October 1955 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.
The middle of the last
century was the era of science fiction with fantastic adventures and inventions.
In order to engage kids in the realm, clever and fearless teenagers were cast as
leading characters. The Hardy
Nancy Drew, Tom Swift,
Radio Girls, and others proved their sleuthing prowess, bravery, and ability
to assess situations and respond remarkably. That made the introduction of the Carl &
Jerry series in Popular Electronics magazine a pretty good bet for John
Frye. Mr. Frye had already been for many years writing technical articles and
what I have dubbed "technodramas," including the also popular "Mac's
Radio Service Shop" series. His stories always integrated not just high tech
paraphernalia, but also discussions of functional details of circuits, test equipment,
and components. This "Great Bank Robbery" story, in addition to being a bit hokey,
weaved together Ham radio operation, class "B" amplifier principles, and electromagnetic
signal propagation on various wavelengths.
By John T. Frye
"Just once," Carl complained bitterly as as he trudged along the road toward
the approaching hills, "I'd like to take a hike without having to be a packhorse
for a whole mess of electronic equipment."
"Oh, quit your griping," Jerry said good-humoredly, as he skipped lightly along
carrying a bulky but obviously not, very heavy box.
"You're just steamed because you outsmarted yourself and elected to carry the
little box without knowing it contained the nice heavy batteries. You're just as
eager as I am to try out this portable 420-megacycle rig, and we'll never have a
better opportunity than to work back to town from the top of Old Saddle Back Mountain."
"Where does this joker who is supposed to
work with us live?"
"He's a new ham in town. His name is Gene Mays, and he lives in an apartment
on the third floor of that building the police station is in. Gene is a real v.h.f.
and u.h.f. bug and has been concentrating on the ham bands above 30 mc. for several
years. This combination transmitter and receiver is a home-brew job of his own manufacture."
"How come you're suddenly so hopped up on u.h.f. You can't talk any farther on
those frequencies than you can on 75, 40, 20, or 10 meters, can you?"
"No. In fact, reliable communication on 420 megacycles is limited pretty nearly
to line of sight. Much greater distances are achieved, of course, under unusual
conditions, just as you occasionally get freak TV reception from a station many
hundreds of miles away. Taxicab companies operating in the neighboring 460-mc. band
have found that with the transmitter feeding an antenna 50 feet high they can depend
upon reaching cabs cruising within a radius of eight to ten miles from the transmitter
tower. On the other hand, atmospherics have practically no effect on reception and
the wavelength is so short that the signals penetrate into tunnels, bridges, etc."
"What's the short wavelength got to do with that?"
"A scientific description would have to go into the modes of waveguide operation,
but let's just say that a radio wave is very much like a cat. You know, they say
a cat's whiskers serve it as a sort of feeler gage, and that the cat will not insert
its head into any opening which the ends of those whiskers will not clear. A radio
wave operates the same way. Unless a tunnel-like passage has cross-section dimensions
sufficiently great with regard to the wavelength of a radio wave, that wave will
not enter the passageway. A good example of this would be when your car radio goes
dead inside the framework of an iron bridge.
"But I like to fool around with u.h.f. because the field is not as crowded as
are the lower frequencies. Here a bright young man like myself - ahem! -just might
discover something new all by himself. On top of that, it's a wonderful place to
play around with antennas because the half-wave elements are measured in inches
instead of feet. You can build an elaborate multi-element array and set it on top
of your dining room table. Gene will be using such a collinear array on top of the
apartment building, and he has equipped this job with a clever collapsing corner-reflector
that folds up and fits inside the case when not being used but will provide 10-db
gain over a simple dipole when opened out."
The boys had been so busy talking that the distance to the hills melted away
without their noticing it, and as Jerry finished they found themselves standing
in the deep notch cut through the rough limestone where the road went over the small
mountain. Hitching up their belts, they started the short but arduous climb to the
top of the cut.
"Whew!" Jerry exclaimed as they finally made it. He set the bulky transmitter-receiver
case on the ground and stretched out on his back. "A guy ought to drink goat milk
before trying that."
