August 1956 Popular ElectronicsTable 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.
It has been quite a while since posting a Carl & Jerry adventure tale. The teenage-neighbors-cum-Ham-radio-operators-cum-electronics-hobbyists-cum-amateur-detectives-cum-pranksters are the creation of John T. Frye. He published a monthly episode in Popular Electronics magazine. Mr. Frye is also the author of the Mac's Radio Service Shop series of instructional stories that ran in Radio & Television News magazine.
This adventure is quite a digression from the typical storyline in that the boys actually engage in a bit of deceit in order to save face based on a bet made on how their dog (a mutt) could beat the other guy's dog (full-breed bird dog) at finding a scented decoy. A homebrew transmitter and receiver is involved in keeping with the overarching Carl & Jerry theme, but in the end the boys never disclose their 'secret' to the challenger after defeating him - and letting him eat his hat!
By John T. Frye
It was evening, and the boys were sitting on the back steps of Jerry's house. Carl had Bosco, his dog, firmly clamped between his knees and was wooling the dog's ears affectionately while Bosco growled in mock protest at this treatment that he actually loved.
"You stupid, no-account, dumb mutt," Carl muttered softly, as he looked morosely out at the long shadows creeping across the back lawn.
"What's Bosco done now?" Jerry wanted to know.
"It's what he hasn't done - or won't do," Carl replied. "A couple of days ago, as I was riding home on my bike after swimming, I ran across a fellow about our age working with a bird dog in a field out at the edge of town. He would hide a little cloth-covered ball that he called a 'bird' and send the dog in search of it. In nothing flat that dog would sniff out the bird and come trotting back to the guy with it in his mouth. This was interesting, and I was enjoying talking with the joker, but all at once he sort of looked down his nose at Bosco and wanted to know what kind of a dog that was.
"I said Bosco was just a plain dog, which seemed to strike him as real hilarious. Anyway, he. gave out with a nasty laugh, and started a lot of who-shot-John about how he had papers for his dog, called Golden Arrow III, and that unless a dog had breeding you couldn't expect him to amount to much .
"Well, I got my back up at this, and remarked that it took more than a few sheets of paper to make a dog smart. I should have stopped there, but I got carried away and went on to say that if I couldn't teach Bosco to do everything Golden Arrow III was doing within a couple of weeks I'd eat my beanie. This character, whose name is Merrill, promptly took me up on it and said that if Bosco could equal Golden Arrow's performance he would eat his beanie."
"Well, how's it look?"
"Let me put it this way: do you think white or red sauce would go best with my beanie? I still believe old Bosco here is as smart as any dog that ever chased a cat, but I learn to my sorrow that he has a serious physical defect: he can't smell."
"Can't smell! I thought all dogs had a keen scent."
"So did I, but you can take my word for it that Bosco couldn't follow the trail of a ten-pound limburger cheese dragged over the ground 30 seconds before. By actual scientific tests, I have found that the absolute limit of his sense of smell is sniffing out a dog biscuit at a distance of two feet. Beyond that - nothing! I don't mind losing the bet so much, but I do hate to have poor Bosco made to look like a dummy simply because he can't smell so hot."
"Maybe you could teach him to locate the bird by sight."
"Not a chance. I have to hide the bird for Golden Arrow, and Merrill will hide it for Bosco. I know from watching him that he'll hide the bird down under leaves and stuff so it can't be seen. And, anyway, I can't make Bosco want to find that little cloth-covered ball. He's too smart to work for nothing and displays about as much interest in locating that artificial bird as I show in helping Mom find the castor oil bottle when I'm not feeling well."
"Let's not give up too easy," Jerry said, as his interest in the problem began to mount. "Maybe we can appeal to one of Bosco's baser instincts. What does he like?"
"That's easy. Bosco's interested in just one thing, twenty-four hours a day: food! He's a real glutton."
"Then we'll start with that. I'm getting an idea. Remember that description of the transistorized golf ball in Popular Electronics some months back? You'll recall that the golf ball had a tiny transistor transmitter built right into it which sent out a continuous signal. This signal was picked up on a transistor-type receiver and led the owner of the ball right to it, no matter how well it was hidden."
