October 1954 Popular Electronics
[Table of Contents]
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular
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Here is the very first episode of the "Carl & Jerry" series
that ran for many years in Popular Electronics magazine.
In the manner of The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, et al, Carl and Jerry
are two teenage boys who, in their pursuit of their electronics
hobby, manage to get themselves involved in crime scene investigations,
in odd situations with friends and adults, and even while horsing
around in their basement laboratory. Amateur radio was a key feature
of many of their adventures. John T. Frye authored every adventure
as he developed his sleuthing buddies over time to go from a frumpy
Jerry Bishop with a "well-padded frame" and a
Farside-esque bespectacled Carl Anderson to a couple more stealthy,
professional looking investigators who sometimes employed
MacGyver-like tactics during their antics. See the bottom of
this page for a link to a new set of books that contain every installment
of Carl & Jerry.
Carl & Jerry: A New Company is Launched
By John T. Frye
Jerry Bishop was in his basement "laboratory,"
but the teenager was not exactly laboring. Instead, with his well-padded
frame stretched out comfortably on a leather couch, his dark crew-cut
pillowed on his clasped hands, and his round face staring vacantly
up at the ceiling, he was listening blissfully to Patti Page inviting
him to "Cross Over The Bridge." The invitation was being issued
by a spinning record on a player resting on the floor beside the
couch. The throbbing volume that issued from a speaker cabinet in
the corner was just barely below the threshold of pain.
Suddenly, riding over Patti's dulcet tones, there came a strong
youthful voice saying with great deliberation, "One, two, three.
four test. This is W9EGV testing. One, two, three, four."
Jerry was a firm believer in the conservation of energy; so
it was strictly in character that his only immediate reaction to
this surprising development was to bat his eyes rapidly like a toad
in a hailstorm and continue to listen. Only after the voice continued
its rude accompaniment of the singer, now and then alternating the
counting and alphabetical-numerical mumbo jumbo with shrill whistles
such as one uses in calling a dog, did the boy finally turn over
on his side and experimentally lift the needle from the record.
As he did this, the singing stopped abruptly; but the strange voice
went right on proving it could count - at least as far as four.
"It's not on the record," was Jerry's brilliant muttered
deduction. He heaved himself to his feet and walked over to the
phono-amplifier sitting on a workbench and turned it off. The voice
dropped in volume, but it did not disappear. Instead its source
switched from the speaker to the open basement window.
to get to the bottom of the mystery, Jerry padded up the outside
basement steps and stood in the back yard listening. The voice clearly
came from an open upstairs window of the house next door, a house
into which new neighbors had just moved the day before. As Jerry
stared upward, debating his next move, a boy's reddish-tinged curly
blond head popped out of the window. He was holding a microphone
in his hand and was looking upward at a wire that ran from the
top of the window frame to a tree back near the alley.
you, what do you think you're doing?" Jerry demanded.
head in the window turned and stared disinterestedly down at Jerry
with. a pair of bright blue eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses.
"I don't 'think'; I know what I'm doing," the boy in the window
replied coldly. "I'm seeing if my amateur transmitter will load
up this new antenna I've put up."
"As loud as you were yelling,
you wouldn't need a transmitter," Jerry observed tartly.
"I wouldn't have to yell if some dope wasn't running his platter-player
wide open. Was that you?"
"Never mind that," Jerry said
"What I want to know is how come I'm picking up
what you say into that microphone on my record player?"
"Are you ?" the new boy said with quick interest. "Wait a minute
and I'll be over."
In a few seconds he burst out the back
door and vaulted easily over the low fence between the yards. His
tall, lean, well-muscled figure was clothed in a pair of baggy-pocketed
army fatigue pants and a torn sweat shirt.
"My name's Carl
Anderson," he offered.
"Guess we're neighbors. What's your
"Handle?" Jerry repeated with a puzzled look.
"Sure; I mean your name. That's ham talk."
I'm Jerry Bishop. Come on down into my lab, and I'll show you the
As the two boys stepped inside the basement door,
Carl stopped and took a searching look around. The first thing that
caught his eye was the fine wide workbench that ran clear across
one end of the room. On a board above the bench was a miscellaneous
collection of hand tools. Carl walked over and disapprovingly ran
a finger along the edge of a snaggle-toothed handsaw and inspected
a pair of screwdrivers with broken, twisted bits and battered handles.
