MAPCON Maintenance Software Article Series

This is one in a series of Articles published by Mapcon Technologies, Inc. to provide our customers and interested members of the public a unique insight into the world of CMMS, Maintenance Software and Preventive Maintenance Management. Please feel free to send us your comments via email.

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The Vacuum Tube in Computer History

Lisa Richards, Educational Outreach Writer

The invention of the vacuum tube may be viewed as the most groundbreaking contribution to modern computer history. Almost everything that was built to advance computer technology was built off of the functions of the vacuum tube itself. The inventor of the vacuum tube, Sir John Ambrose Fleming, is actually considered to be the father of electronics because of his pioneering invention. Without the invention of the vacuum tube, modern computers and maintenance management software probably wouldn't even exist. For that reason, its history should be acknowledged, celebrated, and remembered.

The Beginnings of the Vacuum Tube

Under the wings of his professor and colleague, James Clerk Maxwell, British researcher Fleming became an expert in electricity. While working in the field of radio and electronics, Fleming wanted to find a way to improve the transmission of radio waves, and the result was the vacuum tube, which functioned by producing a thermionic emission, creating a stronger form of radio communication. His creation would form the foundation of computer technology.

Developing the Vacuum Tube

From the beginning through the development stages, the vacuum tube had been modified and advanced, creating new parts and pieces. The original vacuum tube, also known as a diode, converted an alternating current into a direct current. After, the triode was invented, consisting of three functioning electrodes that worked together to create amplification of sound. The pentode followed shortly after and furthered progress in sound amplification before the magnetron would soon be invented.


The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, also known as the ENIAC, was the first computer that would use the vacuum tube. In fact, the ENIAC used 18,000 vacuum tubes in order to function, allowing signals to be sent and calculations to be performed more quickly through the use of electrical switching rather than the slower mechanical switching. Due to the large amount of electricity the ENIAC needed to stay powered, many people expected it to crash and burn. However, despite expectations, the vacuum tube successfully enabled the ENIAC to function and thrive. This set the precedent for the generations of functioning computers to follow.

The Transistor Age

While the vacuum tube served its purpose perfectly, scientists sought something more practical and efficient to take its place. Scientists William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain collaborated on inventing the transistor, which would replace the vacuum tube. The transistor worked more efficiently than the vacuum tube and operated on less power. Not only did this revolutionize computer technology, but it also allowed computers to become smaller and more cost-effective and advance at a faster pace. Transistors became the stepping stone between vacuum tubes and modern computer technology.

Computer Technology After the Vacuum Tube

Creating and discovering computer technologies has progressed rapidly since the days of the vacuum tube, but the field of computing would not be where it is today without this important invention. Building on the transistor, the integrated circuit was born, and today, this technology is found in numerous devices, from desktop computers to video game consoles. But science is never content to rest on its laurels; new discoveries are always being made in an effort to create better and more efficient electronics.


The Development of Computerized Maintenance Management (CMMS)

  • What is a CMMS? Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a software program designed to manage maintenance activities and keep detailed maintenance records of all equipment and assets within an organization or facility.
  • CMMS Software: MAPCON has been creating CMMS Software since 1982. In fact, we had among the very first CMMS applications running on the original DOS systems.