"What's that got to do with making a bird dog out of Bosco?"
"Suppose we build a tiny transmitter into the artificial 'bird' you hide from Bosco. Then we'll fit him with a hidden receiver that will pick up the signal from the transmitter. In a short time, he should learn that when the signal gets stronger he must be getting closer - that is, he should be able to learn it if he's as smart as you say he is."
"Oh, he can learn that all right if he wants to, but what's going to make him want to?"
"We'll 'condition' him to expect food as a reward for finding the bird and bringing it to you," Jerry explained. "After he gets used to wearing the receiver, which we'll conceal in some sort of headgear, we turn on the receiver and let him hear the sound of the hidden bird. Then we drag him to the bird, put it into his mouth, clamp the mouth shut, and drag him back to where you're standing. The instant you take the bird out of his mouth, you replace it with a dog biscuit. After we do this a few dozen times, he should get the idea and go find the bird by himself."
"So let's get going!" Carl exclaimed, as he slapped his hands on his knees and rose to his feet. "I'm willing to try anything, even an idea as crazy as that."
With the enthusiasm of youth that enables it to undertake blithely something an older and wiser person - fully appreciating the difficulties - would never start, the two boys dashed down into Jerry's basement laboratory and immediately started building up the electronic equipment designed to convert Bosco from a biscuit dog to a bird dog.
Carl built the small one-transistor transmitter according to a plan for an i.f. signal alignment generator. This tiny little unit delivered an r.f. signal, tone-modulated, on a frequency that could be adjusted from about 400 to 500 kilocycles. Two extra-small penlite batteries furnished the power, and the whole thing fitted neatly into a safety match box that in turn was mounted inside a cloth-covered little plastic box selected to serve as the body of the artificial bird.
Jerry had the harder job of building a fixed-tuned receiver for picking up the weak signal from the tiny transmitter. In order to keep size to a minimum, he used a circuit employing two transistors and a crystal diode in a regenerative circuit. Careful planning and layout, dispensing with sockets and soldering leads directly, employing the smallest of miniature parts ... and similar space-conserving measures ... produced a receiver on a very tiny flat fiberboard chassis. This chassis was sewn into the crown of a boldly checked "Sherlock Holmes" type of hat the boys cajoled Carl's mother into making for them. Bosco was then made to wear this hat in a rather unconventional manner. The normal fore-and-aft projections were pulled down tightly over his ears and fastened under his chin, and a dynamic earphone was concealed in one of the flaps so that it would be held close to the dog's ear.
Do not think that all this was done overnight and that everything worked perfectly as soon as it was put together. Designing electronic equipment just doesn't work that way, not even in commercial laboratories where the finest engineers work with the best equipment. There is always a period of de-bugging, adjusting, and peaking. It took the boys a full three days to build up the two pieces of equipment, to squeeze the last microwatt of power out of the little transmitter, and to peak up the receiver for maximum stable sensitivity. Finally, though, the receiver was capable of picking up the transmitter over the restricted radius that Carl said would be more than adequate for the test that was planned.
Then the equipment was introduced to Bosco, and it certainly was not a case of love at first sight. He spent the first half hour after the cap was fastened on him in a determined effort to shake it off, rub it off on the ground or the trunks of trees, and - finally - to claw it off with all four paws. But the boys had anticipated this, and the cap stayed firmly in place. Finally Bosco gave up and stared at his masters with a hurt look that said plainly, "How can you guys do this to me?"
The boys promptly started his training along the lines Jerry had outlined. It was quickly apparent that Jerry's estimate of "a few dozen" times being needed to show Bosco what was expected of him was highly optimistic. By the time he began to show some faint interest whenever the hidden switch in his cap turned on the receiver and let him hear the signal from the concealed transmitter, the sod of Jerry's backyard was deeply furrowed with hundreds of tracks made by Bosco's stubbornly braced legs as he was dragged back and forth, and both boys were worn to a frazzle. But they stuck at it. Finally, on the last evening before the test, things looked pretty good; and as Jerry wearily took leave of his friend, he said:
"That's about all we can do. Don't feed Bosco tomorrow morning, for we really want him eager."
