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
entitled "Extracurricular Education" 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. Back then
there were probably a lot more people sitting around their radios or TVs who
might have heard the SOS message and actually know what it was. I am no Morse
code master, but anytime I hear the familiar di-di-dit dah-dah-dah di-di-dit (··· --- ···)
cadence in a movie of anywhere, my attention tunes into it like a mother recognizes
her baby's cry in a noisy room. Interestingly,
seat belts are mentioned
in this 1963 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. Ford began installing
them in 1955 as an option, but it was not until 1968 that they became mandatory
in cars in the U.S.
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 friendliness.
"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
"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
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 the car.
"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 a fire."
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 was beating.
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 suggested.
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
"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 a