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As the title states, what would be the job title of a vacuum tube replacer? Vacuum tube operator? Vacuum tube engineer? If your job had you spending most of your time replacing vacuum tubes, what would you put on your resume?

I'm assuming this was an actual job during the vacuum tube computing days, but I'm not sure.

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    Would it have been a job by itself or would it have just been one of several duties for a computer technician?
    – davidbak
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 22:14
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    The ENIAC had what I would consider a high rate of tube failure - one every 2 days (per wikipedia). It hardly seems like a full-time job. My understanding was that Eckert's approach of undervolting tubes, coupled with burn-in before use, sigificantly increased reliability. Subsequent stored-program machines had lower valve counts.
    – dave
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 22:25
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    The job, rather, is one of "keeping the computer working". In the build-it-yourself computing era, presumably this job fell to technical staff. Even when you could buy a computer, and even into the transistor era, it was usual for vendor support engineers ('field engineers' or 'customer engineers') to have the machine for a few hours a day or, later, a week, for "preventive maintenance". The vendor staff probably even had on-site office space.
    – dave
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 22:38
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    Vtuber, obviously. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 4:00
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    @Raffzahn We don't talk about those. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 16:07

1 Answer 1

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What would you call the occupation of a person who changes vacuum tubes?

Nothing specific, as it's not a job in itself, but the part of the tasks a

  • Customer Engineer
  • Maintenance Engineer,
  • Field Engineer, or
  • Service Engineer

would do. Naming choice may vary according to company - likewise some used the term Technician instead of Engineer. They were almost exclusive employed by the machines manufacturers service division. Maybe except for the very first one off machines build at some university.


Being trained in that job, in the late 1970s, I got a title of Service Technician (German: Wartungstechniker).

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    According to one of the KDF9 brochures, English Electric used the term "resident engineer". I don't know if this was a mandatory peripheral with every computer, or if there was a timesharing option.
    – dave
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 23:07
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    @another-dave Now that's a nice term. Can't really talk about English Electric, but we had back then a default location to show up in the morning, but after that being time shared all over the city :))
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 23:10
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    Don't forget, "T.V. Repairman." Once was a time when every town in the U.S.A. had at least one T.V. repair shop. Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 23:11
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    Remember there was a time - not too long ago, really - where every airplane flew with an "engineer" on board to make sure the engines kept running properly - or even at all! Earlier than that - every race car in a race ran with its own mechanic on board - see youtube.com/watch?v=plRfCsfzG-g - the early scenes clearly show two heads popping up in each car! One: the driver. Two: the mechanic!
    – davidbak
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 0:27
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    As a Navy sonar technician, I had to replace a lot of tubes. Some of them because a supposedly trained technician would double the filament voltage on the tube tester to "check for borderline conditions." SMH Some because a fathometer was built with a clamp mounted wrong, so every time a new tube was clamped in, it punctured the glass (the glue in the base kept it from making a sound).
    – WGroleau
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 18:28

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