"YOU should talk," Carl remarked as he set the heavy battery box squarely on
top of his pal's stomach. "How would you like to tote that all those seven miles
Jerry squirmed out from beneath the box and began to open up the portable station
case. In just a matter of minutes, he had the connecting cable plugged into the
battery case; and the corner reflector, opened up so that it looked like the wide-open
jaws of a striking snake, was aimed at the distant town.
"We've got a while to wait," Jerry remarked, as he glanced at his wrist watch.
"Gene was not to start looking for us until a half hour from now."
"Where are the earphones ?" Carl asked.
"This set uses a speaker, and you'll be surprised at the volume," Jerry told
him. "The output stage is operated class B so as to put out a good strong signal
and yet be as economical as possible so far as battery current is concerned."
"Let's see now," Carl reflected, "class B tubes are biased so that they draw
practically no plate current without a signal on their grids. The plate current
rises as there is need for it to handle an increasing signal voltage on the grids.
"Hundred per cent -" Jerry started to say, when the receiver he was idly tuning
blared forth with such a bellow that he fell backward off the rock on which he had
"W9CFI! W9CFI! W9CFI! Here is W9HST calling. If you're hearing me, Jerry, come
in at once. This is important!"
Jerry scrambled back to his knees, threw a switch and shouted into the mike,
"W9HST, W9HST. You're five by nine, Gene. What's up? W9CFI over."
"... if one of you will be so accommodating as to try a little
funny stuff he can save the county the cost of a trial for the whole lot of you."
"Roger, Jerry, and listen closely for we haven't much time. A gang of men just
held up the Farmers & Merchants Bank and have headed out that road in your direction.
I was down in the police station when the report came in. A couple of carloads of
men are after them, but the police chief says they can never catch the hopped-up
hot rod the robbers are using before they reach Old Saddle Back. Once across it,
the thieves can lose themselves a dozen different ways in the valley on the other
side. I told the chief, who is right here with me, that maybe you and Carl could
stop them. Do you think you can do it - without getting hurt, I mean? They're bad
characters and shot a teller in the bank during the holdup."
As this transmission was coming through, Carl and Jerry stared at each other
with widening eyes across the receiver case.
"Stand by while we talk it over," Jerry finally said weakly into the mike, and
then his eyes followed Carl's searching stare down into the valley toward town.
Because of the trees, the course of the road could only be seen for a short distance,
and there was no sign of a car.
"Don't look at me," Carl said to the eyes he could now feel boring into the back
of his head. I promised my mother never to have anything to do with bank robbers."
"We've GOT to do something," Jerry declared, as he rubbed his flat-topped haircut
in desperation. "You start pushing rocks down onto the road. Just get enough of
them down there, spaced so that a car can't pass through without blowing a tire
or knocking a hole in the oil pan. If you can make it look like a rockslide, all
the better; but just make sure a car will have to stop until the rocks are cleared
away before it can pass."
Without waiting for an answer to this command, he pushed the transmit switch
and barked into the mike: "Gene, have the chief get three of his men up there in
your shack on the double. Give the chief and each of the men a number from one through
four. In a couple of minutes I'll start calling out a number first and then say
a short sentence. Have the man whose number is called step up to the mike and repeat
that sentence in just as mean and hardboiled a fashion as he can. And you will have
to listen closely, for I'll be whispering into the mike -"
He broke off sharply as his straining ears caught the distant throbbing of a
racing motor. Instantly he began dragging the portable station case over to the
edge of the cut and stopped right at the brink where a small bush hid him from view
from below. A glance down at the road revealed that Carl had done an excellent job
of blocking it, and now that worthy threw himself, panting heavily, down beside
"Help me prop up the back of the case so that the speaker points down at the
road," Jerry said; "then, when and if we get the car stopped, you keep moving back
and forth just out of sight along the edge of the cut. Try to make a lot of noise.
And keep your fingers and toes crossed. We're going to need all the help we can
As he finished saying this, a car came roaring over the rise, and then, as the
driver glimpsed the rocks in the road, slithered crosswise to a stop amid a great
screeching of brakes and showering of gravel.
