General Electric was one of the really big players in tubes.
Here's a couple of early GE boxes. Writing on the tubes in the style box on your left was orange, more in keeping with the old company colors. Tubes in the box on your right usually had silver writing. This is when the RETMA(EIA) manufacturer's code began to appear on their tubes.

Here's two GE boxes from the 1950's. On your left is the standard tube box. On your right the 5 Star industrial grade box. Tubes of this era used the year-week date code. Writing was usually white, sometimes red and even a few green. See note on tube writing color below.
The above box is arguably one of the most recognizable boxes in the tube world. GE used it for decades. The only change was replacing the pre-printed 'Made In USA' with 'Country of Origin Marked on Tube'. They used this box for both standard and industrial grade tubes. The tube writing was usually white, red or light blue. Date codes were usually 2 letter, but occasionally used the year-week format. GE's EIA code is 188. The vast majority have a -5 (Owensboro, Ky), but there are some others such as -21, -22. See below for more detailed info regarding the writing color, the 188- EIA/RETMA codes and the date codes.

The Mobile Radio Division in Lynchburg, Va. designed their own boxes, one version shown below. The Mobile Radio tubes usually have red writing, have the same EIA mfg code, but use the year-week date code almost always. These tubes were always seasoned. See below for note about seasoned tubes.

The tube box to your left is one example of the several Canadian General Electric versions, before they adopted the famous orange and grey box of the parent company. The label to your left is actually a sticker that goes on large Industrial Tube Boxes.
Note that the city is Schenectady, NY vice Owensboro, KY

This box is a variation of the very popular one shown above. It was only used during the early days of the 12 pin Compactron tubes. Shortly GE reverted to the popular box and simply printed Compactron on the flap above the tube type.
Two views of the same box.
Courtesy of Mike Parent.

I used to have a cross reference of the 2 letter date codes to actual dates, collected from PF Reporter magazine (later merged with Electronic Technician to become Electronic Servicing). But when I sold the storefront, the books went with it. I wrote to Electronic Servicing before they went out of business, but they said they couldn't help.

I have found the GE letter codes! -Or at least some of them. Check out the table:

Jan.CECFCHFor following years advance the 2nd letter by one alphabetically. For instance, Jan. 1974 would be CI, Jan. 1975 = CJ, etc. Note certain letters are skipped, I don't yet know which ones, but notice that the letter 'G' is skipped both for year and month. 'D' is also skipped at least for the month. Presumably you can work this backwards too. In other words, Jan 1970 would be CC (or maybe CD). Also note: 'P' and 'Q' are skipped for the month (first letter.) Does this mean they're skipped for the year (2nd letter)? When I know more I'll post it.

For some of the 1960's they used the earlier year/week code. I'm not sure when the change-over to the two letter code occurred. You can get an idea by checking the date codes on our tube lists.

WHITEGE Standard Manufacturer's Warranty applies.
REDDistributor's Warranty (sold by GE to distributors a for lower price). GE absolved of warranty.
GREENExport or Military. No standard US warranty.
Lt. BlueOEM issue. Also supplied to authorized service centers for use as replacements on GE product repairs (only on per needed basis).
Partially from a 1963 GE brochure on the distributor and adjustment policy. Apparently applies only to tubes of 1950s era or later.

188-5OWENSBORO, KY. This is most predominate. See note.
In later years Canadian and other imported tubes carried the common 188-5 code. Apparently Owensboro began assuming responsibility for all tubes even if made in other factories. Theirs or purchased tubes.

A word about seasoning. All good industrial and two-way radio tubes are seasoned. All receiving tubes should be. Many are. However, I've seen the same tube type from the same manufacturer seasoned sometimes and not other times. Anyone who's ever installed an unseasoned CRT knows what I'm talking about. The same principle applies to all tubes.

Most of us are familiar with the frosted writing and dots found on many GE tubes. When we find that on other brands, you know who made them! Under various brands in our tube lists you'll sometimes see (GE) in the RETMA/EIA column. This means the tube has the GE frosted dots.

GE tubes were always first line, top quality tubes and should be remembered as such.

In the early days of replacement semi-conductors, GE had a line that, early on, competed well with Sylvania's ECG series. The GE numbering system was completely different than ECG and GE never adopted it, but in latter years they did print the ECG number on the package along with their own GE number. The specs of the original basic types are covered in the GE Essential Characteristics Tube Manual (ETRM-15P). However, they did issue an ECG style comprehensive cross reference book available through GE Distributors. I had one that went with the store front. Wish I could find one now.

Way back in the early days, GE was a part of a consortium with Westinghouse that created RCA, then left them to grow on their own. More recently GE bought all of RCA back again. However, when GE sold the consumer electronics division to Thomson of Europe, they only licensed the GE name for a few years. Thomson got the entire rights to the RCA name in perpetuity and phased out the GE name over a few years. RCA's industrial tube division was spun off into a separate company called Burle Industries. GE small consumer electronics (little radios and other appliances) went to Black & Decker, who is now owned by someone else. GE Communications (Mobile Radio Division) married Ericsson of Sweden, one of the major players in Cellular. And so the world goes.

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