[Table of Contents]People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about
and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
Popular Electronics began
publishing a monthly electronics detective story series soon after its debut in 1955. The two main characters,
Carl and Jerry, helped keep the world safe from miscreants by way of their investigative prowess and deductive
skills. The Hardy Boys were amateurs in comparison (wait, they were amateurs). The theme and ultimately solving of
each mystery centered around use of electrical and/or electronics. If you enjoy short stories, then you will like
the Carl & Jerry series. I will be posting more of them as time permits.
See all articles from
Carl & Jerry: Electronic Shadow
By John T. Frye
Bishop had told Chief of Police Morton that Carl and Jerry were out
in the back yard; and that is where he
found them, busily engaged in fastening a weird-looking object to the luggage carrier of Carl's bicycle. The Chief
stood for a moment unnoticed and then walked over to where the two were working.
"Hi, boys," he greeted
them. "What are you up to?"
The boys glanced up with the startled, retrospective look the unexpected sight
of brass buttons and blue serge usually evokes from boys their age, but their faces broke into welcoming grins as
they recognized Mr. Morton.
"Hi, Chief; we're just getting ready to tryout a new gadget we've been working
on," Carl explained. "We call it 'the electronic shadow.'''
"'Electronic shadow,' huh? Sounds as though
you two might be trying to muscle in on my job. But let's have the details - how does it work?"
"Basically," Jerry explained, "the thing is a small working model of a gyro-compass. It consists of this
gimbal-mounted gyroscope that has its heavy but carefully counterbalanced and easily turning rotor driven at high
speed by this battery-operated electric motor here on the end of the rotor shaft. The mounting and weighting are
such that the axle of the rotor is always maintained in a horizontal plane in spite of any tilting of the surface
on which the compass rests. Under these conditions, the spinning axis of the rotor will align itself with the axis
of the earth in such fashion that both the rotor and the earth are turning in the same direction. One end of the
rotor shaft will continually point north no matter how the object on which the compass is sitting is turned about.
"Next, note this small variable resistor mounted here on the frame supporting the gyroscope mounting. It looks
like an ordinary radio volume control, but there are important differences. For one thing, the shaft of this
variable resistor can be turned around and around without meeting a stop. You can see that it only has two
terminals. One terminal is connected to one end of the resistance element; the other goes to the slider that
contacts this element. As the shaft is turned, the resistance appearing between the two terminals rises gradually
from zero to a maximum value and then falls abruptly back to zero with each complete rotation.
see here that the shaft of the variable resistor is fastened to the gimbal holding the spinning rotor. Watch what
happens as Carl turns the bicycle around. See: the shaft is maintained in the same position by the gyroscope, but
the resistor case itself turns with the bicycle. That means that a different value of resistance appears between
the terminals for every point of the compass at which the bicycle is pointed.
variable resistor is connected in the circuit of a transistorized resistor-capacity type audio oscillator. The
frequency of this oscillator varies as the resistance of the compass-controlled resistor varies. That means that
as the bicycle is pointed in different directions, different tones are produced by the audio oscillator. This
oscillator modulates a small transistorized transmitter whose signal can be picked up on a receiver down in the
"Down there, too, is an identical audio oscillator containing a matching variable resistor.
The shaft of that resistor is locked in the same position as that of the one up here which is controlled by the
gyroscope. An arrow is fastened to the resistor case. When that arrow points in the same direction in which the
bicycle up here is pointing, the tone coming from the receiver and the one coming from the oscillator down there
are at exactly the same pitch. If I want to know which way the bicycle is pointing at a given instant, all I have
to do is swing the arrow around until the tone of my audio oscillator matches that coming from the receiver and
note the direction in which the arrow is pointing."
"WHEW!" Chief Morton exclaimed, mopping his brow. "I think I follow you, but it isn't easy for a duffer
whose knowledge of electronics is confined to how a flashlight works. What does that little wheel riding on the
rear tire have to do with it?"
"That's our distance-traveled indicator," Carl chimed in. "The little wheel
turns a flexible shaft that works a gear train. A cam on a shaft of this gear train closes a pair of contacts
momentarily every tenth of a mile and modulates the little transmitter with a high-pitched 'beep' produced by
another transistorized audio oscillator. This allows the fellow down in the lab to keep track of the direction and
distance the bicycle has traveled at all times."
"Come on down to the lab and let's see if we can keep
track of where Carl is riding," Jerry invited.
"Fine," Chief Morton agreed with an eagerness that seemed a
little strange in one who had no knowledge of or interest in electronics.
Jerry had a map of the city
spread out on the workbench of the basement laboratory. He flipped on the receiver and the audio oscillator, then
pecked on the basement window and motioned for Carl to take off.
