July 1956 Popular Electronics[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 are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from Popular Electronics.
Just the other day I saw a greeting card with a sailboat on the front with the words "Anchors Away," on it. It was not meant to be a pun on "anchors aweigh;" the card writer didn't know any better. This episode of "Carl & Jerry" has our teenage Ham radio operators and electronics hobbyists running a newly built model tugboat powered by a steam engine and navigated via a radio control system. As is always the case, no activity of the pair goes without drama of some sort. Author John T. Frye used his writings to present technical topics within the storyline, both in the "Carl & Jerry" series here in Popular Electronics and his earlier "Mac's Radio Service Shop" series that appeared in Radio & Television News editions in the 1940s and 1950s.
By John T. Frye
It was a beautiful July day. The warm sun sparkled on the little ripples produced by the gentle breeze moving over the broad expanse of backwater above the dam in the St. Joseph River, and there were just enough white clouds drifting in the sky to bring out its deep summer blue.
All this natural beauty was wasted on Carl and Jerry, however. As they knelt on the bank, their admiration was entirely absorbed by the gleaming brasswork of the three-foot-long radio-controlled model tugboat resting on the ground between them.
"I still say it was a dirty gyp not to let me help put it together," Carl complained.
"But I told you my uncle in the Navy sent me the plans for the boat, the motor, and the radio-control equipment from England," Jerry said patiently. "He wrote that he wasn't going to have an ignorant landlubber swab for a nephew if he could help it, and that I was to build the thing all by myself and have it ready for his inspection when he arrives next month on leave. If I had let you help me put it together - and I really ached to show it to you-that would have been cheating."
"Well, all right," Carl said grudgingly; "but let's get started. I want to see it work."
"First," Jerry began, as he took out three bottles from a box beside him, "we've got to mix the fuel. This water-cooled diesel motor runs on equal parts of ether, castor oil, and kerosene."
"If you don't mind, I'll move up-wind while you mix," Carl said, hastily scrambling to his feet. "I've got a grandmother who thinks castor oil is good for whatever ails boys, and Mom believes everything Grandma says. As a result, I know I've taken enough castor oil to float that boat easily; and I just can't stand the smell of the stuff. How much moxie does that motor have?"
"It has five cubic centimeters piston displacement, and will develop a full 1/2 B.H.P. at 12,000 rpm."
"A half horsepower, huh? That's a real powerhouse! But then, I suppose a tug should have power. How about the radio controls?"
"I built up a sensitive three-tube receiver to go with the six-channel reed bank my uncle sent over. Servos operating with the reed selector unit give me any degree of right or left rudder, and I have full control of the motor speed from idle to full-throttle. Since the diesel won't run backward, I can't reverse the boat yet; but I hope to have a gear-box installed in there pretty soon that will let me reverse it. The unused channels will be used at a later date to carry out some big plans I have."
The boys put the fuel into the motor fuel tank and checked out the radio controls. Jerry plugged a milliammeter into a jack on the boat receiver and tuned the input circuit to the frequency of the transmitter, with the meter serving as tuning indicator. Then they watched the operation of the servos connected to the rudder and throttle arm as the buttons on the remote control transmitter case were depressed. Everything worked perfectly, and they were just preparing to start the motor when a harsh, high-pitched voice behind them demanded:
"What're you kids fixing to do?"
They turned around to see a sour-visaged old man standing beside a boat tied to the bank. Under his arm were several long cane poles, and he carried a battered minnow bucket in each hand.
"We're just going to tryout our radio-controlled boat," Jerry explained politely.
"I knew it!" the man exclaimed with triumphant satisfaction. "I just felt in my bones you were up to some devilment like that. Well, let me tell you brats something: I'm going out there in the middle of the river to fish for crappie, and when I fish I want things quiet. That silly contraption had better not come within a hundred yards of my boat, or you'll be sorry. Do you get that?"
"We'll keep the model away from your boat," Jerry promised .
Muttering to himself, the old man loaded his paraphernalia into his boat and shoved off. As he leisurely rowed toward the middle of the wide river, the boys exchanged glances.
"Gee, what a grouch!" Carl exclaimed.
"I had a big notion to tell him off."
"I'm glad you didn't," Jerry said slowly.
"In the first place, he's an old man and should be shown respect. More important, though, is the fact that his hobby of fishing is just as important to him as our hobby of playing with this boat is to us. He's probably been fishing here for a long, long time and has a right to keep on doing so without interruption.
"Anyway, I'd just as soon not send the tugboat out any distance today. We'll keep it here close to the bank while we become familiar with the controls. Then, to, I want to see which one of these propellers I brought along will provide the most push. Running the motor for only short stretches at a time should help to break it in."
Without further talk, the boys started the motor and gently placed the little boat in the water. It rode beautifully as they sent it in tight circles close to the bank, and they were deeply gratified at how quickly and completely it responded to signals sent out by the transmitter. Then Jerry fastened a line from one of the towing irons at the stern of the little tug, and fastened the other end of the line to a spring scale held just above the surface of the water. Carl pushed the full-throttle button on the transmitter, and the popping exhaust suddenly rose to a high-pitched whine. The water boiled up behind the stern of the little vessel as it squatted low in the water to pull with all its might against the scale.
