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The simplest vacuum tubes resemble incandescent light bulbs in that they have a filament sealed in a glass envelope which has been evacuated of all air.
When hot, the filament releases electrons into the vacuum: a process called thermionic emission.
The resulting negatively-charged cloud of electrons is called a space charge.
These electrons will be drawn to a metal "plate" inside the envelope if the plate (also called the anode) is positively charged relative to the filament (or cathode).
The result is a current of electrons flowing from filament to plate.
However, tubes are still used in several specialized applications such as guitar amplifiers (also called a valve amp outside the U.
S.) and high power RF transmitters, as a display device in television sets and in microwave ovens.
Vacuum tubes, or thermionic valves, are arrangements of electrodes in a vacuum within an insulating, temperature-resistant envelope.
Although the envelope was classically glass, power tubes often use ceramic and metal.
The electrodes are attached to leads which pass through the envelope via an air tight seal.
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On most tubes, the leads are designed to plug into a tube socket for easy replacement.