"What're you stopping for, you fool?" a hawk-nosed man in the rear seat demanded.
"I can't drive over that rockslide," the driver answered sharply.
"Well, all right. Everybody pile out and get those rocks out of the way," Hawknose
ordered. "Those yokels back there ain't chasing us to give us the key to the city,
All of the men except Hawknose got out of the car and started toward the pile
of rocks. Jerry whispered a few words into the mike and threw the switch to the
"All right, you birds," a gruff voice bellowed from the speaker; "freeze right
where you are. The first one who makes a move gets sprayed with double death from
this tommy gun."
The men stopped in their tracks. Only their eyes shifted nervously from one to
another and then turned toward the car.
"And you, Bugle Nose, crawl out of that car with your hands over your head or
we'll rip it open like a can of sardines," the voice ordered.
The man in the car hesitated, and promptly the harsh voice shouted, "All right,
you asked for it; now you're going to get it."
"Hold it! I'm getting out," the man with the large nose said hastily, as he scrambled
out the car door with his wrists stretching up out of his coat sleeves.
"That's better," the rasping voice commented. "Bill, you keep a bead right on
Bugle Beak's belt buckle and let him have it first if anyone makes a funny move
of any kind. Brad, you watch the two on the right."
"Okay, Chief," another voice answered after a little pause.
"Spike, you keep an eye on the other two."
"Gotcha, Chief," was the prompt reply in still a third voice.
"Now let's everyone very, very carefully take his gun out of his pocket and drop
it on the road. Then kick it off to one side. If one of you will be so accommodating
as to try a little funny stuff, he can save the county the cost of a trial for the
whole lot of you."
Like a scene in slow motion, the men began relieving themselves of a collection
of revolvers and automatic pistols. It was noteworthy that the .45 automatic of
Hawknose was the first to clank on the gravel. Doubtless the mental picture of the
submachine gun pointed at his belt buckle had something to do with his alacrity.
After the guns were kicked aside, there was a long pause. Carl, who had been
busily scurrying back and forth, dragging his feet and trying to sound like a small
posse, looked over his shoulder at Jerry.
That youth's round face was nearly apoplectic as he fiddled desperately with
the controls of the u.h.f. station that quite obviously had gone dead. A hurried
peek over the edge of the cut revealed that the men below had sensed that something
was wrong, and a couple of them were cautiously edging toward their guns.
"What's wrong?" Carl whispered hoarsely, as he bent over his frantically working
"Don't know; but this outfit is as dead as we're going to be in about sixty seconds,"
Spurred on by this electrifying prospect, Carl drew back and made the typical
American's classic and ultimate military service gesture for non-operating equipment:
he gave the case of the portable station a lusty kick. Instantly Gene's anxious
voice burst from the speaker demanding: "What's wrong, Jerry? We can't hear you.
What do you want us to do now?"
Before either the bandits or the horrified boys had time to react to this development,
another car came over the hill and slid to a stop behind the first. Men erupted
from the car into the side ditches in twin sprays the way grasshoppers clear your
path in the fall of the year; but before the bandits had time to take advantage
of the shock that the unexpected sight of them gave the posse, the latter recovered
themselves and collared the unarmed desperadoes. Jerry leaped to his feet and began
to shout, "Boys, are we glad to see you -;" but as a bullet from the gun of a trigger-happy
posseman ricocheted off the rock at his feet and whined off into the distance, he
ducked back behind his bush. "Wouldn't it be too bad if you potted one of your buddies
up there!" the hawk-nosed man sneered.
At this moment, the voice of the chief of police bellowed from the speaker. "You
men down there listen to me. This is Chief Hall. These two boys up here stopped
the bandits and held them for you. Here's the way they did it." And then he went
ahead to describe the ruse in detail.
"Finally," he continued, "I'd like to say two things. First, you boys will be
in on a nice reward for helping to capture those bandits. Secondly, I don't know
what kind of books you've been reading, shows you've been seeing, or TV programs
you've been watching, but let me tell you here and now that real cops simply don't
talk the way you've just made us talk. We're all going right down to the station
and wash our mouths out with soap!"
