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 Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
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
bespectacled Carl Anderson to a couple more stealthy, professional looking investigators who sometimes
-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.
See all articles from Popular
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.
Determined 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.
"Hey, you, what do you think
you're doing?" Jerry demanded.
The 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.
have to yell if some dope wasn't running his platter-player wide open. Was that you?"
"Never mind that,"
Jerry said hastily.
"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."
"Oh, I'm Jerry Bishop.
Come on down into my lab, and I'll show you the player."
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.
"So 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
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."
He took 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 -"
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 radio magazines.
"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
"What would 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 the transmitter."
"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."
"Exactly. 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. Check?"
"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
"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 -"
"Let's 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
"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.
For a 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
"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
|- Trapped in a Chimney - January
- Command Performance - November
- Extracurricular Education,
- Treachery of Judas,
- The Sucker, May 1963
Stereotaped New Year, January 1963
- The Snow
Extracurricular Education, July 1963
He Went That-a-Way,
Electronic Detective, February 1958
- Aiding an
Instinct, December 1962
- Succoring a
Soroban, March 1963
- Slow Motion
for Quick Action, April 1963
Sonar Sleuthing, August
- TV Antennas,
- The Hot Dog
Case, December 1954
A New Company is Launched,
the Mistletoe, December 1958
|- The Crazy Clock Caper, October
- Two Detectors,
Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the
Pirates, April 1961
- The Sparkling
Research Rewarded, June 1962
Hot Idea, March 1960
Eraser, August 1962
- "BBI", May 1959
Ultrasonic Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River Sniffer,
- Ham Radio, April
- El Torero Electronico,
- Wired Wireless,
Shadow, September 1957
Posted January 10, 2014