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 is not really a museum. It represents my physical collection. Where I can I add data and a small
amount of detail.
What I collect
I generally collect any CV marked valves and often any British military (Ax, Nx, Vx) types. I have others too, like
a Zahl tube but I no longer collect just 'anything' as I used to! I am trimming the collection of valves that are not CV types so
keep an eye on 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. I had also integrated Wordpress into the site
such that Wordpress drove the About, news and updates.
However this has been replaced now by bespoke scripts and modifications to the overall
MySQL database. Wordpress remains as a blog via the Updates button.