Then he turned his attention to the amplifier sitting on the end
of the bench and followed with his eye a long line from the amplifier
to the record player sitting on the floor by the couch across the
room. Another line went from the amplifier to what looked as though
it might be a birdhouse for an ostrich sitting over in a corner
of the room.
"That's my bass-reflex cabinet," Jerry announced.
"I built it myself."
Carl walked over to the crude speaker
cabinet and examined it closely.
"Did you really manage
to saw those boards that crooked or have you got a pet beaver that
gnaws them off like that?" he inquired disparagingly.
I can't saw straight!" Jerry admitted with a good natured grin;
"but take a listen."
As he said this, he turned on the amplifier.
The whole basement was flooded with a sea of music. The volume was
so great that the whumping of the bass drum actually made the tools
jangle on the tool board.
Carl strode over and turned the
volume down to a mere roar.
"It doesn't sound too bad,"
he grudgingly admitted, "but I'll never know why. I never saw a
more haywire layout. That long lead from the player to the amplifier
is what is picking up my signal. Wait until I get my solder gun
and a capacitor and we'll see if we can cure it."
the cellar steps two at a time as he said this; and Jerry, exhausted
by the sight of so much energy, sank back on the couch to await
his return. He did not have long to wait, for in a minute Carl was
back, carrying a device that looked like a Buck Rogers ray gun in
one hand and a little brown Bakelite object with two wire leads
coming out of it in the other. In a flash he had the amplifier turned
over and was probing around in the wiring with the tip of the solder
gun as he explained:
"The trouble is caused by the strong
signal from my transmitter collecting on the input element of the
first amplifier tube."
"You mean on the grid?" Jerry asked.
Carl shot a surprised look at him and went on, "That's right. This
strong radio frequency signal upsets the normal operating conditions
of the tube and makes the amplifier act more like a radio receiver
than a plain amplifier. I'm going to connect this small condenser
- capacitor is a more accurate name - between the grid of the first
tube and the chassis so that signals from my transmitter will be
bypassed to ground -"
"And then," Jerry smoothly interrupted,
"the grid will no longer be swung positive on peaks, grid rectification
will stop, and the tube will cease to be biased by grid leak action
to the point where it acts as a detector."
you learn that electronic jive?" Carl demanded. "You got a ham ticket?"
"Nope," Jerry answered, vastly pleased at the impression
he had made on his new neighbor. "And don't be afraid I'll steal
too much of your thunder." He walked over to a bookshelf on the
wall that, in contrast to the workbench, was in perfect order. On
it were a few books of elementary physics and several stacks of
"I get a large charge out of reading anything
about electricity or electronics," he explained. "It just happens
that the last issue of the magazines in this stack contained an
explanation of how radio signals could cause interference to audio
amplifiers; so that is why I had that one little item so pat."
"Well, all right," Carl remarked as he finished soldering
in the capacitor and turned the amplifier on. "We hams get so used
to people not understanding what we're talking about that it makes
us feel funny when we hear a stranger spouting our lingo. Now let's
try this thing. Leave the needle off the record and keep listening
at different positions of the gain control. I'll dash over and turn
on the rig and put out a test."
As he said the last word
he was already halfway up the steps. Soon Jerry could hear his voice
coming faintly through the basement window; but no setting of the
amplifier gain control caused the voice to be heard in the speaker.
"The operation is a success, Doctor," he yelled out the
window. "Come on back.
"Say," he remarked as Carl came back
into the basement and perched himself on the workbench, "what was
that you were saying about seeing if your transmitter would 'load
up' your new antenna?"
"That's right. This antenna is cut
for 3950 kilocycles, according to my figuring, and I wanted to make
sure it would take energy from the transmitter."
keep it from it?"
"Being the wrong length. A .transmitting
antenna has to be the proper length so that it will resonate at
the frequency of the transmitter before it will accept power from
"How do you calculate the proper length?"
"There's a formula for it, but I just use a table in the
Radio Amateur's Handbook. It says the proper length is 118 feet
and six inches."
"Don't you wonder about the reasons behind
those tables?" Jerry asked curiously.
"Not me. I just want
to know how things work, not why. All I know is that an antenna
should be roughly a half wavelength long for good transmission or
reception of a given frequency."
"H-m-m," Jerry reflected,
"that reminds me of sound waves. I remember in physics class we
found that if an open-ended tube was to be resonant at the frequency
of a tuning fork, it had to be a half wavelength long at the fork's
frequency. Just for kicks, let's see if radio and sound waves can
be handled the same way. First off, if we divide the speed of a
wave motion by the frequency of the waves, we get the length of
each wave; right?"
