July 1959 Popular Electronics
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.
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Carl & Jerry: The Blubber Banisher
By John T Frye
"Say, what's the matter with you? You got ants or something?" Carl
demanded of his chum Jerry. "Every few minutes you glance at your watch
and then get up and pace around the lab. This can't be old hate-to-make-an-unnecessary-move
Jerry. Am I keeping you from something?"
"Oh, no!" Jerry said quickly. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm just restless."
He sat down gingerly on the worn leather couch in the boys' basement
laboratory, and there was a moment of deep silence.
"Hey, what's that ticking sound?" Carl suddenly demanded. "Sounds
like it's coming from you."
"Okay, okay! It is coming from me," Jerry shouted in exasperation.
"If you must know, it's my new Blubber Banisher."
Carl's look of complete bafflement was answered by Jerry's pulling
up a pants leg to reveal a small glass tube with a bead of mercury in
it strapped to his pudgy leg above the knee. Two wires from the device
vanished up his thigh.
"I've decided I'm a trifle overweight and should take off a few pounds,"
he explained. "There're just two ways to do this: eat less or burn up
more energy. Dieting isn't my dish; but I've noticed that nervous people
who tap their fingers, shuffle their feet, and are constantly hopping
up and down seldom become fat. So-o-o-o, I cooked up this little device
to see to it that I move around nervously."
"I don't get it," Carl said flatly.
"This thing is the guts of an automobile clock," he said, taking
a gadget out of his hip pocket. "Such a clock has a short mainspring
that is rewound every few minutes by the closing of a set of contacts
that actuate a solenoid. In this case the solenoid is operated from
five penlight cells connected in series. I have the clock arranged so
the contacts are closed by the unwinding spring every ten minutes.
"Now this little glass tube taped to my leg is a mercury switch.
As you can see, when I stand up, like so, the glob of mercury rolls
against the contacts in the end of the tube and shorts them out; but
if I sit or lie down, the mercury rolls to the other end of the tube
and leaves the contacts open. The primary winding of this model airplane
ignition coil is connected across the mercury switch contacts. The coil's
'hot' lead is taped against my skin.
"The batteries, the solenoid, the mercury switch, and the rewinding
contact points of the clock are all connected in series. If I'm standing
when the contact points close, the solenoid simply rewinds the spring.
No current flows through the primary of the ignition coil that's shorted
out by the mercury switch. But if I happen to be caught sitting or lying
down when these contact points close, the current to the solenoid flows
through the ignition coil primary and produces a high voltage in the
secondary. I get a sharp shock when the contacts close and another when
they open. After you're stung with that a couple of times, you make
very sure you're on your feet well before the time the contacts should
close. As soon as I've checked the thing out, I'll patent it and get
filthy rich taking pounds off women."
"That will be the day!" Carl jeered to conceal his envy of Jerry's
Rube Goldberg ingenuity. "I'd like to see you get a woman to wear that
"I see you don't know much about women," Jerry said loftily. "They
will undergo any torture or suffer any indignity if they're convinced
it will make them more attractive eventually."
"Okay, Mr. Know-All-About-Women!
Let's see you prove it. I noticed Norma taking a sunbath out in her
backyard when I came down here. Let's see you get her to wear your contraption."
Jerry hesitated a moment. "That's hardly fair. You know as well as
I that Norma doesn't have an ounce that isn't right where it belongs;
but I'm game to try. Let's go."
Sure enough, their young neighbor, Norma, looking very trim and lovely,
was stretched out in her swim suit on a blanket in the back yard. She
glanced up lazily through her dark glasses as the boys came through
the hedge and waved a languid welcome to them.
"Don't move!" Jerry said in hushed tones as he stopped short. "Just
let me stand here and drink in your loveliness. I want to remember you
always just as you are at this moment!"
Norma rolled over, sat up, and whipped off her sun glasses as she
looked suspiciously at her two youthful neighbors. "I don't like this,"
she muttered dubiously. "You sound like you've been smooching with the
"I never kiss anything that can't kiss back," Jerry retorted with
what was intended to be a leer but which came out more like an engaging
grin. "Say, Pal, Carl and I are going up to the lake with the folks
Sunday. How'd you like to come along and have us teach you to water-ski
as we promised you we would last winter?"
"You mean it?" Norma said excitedly.
"You've got yourself a date! I'm just dying to learn to ski. On top
of that, I need the exercise. While I'm afraid to get on the scales,
I just know I put on three or four nasty old pounds last winter."
Carl and Jerry exchanged glances. "Well! Isn't that a coincidence,"
Jerry exclaimed. "You're a very lucky girl. You shall be the very first
one to benefit from our B-B our Secret Slenderizer!"
