July 1963 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
This Carl and Jerry episode is a bit far-fetched compared to the
typical storyline, but it does illustrate how when you are desperate
to get out a distress signal, a little technical knowledge and having
a knack for improvisation can save the day.
Carl & Jerry: Extracurricular Education
a Carl and Jerry Adventure
By John T. Frye W9EGV
A warm, moonlit July evening, Carl and Jerry were enjoying a
couple of cold root beers at a drive-in when a rakish white convertible
with the top down pulled up alongside. The two young men sitting
on the red upholstery of the front seat hailed them with boisterous
"Look, Phil," said the driver to his companion; "it's the Wireless
Boys. Hiya, Carl; hiya, Jerry. How are the prides of Old Parvoo
"Humbly grateful to be recognized by the driver of a dreamboat
like that," Carl retorted, recognizing Phil Briggs and Dave Hayden,
friends home from an Eastern college for the summer. "You must have
saved a lot of trading stamps for that set of wheels, Dave."
"Nope, my uncle gave it to me for making the dean's list," Dave
answered. "Come on. Get in and live a little. All I need is a chance
to show it off."
Carl and Jerry needed no second invitation. They pulled their
car around behind the root beer stand and piled into the back seat
of the convertible.
"Hey, Dave, what's that bright little white light I noticed in
the middle of your grille?" Jerry wanted to know as they rolled
out into the street.
"That's a 'running light,'" Dave explained. "Lots of drivers
are putting them on as a safety feature since they were written
up in the Indianapolis Star. It's just a twenty-one candle power
white light like the truck marker lights. You mount it in the middle
of the grille and as near on a line with the headlights as possible,
and wire it into the ignition switch so that it comes on whenever
you start the car. It really shows the other guy that you're moving
or getting ready to."
The boys covered the town in the next hour. First they circled
all the drive-in eating places. Next they followed a carload of
girls in another convertible, exchanging flirtatious quips with
them until a train at a crossing separated the cars. Finally Dave
demonstrated how his car could screech the tires while rounding
a corner at high speed and how the tires could make two long black
marks on the pavement when the accelerator was suddenly floored.
Carl and Jerry, who had great respect and even affection for
anything mechanical, winced at this abuse but said nothing. After
all, it was Dave's car, and if he wanted to drive it like a member
of the teenage Silly Set, that was his misfortune.
Then Dave drove out of town onto the highway and really stuck
his foot into the fan.
"Ease off, Dave!" Jerry shouted when the speedometer was touching
95 miles per hour. "You've convinced us your car can really roll.
Carl and I have to get home."
"Aw, Dave, let's take them out on that old abandoned river road
and show them how this car can take the bumps," Phil suggested.
"Yeah, fellows, this won't take long," Dave said as he pulled
off the highway onto a mile-long lane that ran to a stretch of road
along the river. The road had been abandoned ever since the new
highway had gone through a few years before, and, without maintenance,
the pavement had cracked, had been heaved up by the frost, and had
developed huge chuckholes. Fishermen parked their cars on it occasionally;
otherwise it was not used.
"Fasten your seat belts, men," Dave said when they reached the
broken pavement. "I won't need mine because I have the wheel to
hang on to. Now watch how this sweet little buggy keeps an almost
even keel while I make like the mad driver in the TV commercial."
Carl and Jerry barely had time to fasten their belts as the car
leaped ahead along the rough roadway. It swayed crazily from side
to side as Dave tried to miss the deepest of the holes.
Gaining speed, the heavy car shot over the crest of a sharp rise
and for a sickening moment was actually airborne and spinning at
the same time. It came down with a tremendous thud and started rolling
over. Carl and Jerry just had time to duck down and wrap their arms
around their knees when the car rolled off the road and down over
a steep bank toward the river. End-over-end, side-over-side it went,
and finally came to rest upside down amid a shower of glass from
the broken windshield.
There was a deathly silence after the deafening noise. Carl found
himself hanging upside down by his seat belt. Cautiously he loosened
the buckle and eased himself down on a flinty-hard surface. "Jerry
... Jerry," he called into the darkness, "are you all right ?"
"I will be if you get your big feet out of my face," Jerry answered,
slipping out of his belt and crouching on the ground beside Carl.
"How about you, Dave and Phil?"
Carl said. "You guys okay?"
"Does having a broken leg disqualify me?" Dave's voice, with
a note of hysteria evident in it, came faintly from somewhere outside
"Forget the wise-cracking and tell us what kind of shape you're
in," Carl demanded.