Carl wrinkled his brow in deep concentration.
"I guess so," he finally agreed hesitatingly. "If we knew how many
feet a minute a freight train was moving and divided that by the
number of identical cars that passed in a minute, we'd get the length
of each car. I guess it would be the same with waves."
We also know that light and radio waves scamper along at a speed
of 300,000,000 meters-per-second, and we have the frequency you
are shooting at as being 3950 kilocycles or 3,950,000 cycles-per-second.
"Double check," Carl agreed. "We can lop those
three ciphers off each number and divide 300,000 by 3950. You got
a pencil and piece of paper?"
Without answering Jerry dug
down in the litter of papers and books piled on the end of the couch
and came up with a cheap and battered slide rule which he began
to manipulate with a few extra flourishes strictly for the benefit
of his guest.
"The answer," he finally announced with all
the importance of a Supreme Court Judge handing down a fateful decision,
"is very close to seventy-six meters."
"We're getting warm!"
Carl said excitedly. "This band I'm working is called the Seventy-Five
Meter Phone Band."
"Since your antenna is going to be a
half wavelength long, we chop seventy-six in two and get thirty-eight
meters," Jerry continued. "A foot equals .3048 meter; so we divide
38 by .3048, and the good old slip-stick says -" he paused to work
the slide rule again, "exactly 124.5 feet," he finished weakly.
"The good old slip-stick - or the guy slipping it must have
slipped," Carl jeered. "That's too far off 118.5 feet to be right
- say!" he suddenly broke off as he struck his forehead with a clenched
fist, "I remember reading somewhere that a half wavelength resonant
conductor is always somewhat shorter than an actual half wavelength
in free space. It's shorter by about 5%. Try taking 50% off that
and see what you get."
"Five percent of 124.5 is close to
six feet, and 124.5 feet minus 6 gives us precisely 118.5 feet,"
Jerry announced triumphantly.
"Whew! I'm glad that's over,"
Carl said as he bent forward and mopped his face with the slack
in the front of his sweat shirt. "This brain wrestling is harder.
on me than playing in a double overtime game."
He and Jerry
grinned at each other with the mutual satisfaction that comes from
having joined in a successful operation.
"Say," Carl began
hesitantly, "I've got an idea but if you don't like it, just say
so. My feelings won't be hurt. Here's the way I look at it: both
of us are interested in electronics. You like to read and think
about it; I like to experiment and build things. You've got a dandy
place to work but not much equipment. I've got a ham station, a
voltohmmeter, and a whole box of radio parts, but no place to work
except my bedroom. You're good on math and theory where I am weak,
but you do not seem to be too good with tools -"
face it: I'm about as clever as a cow with a crutch with tools,"
Jerry admitted without shame.
"I like tools and like to
work with them," Carl went on. "To cut it short, how's about our
sort of joining forces and working together? Maybe I'm wrong, but
I think it would be a lot of fun. But if you don't like the idea
"I'm with you!" Jerry exclaimed. "A hobby is twice as
much fun when you've got someone to work and argue with. As far
as I'm concerned, we're in business. What'll we call ourselves?
It's got to be something that sounds serious and imposing."
"Natch," Carl agreed. "How about 'Electronic Experimenters,
"Let's change that 'Inc.' to 'Ltd.' " Jerry suggested.
"Somehow it sounds more swanky."
"Fine! I'll get out my
mechanical drawing set and make up a sign for over the basement
door tonight," Carl said with mounting enthusiasm.
minute the two stood looking at each other, half serious, half joking.
Then Jerry stuck out his hand. "Want to shake on it, Pardner?"
Instantly his plump hand was grasped by Carl's sinewy fingers.
"Here's to 'Electronic Experimenters, Ltd.' "
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
- The Hand of Selene, November 1960
Feedback, May 1956
Abetting or Not?, October 1956
Electronic Beach Buggy, September
- Extra Sensory Perception,
- Trapped in a Chimney, January
- 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
- Sonar Sleuthing, August 1963
TV Antennas, August 1955
Succoring a Soroban, March 1963
"All's Fair --", September 1963
Operation Worm Warming, May 1961
The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960
Two Detectors, February 1955
Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the Pirates, April 1961
The Sparkling Light, May 1962
Pure Research Rewarded, June 1962
Hot Idea, March 1960
- The Hot Dog Case,
- A New Company is Launched,
- Under the Mistletoe, December
- 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
Posted January 10, 2014