"Okay, but Bosco the Bottomless Pit would be eager anyway. I'll see you tomorrow."
When the boys and Bosco arrived at the little field in which the test was to take place, Merrill, Golden Arrow, and a gentleman with a stopwatch prominently displayed in his hand were already there.
"Boys, I thought we should have an impartial judge for this test; so I brought along my Uncle Milford. He's known all over the country for his work with bird dogs," Merrill explained.
"Thank you, Nephew," Uncle Milford said, with a fond smile. "Now I suppose we may as well get on with this. To be fair, I think the winner should be the dog that finds his bird quickest in three times out of five trials. You can hide the bird for Golden Arrow, boy, and Merrill can hide it for - for - what on earth is that on your animal's head?" he exclaimed to Carl as he took a good look at Bosco jauntily wearing his ludicrous cap.
"Bosco is a dog of many parts," Carl explained glibly, "and he likes to dress for each role he plays. Since he feels he's playing a sort of detective right now, he insisted on wearing his Sherlock Holmes cap this morning."
Uncle Milford looked strangely at Carl as he muttered, "I see," in tones that clearly indicated he didn't. "Well, you hide Arrow's bird and we'll start."
Carl tucked the artificial bird Merrill handed him beneath a bush some 75 feet away, and then Merrill sent Golden Arrow in search of it with a wave of his hand. Instantly the dog started quartering the ground in a methodical manner that was beautiful to watch, and in a short time his body stiffened as he caught the scent of the hidden bird; then at a command from Merrill he moved forward, picked it up in his mouth, and returned it to his master.
"Forty-seven seconds!" Uncle Milford announced triumphantly. "Now let's see what the other dog can do."
Merrill tucked Bosco's bird under a lump of leaves about the same distance away that Golden Arrow's had been. Bosco gave a whimper of eagerness as he stood straight up on his hind legs and waltzed crazily about. Then he dropped to all fours and went dashing madly about the place without apparent rhyme or reason, but in an amazingly short time he rooted down through the leaves to the hidden bird and came galloping back to Carl with slobbers of anticipation dripping from his mouth.
...When Uncle Milford gave the signal, stopwatch in hand, Carl flipped the hidden switch in Bosco's cap with results that were truly galvanic ...
"Fourteen seconds!" Uncle Milford said, in an awed voice. "It doesn't seem possible. I've never seen anything like it. It must have been an accident."
But it was no accident, as the next two trials quickly proved. Golden Arrow III, displaying the same beautifully consistent method and form, turned in times very close to forty-five seconds on both occasions; but Bosco, using his own crazy system that sent him dashing full tilt, only to come to such an abrupt halt that he often went rolling end over end before he scrambled up and took off on a tangent, located his second bird in twenty-two seconds and his third in the astounding time of six seconds flat.
Well, Merrill, I guess there's no question about the winner," Uncle Milford said, with a stunned look. "I've never seen anything like the way that dog performs. Very unorthodox! Very! Would you consider entering him in some field trials, boy?"
"Aw, no," Carl said casually, as he unfastened the cap from Bosco's head and let the dog give himself an ear-slapping shake. "Bosco doesn't mind putting on a little show like this now and then, just for relaxation, but he's got much more serious things on his mind than fiddling around with anything so silly as hunting artificial birds."
There was a long pause, and then Uncle Milford inquired timidly: "May I ask what sort of things?"
Carl looked cautiously around before he answered in hushed tones: "All I'm allowed to tell you is that it's top-secret research in the commissary department. And speaking of eating, Merrill, as soon as you've decided how you're going to prepare your beanie, let Jerry and me know and we'll be glad to drop over to watch you eat it."
"All right, fellows," Merrill said weakly.
"I'll let you know."
Posted March 4, 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