"He's heading south," Jerry announced, as
he turned the arrow so that the two tones were alike. There was a loud beep from the receiver. Jerry picked up a
plastic map-measuring instrument and put the little roller wheel on the map at a point just south of where they
"This map is drawn to a scale of ten-inches-to-the-mile, and I have this map-measuring gadget set to
that scale," he explained. "Every time we hear a beep, I'll roll it along the direction we know Carl is traveling
until it shows a tenth of a mile. That way we should be able to keep track of where Carl is at all times."
Doing this turned out to be easy, because Carl rode along streets that were laid out in a rectangular pattern.
When he turned, it was usually at right angles, producing an abrupt change in the tone coming from the receiver.
When this happened, Jerry simply swung the arrow until the tones were again in step and changed the direction in
which he was moving the map-measurer to agree. All at once, though, the sound coming from the speaker began to
sound like: "Baweek, baweek, baweek."
For a moment a worried frown crossed Jerry's round face, then he broke into a grin. "The smart aleck is riding
around in a circle at this street intersection," he said, pointing at the map. A little later the indication
showed that Carl was riding straight for home. When the map-measurer had crawled back to the starting point, Chief
Morton opened the basement door just in time to hear the squeak of Carl's brakes outside.
"That was a
wonderful performance, boys," the chief said as Carl came down the steps into the laboratory. "Now, as you may
have guessed, I had a problem on my mind when I came over here; but I'm almost convinced you two have come up with
the solution before even hearing the problem. To be sure, though, I have one question: do you think that
'electronic shadow' will work as well in a car as it does on the bicycle?"
Jerry wrinkled his brow a
minute and then answered slowly, "I can't see why not. The distance-traveled roller could be driven from one of
the car wheels. The diameter of the roller would probably have to be changed so that the distance indication would
be accurate. But what do you have in mind?"
"Here's the story," the chief began. "Remember about a month
back when a bank bandit held up the First National Bank and got away with forty-seven thousand dollars? If you do,
you'll recall that we nabbed him with a roadblock about thirty minutes after the robbery was committed; but he
didn't have any of the actual cash with him. Only some bonds were found on him. Somewhere here in town he had
hidden the cash. He's a pretty tough cookie, and nothing we can do will make him tell us where the money is
hidden. We had just about given up on this guy but something came up recently that makes us think we may have a
chance of uncovering the loot after all.
"A couple of days ago, a guard at the jail came to us with the
story that this bandit - his name is Palmer - had promised him half of that forty-seven thousand if he would
arrange a jail break. All the guard has to do is to allow Palmer to overpower him and have a car waiting in the
alley behind the jail.
"We're of half-a-mind to go along with this jail break in the hope of making Palmer
lead us to the missing money. The guard is willing to cooperate with us for a share of the reward offered by the
bank for the recovery of the money. The hitch is that we're afraid of losing Palmer and the money, too! We're
pretty sure he hid it somewhere around those refining plants at the south edge of town. As you know, there are
acres of ground out there covered with huge steel tanks, steel towers, etc., all of which reflect radio waves like
mad. These reflections make the kind of direction-indicating equipment we used on those car thieves useless. A
trial run proved that to us, for we lost the test car completely when it got near the refineries. But I've got a
hunch that this electronic tattle-tale of yours would keep the finger right on Palmer. With it, all we have to do
is hear the signal without worrying about whether the signal heard is a reflection or not."
"Sure it will
work!" Carl exclaimed, eager for the excitement to come.
"Let's make a test and see," Jerry suggested more cautiously.
So they did. They installed the
compass in the car that Palmer would be driving if the scheme were carried out, and this car was driven all over
town while the two boys and Chief Morton kept track of it at police headquarters. When the record the driver kept
of his course was compared with that plotted on the map at the police station, the two records were found to agree
in every minute detail.
"I'm sold!" Chief Morton announced. "We'll arrange the jail break for tonight
around midnight. You two boys be sure and be here around eleven. I'm going to have every man I can on duty. Men on
foot equipped with hand transceivers will be scattered all around the refinery district. We'll have to depend on
one of them being close when Palmer gets out of the car to pick up the money. We can't crowd him too closely with
the squad cars or he'll get suspicious; but we can keep them in a circle around him to make sure he doesn't slip
through our fingers. If that happens, this town will have a new police chief in short order."
