K4TQF

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