The electron tube industry started with the patenting of the thermionic diode by John Ambrose Fleming in 1904. The vacuum technology used by the infant tube industry was copied from the existing incandescent lamp industry. The growing demands for electron tubes for the military in the first world war led to major improvements in pumps and processing methods. By the 1920s, mass production methods were developing to satisfy the demands for receiving tubes by the burgeoning radio industry. Further expansion in the 1930s and 1940s resulted in improvements in automatic equipment for pumping vacuum tubes leading to the massive production rates of electron tubes in the second world war and the following two decades. The demand for radar during the war resulted in the development of techniques for large-scale production of microwave tubes and CRTs, the latter technology being put to good use later in TV picture tube production. The commercial introduction of the transistor ended the massive demand for receiving tubes. This review concentrates on the vacuum technology developed for receiving tube production.

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