Jerry and Carl grinned happily at each other as the chief signed off.
"This has certainly taught me one thing," Jerry confessed, beginning to pack
up the portable station. "I'll bet that as long as I live I'll never again be careless
about inserting a plug in a socket. It was the battery cable plug that caused the
set to go dead. I found it while the posse was grabbing those characters down there."
"I give up," Carl said, as he tossed his hands into the air. "A guy who keeps
on trouble-shooting when there's a good chance of shooting-trouble is beyond all
Posted May 29, 2023
Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop were two teenage boys whose
love of electronics, Ham radio, and all things technical afforded them ample opportunities
to satisfy their own curiosities, assist law enforcement and neighbors with solving
problems, and impressing – and sometimes toying with - friends based on their proclivity
for serious undertakings as well as fun.
Carl & Jerry, by John T. Frye
Carl and Jerry Frye were fictional characters in a series of short stories that
were published in Popular Electronics magazine from the late 1950s to the early
1970s. The stories were written by John T. Frye, who used the pseudonym "John T.
Carroll," and they followed the adventures of two teenage boys, Carl Anderson and
Jerry Bishop, who were interested in electronics and amateur radio.
In each story, Carl and Jerry would encounter a problem or challenge related
to electronics, and they would use their knowledge and ingenuity to solve it. The
stories were notable for their accurate descriptions of electronic circuits and
devices, and they were popular with both amateur radio enthusiasts and young people
interested in science and technology.
The Carl and Jerry stories were also notable for their emphasis on safety and
responsible behavior when working with electronics. Each story included a cautionary
note reminding readers to follow proper procedures and safety guidelines when handling
Although the Carl and Jerry stories were fictional, they were based on the experiences
of the author and his own sons, who were also interested in electronics and amateur
radio. The stories continue to be popular among amateur radio enthusiasts and electronics
hobbyists, and they are considered an important part of the history of electronics
and technology education.
- Going Up
- March 1955
Shock - September 1955
- A Low Blow
- March 1961
- The Black
Beast - May 1960
Electronik, September 1958
- Pi in
the Sky and Big Twist, February 1964
Bell Bull Session, December 1961
Boogie, August 1958
- TV Picture,
Eraser, August 1962
Trap, March 1956
at Work, June 1956
Aweigh, July 1956
Has His Day, August 1956
- The Hand
of Selene, November 1960
or Not?, October 1956
Electronic Beach Buggy, September 1956
Extra Sensory Perception, December 1956
in a Chimney, January 1956
Performance, November 1958
of Judas, July 1961
- The Sucker,
New Year, January 1963
Snow Machine, December 1960
Extracurricular Education, July 1963
Slow Motion for Quick Action, April 1963
Sleuthing, August 1963
- TV Antennas,
a Soroban, March 1963
Fair --", September 1963
Worm Warming, May 1961
Great Bank Robbery or "Heroes All" - October 1955
Operation Startled Starling - January 1955
- A Light
Subject - November 1954
Teaches Boy - February 1959
- Too Lucky
- August 1961
and Jeopardy - December 1963
Santa's Little Helpers - December 1955
Tough Customers - June 1960
Pocket Radio, TV Receivers
Yagi Antennas, May 1955
Stomping, March 1962
- The Blubber
Banisher, July 1959
- The Sparkling
Light, May 1962
Research Rewarded, June 1962
- A Hot Idea, March
- The Hot Dog
Case, December 1954
New Company is Launched, October 1956
the Mistletoe, December 1958
Eraser, August 1962
- "BBI", May 1959
Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River
Sniffer, July 1962
- Ham Radio,
Torero Electronico, April 1960
Wireless, January 1962
Electronic Shadow, September 1957
Induction, June 1963
- He Went
Detective, February 1958
an Instinct, December 1962
- Two Detectors,
with a Tachometer, July 1960
and the Pirates, April 1961
The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960
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 lash-ups 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."