"Oh,oh! Me and my big mouth!" Norma groaned as she sloshed suntan
lotion on her arms. "What have you two Marconi moppets dreamed up now?"
Jerry pulled up his pants leg and gave a simplified explanation of
the workings of the Blubber Banisher.
"You mean you think I'm going to cart around that pint-sized Big
Ben?" Norma asked. "I'll become a big fat slob first!"
"We just want you to wear it tomorrow and give us your reaction,"
Jerry wheedled. "You said yourself you wanted to lose weight, and I'm
sure this will do it."
"Sounds more like it would give me a nervous breakdown," Norma retorted.
"Okay; it's your life," Jerry said with a shrug; "but Carl and I
have always been so proud of your appearance. When and if we take you
skiing, we'll really be sad to see our former streamlined neighbor looking
so pudgy and-"
"Okay, you brute; I know when I'm being blackmailed," Norma said
through clenched teeth. "I'll try out your gadget."
The next night Carl and Jerry were already seated in the moonlight
on Norma's front step when they heard her high heels clicking smartly
along the sidewalk; she greeted them cordially and sat down between
"Well," Jerry asked anxiously, "does it work?"
"Does it ever!" Norma said with an irrepressible giggle. "It's the
best wolf-repellent I've found yet."
"Did you say wolf-repellant?" Carl asked. "Check; but let me take
it from the top.
This was a very busy day at the office; so I had no trouble at all
keeping your little monster from shocking me; but if I get the reputation
of being a clock-watcher, it's all your fault. And it's amazing how
much of my work I find I can do standing up. Anyway, I wanted to see
a show at the State Theater; so I dropped in there about seven. No sooner
had I got settled, though, when a specimen of lupus cinernacus sat down
in the seat next to me."
"Lupus Cinemacus?" Carl repeated. "That's right. It's a type of wolf
that inhabits dark movie theaters and tries to pick up lone women. A
girl with good sense has no trouble handling them. First, you move.
If he moves, too, you call the ushers. They will take care of him muy
"This greasy character used the standard approach. First he tried
to get me to talk about the picture. Very casually he allowed his arm
to rest on the back of my seat. I was just getting ready to pack up
my popcorn and move when, during a quiet part of the picture, he said
something that gave me an idea: 'For a little thing, that watch of yours
sure has a loud tick,' he said.
"With a start I realized your little time bomb was still ticking
and time was running out. Very abruptly I jumped up and placed my popcorn
on my seat. 'Watch this for me,' I told White Fang.
"As I reached the aisle, I felt the little doojiggy wind the clock
spring. That had been close. I knew I had to disarm the gadget if I
were to enjoy the show; so I repaired to the powder room and pulled
the little wire loose from where it was taped against my skin. Then
I carefully worked it through the cloth of my skirt so that a couple
of inches of bare wire was protruding from the right side. Finally I
waited until it was only a couple of minutes until the next clock-winding
was due, and then I went back to my seat.
"White Fang was waiting for me eagerly.
I had scarcely got seated when that arm was across the back of the
seat and his fingers were casually touching my shoulder. That was what
I wanted. I carefully moved my knee so that I was certain the bare end
of the wire was pressing against his leg, and then I braced myself for
the shock I knew would be coming.
"All at once he let out a yowl and jumped to his feet. 'Help,' he
bellowed, 'I'm being electrocuted.' I didn't blame him for thinking
so. Even though I was expecting it, that jolt that went through both
of us shook me up.
"The usher came running with his flashlight, but Mr. Wolf almost
ran over him in his haste to get away from me. 'There's a short circuit
or something in that row of seats,' he called back over his shoulder
as he limped up the aisle rubbing his leg.
"Is anything wrong here?" the usher asked me and the others in the
row of seats.
"'Not now,' I said. The usher gave me a long look and then a knowing
grin spread over his face as he flicked off his light and returned to
his station. I guess everyone likes to see one of those low-lifers get
what's coming to him."
For several minutes the three of them talked and laughed about the
"Well," Norma finally said, "I'm hungry. After all, I'm sure that
all the exercise I got today, thanks to your Secret Slenderizer, plus
the emotional wear and tear of playing Little Red Ridinghood to that
wolf, plus the exercise I'll get water-skiing tomorrow with you two
entitles me to a little indulgence. I know where there are three wedges
of chocolate cake with icing all gooey and fattening and this thick
as well as some Cokes to go along. Would my favorite inventors care
to join me?"
"Would we!" Carl and Jerry chorused as each grabbed an arm and hoisted
Norma up. "Lead the way, Little Red!"
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
|- Trapped in a Chimney - January
- 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
|- "All's Fair --", September 1963
- Operation Worm Warming, May
- The Crazy Clock Caper, October
- 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