"So who's wise-cracking? I was thrown out when the car rolled
over, and my right leg's broken just below the knee. You better
shut off the ignition and cut the light switches. We don't want
It was hard to orient one's self in pitch darkness beneath an upside-down
car, but Carl finally managed to crawl forward underneath the bucket
seat on the driver's side and turn off the switches. As he started
to back out, his hand brushed a limp body hanging head down in a
seat belt. A cold chill ran up his spine, but he forced himself
to feel Phil's lifeless-looking wrist. The pulse was weak, but it
Working carefully in the cramped quarters, Carl loosened Phil's
seat belt and eased him down onto the hard limestone that bordered
the road along the river. As his hand touched the unconscious youth's
head, he felt something warm and sticky that he was sure was blood.
"Phil's hurt and unconscious," he reported between grunts while
he delivered lusty kicks against the closed doors of the inverted
car. "Dave, why can't I get these doors open? How is the car resting?"
"It's wedged in the bottom of a kind of pocket in the limestone,"
Dave answered. "The slanting sides are holding the doors shut. The
hood's torn off, and the whole front end is sticking out over the
edge of a ledge. I'm lying under the front looking up at the motor.
If the car had gone over the ledge, I'd have been squashed. Why
aren't you and Jerry mashed ?"
"There's more room under here than you'd think," Jerry said as
he explored their prison with his hand. "We're resting right on
top of a hollow in the limestone, and I'm sitting up without my
head touching the floor, but the only opening I can find is a little
space about two inches high and a foot long between the middle of
the cowl and the ground."
"See if you can find a penlight in the glove compartment," Dave
When Carl opened the glove compartment, the light inside came
on and illuminated the interior of the car. It showed Phil's pale
face and closed eyes and a deep cut on his forehead from which blood
was oozing. The penlight was passed out through the narrow slit
to Dave down below.
"Suppose you could hobble to get help?" Carl asked Dave. "Phil
needs a doctor pretty badly from the looks of him."
"I'll try," Dave's voice answered. They heard him moving around,
and then there was the sound of a body falling heavily to the ground.
Only after they called to him a number of times did he finally answer
weakly: "Sorry, you guys, I passed out. It's no go with this leg.
I just conk out when I try to move on it."
"Just lie still," Jerry told him. "We'll think of something.
Maybe we can attract attention with the horn." But when he pushed
the horn button there was no sound except the clicking of the relay.
"That's no good; the horn is smashed," Dave said, his voice quavering.
"So are the headlights. No one would see or hear them anyway. I
know they'd never see this little flashlight. You guys can't get
out. I'm out, but I can't go anywhere. It may be days before we're
found. - Phil is hurt ... "
"Let's not waste time punching the panic button," Jerry said
crisply. "I've got an idea, but it'll take a few feet of wire. Do
you see any we can get?"
"The running light has about ten feet," Dave replied. "You can
cut it loose from the switch inside and I can cut it loose out here."
Jerry whipped out his pocket knife and cut the wire loose from
the switch. Three feet was cut off and the insulation stripped from
both ends. One end of this short piece was shoved out to Dave.
"Strip insulation from the low-voltage lead going from the ignition
coil to the distributor and wrap the end of this wire around the
bare spot," he directed. "Then pull the high-tension lead out of
the coil and stick the bared end of the long piece of wire into
the socket. Scrape the insulation off this wire at a place close
to the coil and fasten this bared spot so that it's about an eighth
of an inch from the motor block or the metal car frame. Fasten it
so it'll hold and throw the loose end of the wire on top of some
bushes so it doesn't touch the ground. Can you do everything?"
"I will do it!" Dave promised. "I got us into this mess, and
I can certainly help get us out."
SOS ... trapped under wrecked car on river road
"Mind telling me what you've got in mind?" Carl asked Jerry as
they heard Dave fumbling around the front of the car.
"I'm going to try to make a spark transmitter with the ignition
coil," Jerry answered. "The battery current from the ignition switch
goes through the primary of the coil back to ground through the
points inside the distributor. When I rub the end of this short
wire against the metal body of the car, the contact will be in parallel
with the points and the voltage-boosting capacitor across them.
The current surge through the primary will induce a high voltage
in the secondary that will arc across the spark-gap Dave is fixing
up. The rest of the wire will act as an antenna to radiate the r.f.
energy in the arc."