They noted the measured pull of the boat and then placed another propeller on the drive shaft and repeated the test. One propeller of the four eventually tried showed several ounces more pull than any of the rest; so the boys left it on the shaft. Then they refilled the fuel tank and prepared to proceed with their next experiment: trying to "dock" an old railroad tie floating leisurely past by pushing against it with the fender around the tug's bow:
"Old Sourpuss must have caught one," Carl commented, as he rose from placing the boat back in the water, and glanced out to where the old man was standing up in his boat a couple of hundred yards away.
"No; he's pulled in the anchor and is letting the boat drift with the breeze. I've been watching him. He ought not be standing up in a narrow boat that way, though -"
Jerry broke off with a gasp as the old man, who had been transferring a minnow bucket from one side of the boat to the other, suddenly lost his balance and toppled out of the boat backward, the minnow bucket still clutched in his hands. The departing thrust of his feet gave the boat a shove and it was a good thirty feet away when his head bobbed to the surface.
"Help! Help!" the choked voice of the old man came faintly to the boys.
"Can't you swim?" Carl called through the megaphone his cupped hands made.
"Nary a stroke," was the answer. "This minnow bucket is holding me up, but it leaks and won't last long."
Carl sat down on the grass and began tearing at his shoelaces.
"That's too far to swim," Jerry said desperately. "He'll have gone under long before you get there."
"I've gotta try. We can't just sit here and watch him drown."
"The tugboat! The tugboat!" Jerry exclaimed, as his eyes lighted on the puttering little model that slowly had put out from shore while it was left unattended. He pushed a button on the transmitter case, and the motor exhaust rose to a scream of power as the tug shot ahead. It performed a graceful arc and hurtled across the surface of the water.
"What are you going to do?" Carl demanded, watching the swiftly narrowing gap between the little tug and the head of the old man - which could just be seen in the water beyond the drifting rowboat. "That little model will never keep him afloat. It might if he were careful, but he's too excited to think. He'll capsize the tug at his first grab."
"Don't forget that this is a tugboat we've got," Jerry remarked, without taking his eyes off the little radio-controlled craft. As he spoke, the little boat's motor slowed to an idle, and it settled down in the water as it moved slowly ahead to nuzzle its prow against the square stern the rowboat. Then Jerry pushed a button and the motor again revved up to full-throttle. The rowboat lazily moved ahead toward the head of the old man. Just as it was almost within reach of his outstretched hand, it turned aside; Jerry had pushed the wrong button and the bow of the little model slipped off the transom of the rowboat.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Carl demanded accusingly.
"This is tricky," Jerry explained desperately. "You gotta make the tugboat go to the right when you want the rowboat to go to the left."
As he talked, he sent the little boat in a tight circle and brought it into position once more. This time he successfully maneuvered the rowboat into the reach of the barely floating man.
As soon as the old man had safely hold of something substantial, the paralyzing fear went out of him. He moved hand over hand along the side of the boat to the square stern and then pulled himself into the boat over the transom. After resting a few seconds, he took in his poles and started rowing toward the boys, keeping an interested watch on the little tug that performed triumphant circles around him as he rowed along.
"Well, boys, I just don't know what to say," he admitted candidly, stepping out on the shore. "I know as sure as I'm standing here that if weren't for you two and that dandy little boat of yours I'd be dead right now. But I can't seem to think of any way to tell you how much I thank you."
"Don't worry about that," Jerry said, with a friendly grin. "We're just tickled to pieces that everything worked so well."
"This much I have to say," the old man went on. "I sure feel bad about the way I talked to you two a little while ago. From now on in, as far as I'm concerned, you can run that wonderful little contraption right up and down my backbone any time you please."
"Then maybe you'd like to come down here tomorrow and watch us try it out for some speed runs," Carl suggested.
"I'd be proud to," the old man said promptly. "Fact is, I'm kind of hankering to have one of those things myself. While I was rowing in, I had the idea that if a man trolled a pork-rind spinner off the back of that thing there's no telling how many bass he might take! And he could just sit here on the bank and smoke his pipe while he was doing it, too!"
Posted April 11, 2016
Carl & 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
- Geniuses at Work, June 1956
- Eeeeelectricity!, November 1956
- Anchors Aweigh, July 1956
- Bosco Has His Day, August 1956
- The Hand of Selene, November 1960
- Feedback, May 1956
- Abetting or Not?, October 1956
- Electronic Beach Buggy, September 1956
- Extra Sensory Perception, December 1956
- Trapped in a Chimney, January 1956
- Command Performance, November 1958
- Extracurricular Education, July 1963
- Treachery of Judas, July 1961
- The Sucker, May 1963
- Stereotaped New Year, January 1963
- The Snow Machine, December 1960
- Extracurricular Education, July 1963
- Slow Motion for Quick Action, April 1963
- Sonar Sleuthing, August 1963
- TV Antennas, August 1955
- Succoring a Soroban, March 1963
- "All's Fair --", September 1963
- Operation Worm Warming, May 1961
- The Sparkling Light, May 1962
- Pure Research Rewarded, June 1962
- The Hot Dog Case, December 1954
- A New Company is Launched, October 1956
- Under the Mistletoe, December 1958
- Electronic Eraser, August 1962
- Blubber Banisher, July 1959
- "BBI", May 1959
- Ultrasonic Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River Sniffer, July 1962
- Ham Radio, April 1955
- El Torero Electronico, April 1960
- Wired Wireless, January 1962
- Electronic Shadow, September 1957
- Elementary Induction, June 1963
- He Went That-a-Way, March1959
- Electronic Detective, February 1958
- Aiding an Instinct, December 1962
- Two Detectors, February 1955
- Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the Pirates, April 1961
- The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960