Jerry, of course, were at the station by ten o'clock. The chief explained that the guard had arranged with Palmer
for the break to occur at exactly midnight. A relay had been connected to the ignition switch to turn on the
"electronic shadow" when the motor was started and to cut the transmitter off when the motor stopped.
the clock hands scissored together at the top of the clock face, tension mounted around the large map of the city
spread out on a table near the radio dispatching position in the police station. Carl was to operate the receiver
and the direction-indicating arrow of the audio oscillator. Jerry was to keep track of the car on the map. A
policeman with a stop watch was to keep a record of the time intervals elapsing between the tenth-of-a-mile beeps.
Chief Morton would move between the map and the dispatcher so as to keep all forces coordinated for fast, smooth
It was just six minutes after midnight when the audio tone suddenly burst from the receiver in front of Carl.
The fish had taken the bait!
The practice sessions paid off, and soon the boys were easily keeping track
of the car. Chief Morton, bent over Jerry, could see that Palmer was driving an aimless course about town,
apparently trying to throw any possible pursuit off his trail. Before long, though, he started driving straight
for the south edge of the city. The chief kept a wide circle of squad cars around the position indicated on the
map by the crawling map-measurer in Jerry's hand.
As Palmer reached the vicinity of the refineries, the
car seemed to have slowed down, for there was an exceptionally long interval between two of the beeps. Then he
apparently turned down a side street, drove for about a block, and cut off the motor. At any rate, the signal from
the receiver disappeared.
Chief Morton sprang into action with a volley of commands intended to focus all his forces at the spot where
the car had stopped, but to keep them out of sight.
Suddenly there came from the speaker of the police
radio the chilling report, "There's no car here, Chief."
For a long, long minute, Jerry and Chief Morton
stared at each other in dismay. Then Jerry suddenly reached over and grabbed up the sheet of paper on which the
policeman had been keeping a record of the time intervals between beeps.
"That long interval!" Jerry
exclaimed, and looked again at the map. "We thought he was just driving slowly, but I'll bet he accidentally went
past this alley, then stopped and backed up. That means that the practice sessions paid off; soon the boys were
easily keeping track of the car. Chief Morton could see that Palmer was driving aimlessly instead of being parked
on this street here, he is really parked in the alley ... "
Before the boy finished speaking, the chief of
police had instructions crackling through the air. It was only seconds until the reassuring word came back, "The
car is here all right. Palmer is just getting out of it and walking over to the side of a warehouse. He's digging
around in the sand with the toe of his shoe. Now he's lifting out a tin box. Stand by. We're going to grab him!"
And grab him they did. The box contained the entire amount of cash taken from the bank. As a squad car was
bringing Palmer back to the jail, the chief explained to the boys that they would undoubtedly receive a part of
"That's dandy," Carl remarked; "but our folks will just sock it away in the bank for our college
education. What gives us our kicks right now is the satisfaction of knowing that for once we dreamed up a gadget
that really worked."
"You mean some of your inventions don't work?" Chief Morton asked in wide-eyed
wonder. "That's hard to believe. You're batting 1000 with me. I've called on you twice, and both times you came
"Come on, Blabbermouth; let's go home," Jerry said, taking Carl firmly by the elbow and steering
him toward the door. "You're so tired and sleepy you don't know what you're saying. Good night, all," he called
cheerfully back over his shoulder as he hustled Carl out the door.
"He's lifting out a tin box. Stand by.
We're going to grab him." And grab him they did. The box contained all the cash taken from the bank ...
Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is now available. "From 1954 through 1964, Popular
Electronics published 119 adventures of Carl and Jerry, two teen boys with a passion for electronics
and a knack for getting into and out of trouble with haywire lashups built in Jerry's basement.
Better still, the boys explained how it all worked, and in doing so, launched countless young people
into careers in science and technology. Now, for the first time ever, the full run of Carl and Jerry
yarns by John T. Frye are available again, in five authorized anthologies that include the full
text and all illustrations."
Carl & Jerry Episodes on RF Cafe
|- Command Performance - November
- Extracurricular Education,
- Treachery of Judas,
- The Sucker, May 1963
Stereotaped New Year, January 1963
- The Snow
Extracurricular Education, July 1963
He Went That-a-Way,
Electronic Detective, February 1958
- Aiding an
Instinct, December 1962
- Succoring a
Soroban, March 1963
- Slow Motion
for Quick Action, April 1963
Sonar Sleuthing, August
- TV Antennas,
- The Hot Dog
Case, December 1954
A New Company is Launched,
the Mistletoe, December 1958
|- Two Detectors,
Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the
Pirates, April 1961
- The Sparkling
Research Rewarded, June 1962
Hot Idea, March 1960
Eraser, August 1962
- "BBI", May 1959
Ultrasonic Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River Sniffer,
- Ham Radio, April
- El Torero Electronico,
- Wired Wireless,
Shadow, September 1957
Posted April 17, 2012