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Studio updates.

Where did the "trons" start?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “tron” derives from “a weighing machine,” or “the place where the tron was set up.” One can still visit Trongate in Glasgow and the Tron Kirk in Edinburgh, where once the “Salt Tron” stood as a “public beam for weighing merchandise” supporting the salt and coal industries which occupied some ten thousand people throughout Scotland.[1]

   Trons became a ubiquitous part of people’s new modern lives firstly through radio. The first real vacuum tubes, Irving Langmuir’s “kenotron” and “pliotron” date from around 1915. The name of the kenotron was explicitly drawn from the Greek roots of “keno” for “empty” and “tron” for “tool.” Subsequently, the klystron and the rhumbatron became vital components of the radio industry in the 1930s. Trons famously helped win World War Two: later heralded as the most important invention of the war, the resonant cavity magnetron developed at the University of Manchester was the heart of every radar set, and later Radiation Laboratory engineers at MIT designed the hydrogen thyrotron modulator for Project Cindy – the name for a high-resolution radar set (at about 1cm) for smaller ships, like PT-boats, for ship search work.[2]

While the technology of trons emerged in the 1920s and 30s, the culture of trons only appeared after 1945 primarily via the of one of the most famous instruments in the history of science, the cyclotron.


[1]. Rev. D. Butler, The Tron Kirk of Edinburgh or Christ’s Kirk at the Tron: A History (Oliphant, Anderson, & Ferrier, 1906), 20-21.

[2]. Henry Guerlac, RADAR in World War II (American Institute of Physics, 1987), 420-21. Robert Buderi, The Invention that Changed the World: how a small group of radar pioneers won the Second World War and launched a technological revolution (Simon & Schuster, 1996), 28.

david munns