"Why not use the high-tension lead to make your spark gap?"
"It's probably the resistance type designed to reduce ignition
interference to radio and TV and would keep us from getting out."
"How are you going to key it?"
Jerry was busy cutting a series of close-spaced notches through
the paint on the edge of the bottom of the dash. "When I drag the
contact wire across these notches," he said, "the rapid make-and-break
of the primary current will produce an almost continuous arc across
After Dave finished his job, Jerry turned on the switch and dragged
his wire across the notches. But there was no sparking to indicate
the presence of current. "The points must be closed," he said. "Gig
the starter a bit and see if we can't get them to open."
Carl did, and at the second try the motor stopped with the points
open. Dave reported that a fat blue spark leaped across the gap
when Jerry's contact wire stroked the serrated rim of the dash.
Very deliberately, over and over, Jerry brushed the wire along
the dash so as to spell out in slow International Morse: "SOS SOS
TRAPPED UNDER WRECKED CAR ON OLD RIVER ROAD." When he grew tired,
Carl spelled him. There was no talking. The only sounds came from
the night insects, the rhythmic hissing of the spark, and an occasional
low moan from Phil.
They had been at this for a good hour when Dave suddenly shouted,
"Hey! I see headlights coming down the road. Help! Help!"
A few seconds later they heard a car stop and the sound of someone
sliding down the bank. When he spoke, they recognized the voice
of the deputy sheriff:
"So it wasn't a hoax! Who's under the car? What's wrong with
Dave quickly explained the situation, and the officer climbed
back up the bank to radio for an ambulance and a wrecker.
"Listen, you guys," Dave called. "I've been lying here thinking
what a stupid jerk I am, dean's list or not. My driving got us into
this, and then I panicked. You kept your heads and figured a way
out. It's not the brains you're supposed to have that count, it's
the ones you use when you really need them. I want you to know I'm
"Knock it off," Carl said gruffly. "No one twisted our arms to
make us go on this ride. We're in it together. It took a lot of
guts to wrestle around and do what you did with that broken leg.
I guess we all got a lesson tonight."
The deputy came back and explained that the distress call had
been picked up by a 13-year-old boy watching TV directly across
the river. The boy had been studying the code to get a ham license,
and he noticed that the flashing of his screen had a dot-dash rhythm
to it. Laboriously he wrote out the message, getting a few more
letters each time it was repeated. He called the sheriff's office,
and the deputy was sent to investigate.
"That kid's going to have some grateful help in studying for
his license," Jerry promised, "and I'll never gripe again about
The wrecker and ambulance soon arrived. The end of the car was
carefully winched up until Carl and Jerry could slide Phil out and
get out themselves.
Just as Phil was being loaded into the ambulance alongside Dave,
he opened his eyes and grinned feebly.
"That last bump was a doozy!" he observed.
Carl & Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is now available. "From
1954 through 1964, Popular Electronics published 119 adventures of Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop, 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
- Electronic Eraser,
- Electronic Trap, March
- Geniuses at Work, June
- Eeeeelectricity!, November
- Anchors Aweigh, July
- Bosco Has His Day,
- The Hand of Selene,
- Feedback, May 1956
- Abetting or Not?, October
- Electronic Beach
Buggy, September 1956
- Extra Sensory
Perception, December 1956
- Trapped in a Chimney,
- Command Performance,
- Treachery of Judas, July
- The Sucker, May 1963
- Stereotaped New
Year, January 1963
- The Snow Machine, December
Education, July 1963
- Slow Motion for
Quick Action, April 1963
- Sonar Sleuthing, August
- TV Antennas, August 1955
- Succoring a Soroban,
- "All's Fair --", September
- Operation Worm Warming,
Stomping, March 1962
- The Blubber Banisher,
- The Sparkling Light, May
- Pure Research Rewarded,
- A Hot Idea, March 1960
- The Hot Dog Case, December
- A New Company is Launched,
- Under the Mistletoe,
- Electronic Eraser,
- "BBI", May 1959
- Ultrasonic Sound Waves,
- The River Sniffer, July
- Ham Radio, April 1955
- El Torero Electronico,
- Wired Wireless, January
- Electronic Shadow,
- Elementary Induction,
- He Went That-a-Way,
- Electronic Detective,
- Aiding an Instinct,
- Two Detectors, February
- Tussle with a Tachometer,
- Therry and the Pirates,
- The Crazy Clock Caper,
Posted May 18, 2014